Do Antidepressants Do More Harm than Good?
Antidepressants are one of the top 3 medications used in the United States, according to the CDC. And the number of people taking them is on this rise. During the coronavirus pandemic, the number of new prescriptions for antidepressants spiked by close to 19%, based on a recent report.
When prescribed appropriately based on findings from brain imaging, these medications can be helpful as part of a comprehensive treatment program for some people suffering from depression.
However, most prescriptions for antidepressants are doled out after brief office visits with healthcare providers who do not look at the brain or consider any biological information. It’s like they are throwing darts in the dark at the problem. This diagnostic and treatment paradigm isn’t working. In a large study from 2014, researchers found that over 50% of depressed people failed to reach full remission of their symptoms after taking antidepressants. And for one-third of people, remission continued to elude them after 4 courses of medication.
What’s the problem?
NOT ALL DEPRESSED PEOPLE ARE THE SAME
Brain SPECT imaging studies show that depression isn’t a single or simple disorder. Amen Clinics has identified 7 types of depression, and each type requires a different treatment plan. Giving everyone with depression the same treatment will never work, and it can make some people worse. For example, many practitioners prescribe SSRIs (such as Prozac, Zoloft, and Lexapro) as a first line of defense for patients who say they feel depressed. But these antidepressants don’t work for all 7 types of depression, and they exacerbate symptoms for several subtypes of the condition.
Depression can also stem from biological issues that aren’t resolved by antidepressants. For instance, depression has been associated with:
- Head injuries
- Heart disease and low blood flow
- Chronic pain
- Exposure to toxins (such as mold)
- Lyme disease and other infections
- Hormonal imbalances
- Poor diet
- Chronic insomnia
In some people, addressing these underlying issues can be critical in overcoming sadness or low moods.
ANTIDEPRESSANTS AREN’T THE ONLY OPTION
Medications should not be the first or only thing you do to help your brain and your mind. If you’re suffering from depressive symptoms, think about using all the tools available, and focus first on the least toxic, most effective solutions. These may include:
- Supplements (Did you know that 20 studies have shown that saffron is more effective than placebo and equal to the antidepressants Prozac, Zoloft, Effexor, and imipramine for depression?)
- Eating mood foods that fight depression
- Exercising (a wealth of studies show that physical activity has antidepressant effects)
- Healing any underlying brain injuries
- Balancing hormones
- Making sleep a priority
- Tackle negative thinking habits
Depending on your individual needs, medication may be necessary in addition to these other solutions. Getting a brain scan to more accurately diagnose your subtype of depression can be very helpful in determining which antidepressant is most likely to work for you. And follow-up brain imaging can show how well treatment is working and if any adjustments are needed.
Depression, anxiety, panic attacks, and other mental health issues can’t wait. During these uncertain times, your mental well-being is more important than ever and waiting to get treatment until the pandemic is over is likely to make your symptoms worsen over time.
At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you. We offer mental telehealth, remote clinical evaluations, and video therapy for adults, children, and couples, as well as in-clinic brain scanning to help our patients. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834. If all our specialists are busy helping others, you can also schedule a time to talk.