I made a statement to two of my girlfriends one night – people don’t need meds for depression, they need to look in the mirror and take a good hard look at themselves and get their shit together and do what they need to do. Then I saw the look on their faces and I realized both these women were or had taken meds for depression. Both began their responses about how the chemical imbalances in the brain cause the depression, blah, blah, blah. Being a compassionate and well at that moment red-faced person I am I responded accordingly, well maybe I did not know medically and I needed to research it better. So the next morning I did, here is the website I found:
So… in light of the following article, I rescind my statement that people don’t need a magic pill for severe depression. However; taking a good hard look in the mirror is still in order because a pill is NOT the silver bullet and it will not fix all that ails you. AND too many doctors are too quick to put too many people on antidepressants when therapy, exercise, or self-help strategies would work just as well or better—minus the side effects. I do know from personal experience that at times life will knock us around, and stress, depression, and anxiety can be overwhelming – the route of choosing to take a pill for SHORT TERM can be beneficial. However; given the side effects, a person must begin to take responsibility for one’s own well-being and move forward rather than remaining stagnate and wallowing in self-pity.
Learning the facts about antidepressants and weighing the benefits against the risks can help you make an informed and personal decision about whether medication is right for you.
This information is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice. If you are taking an antidepressant, do not change your dosage without consulting your physician!
Most mental health experts agree that when depression is severe, medication can be helpful—even life-saving. However, research shows that antidepressants fall short for many people.
A major U.S. government study released in 2006 showed that fewer than 50 percent of people become symptom-free on antidepressants, even after trying two different medications. Furthermore, many who do respond to medication slip back into depression within a short while, despite sticking with drug treatment.
Other studies show that the benefits of depression medication have been exaggerated, with some researchers concluding that, when it comes to mild to moderate depression, antidepressants are only slightly more effective than placebos.
The bottom line
If you have severe depression that’s interfering with your ability to function, medication may be right for you. However, many people use antidepressants when therapy, exercise, or self-help strategies would work just as well or better—minus the side effects.
Therapy and self-help strategies can help you get to the bottom of your underlying issues and develop the tools to beat depression for good. So while drug treatment can be beneficial, it’s by no means the only answer. There are other effective treatment approaches that can be taken in addition to or instead of medications. It's up to you to evaluate your options and decide what's best for you.
Experts agree that depression involves much more than just “bad” brain chemistry. Serotonin is just one of many factors that may play a role in the disorder.
New research points to other biological contributors to depression, including inflammation, elevated stress hormones, immune system suppression, abnormal activity in certain parts of the brain, nutritional deficiencies, and shrinking brain cells. And these are just the biological causes of depression.
Social and psychological factors—such as loneliness, lack of exercise, poor diet, and low self-esteem—also play an enormous role in depression.
You’ve seen it in television ads, read it in newspaper articles, maybe even heard it from your doctor: depression is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain that medication can correct. According to the chemical imbalance theory, low levels of the brain chemical serotonin lead to depression and depression medication works by bringing serotonin levels back to normal.
However, the truth is that researchers know very little about how antidepressants work. There is no test that can measure the amount of serotonin in the living brain—no way to even know what a low or normal level of serotonin is, let alone show that depression medication fixes these levels.
While antidepressant drugs such as Prozac increase serotonin levels in the brain, this doesn’t mean that depression is caused by a serotonin shortage. After all, aspirin may cure a headache, but it doesn’t mean that headaches are caused by an aspirin deficiency. Furthermore, many studies contradict the chemical imbalance theory of depression.
Experiments have shown that lowering people’s serotonin levels doesn’t always lower mood, nor does it worsen symptoms in people who are already depressed. And while antidepressants raise serotonin levels within hours, it takes weeks before medication is able to relieve depression. If low serotonin caused depression, there wouldn’t be this antidepressant medication lag.
There are many different types of drugs used in the treatment of depression, including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), atypical antidepressants, tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs), and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs).
Side effects are common in all antidepressants. For many people, the side effects are serious enough to make them stop taking the medication.
Side effects of SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors)
The most widely prescribed antidepressants come from a class of medications known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). The SSRIs include well-known antidepressants such as Prozac, Zoloft, and Paxil.
The SSRIs act on a chemical in the brain called serotonin. Serotonin helps regulate mood, but it also plays a role in digestion, pain, sleep, mental clarity, and other bodily functions. As a result, the SSRI antidepressants cause a wide range of side effects, including:
§ Decreased sex drive
§ Weight gain
§ Sleepiness or fatigue
§ Dry mouth
While some side effects go away after the first few weeks of drug treatment, others persist and may even get worse.