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1 in 4 Women on Antidepressant Drugs for Stress, Depression, Anxiety

by Loretta Lanphier, NP, CN, HHP, CH

(The Best Years in Life) More than one-in-five adult Americans took at least one pharmaceutical drug commonly used to treat a psychiatric or behavioral disorder in 2010 according to “America’s State of Mind,” a Medco Health Solutions, Inc. analysis of trends in mental health medication usage among approximately 2.5 million insured Americans, comparing utilization of antidepressants, antipsychotics, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) drugs and anti-anxiety treatments from 2001 to 2010. Even more concerning about this situation is that for American women, the numbers rose to one in four.  While I’m not totally surprised at these numbers considering all the advertising that pharmaceutical companies are allowed to do, it does cause me to stop and think about better solutions to this health crisis.

As far as use, not surprisingly, antidepressants come in number one with over 20 percent of women on a drug typically prescribed to treat depression. Anxiety treatments used by women are at almost twice the rate of men; however, greatest use is found among middle-aged women (45-65 years old – note these ages are normally the ages of peri-menopause and post menopause), 11 percent of whom were on an anti-anxiety drug last year.  

The number of women on ADHD drugs was 2.5 times higher than in 2001- outnumbering men in their use of these drugs. The almost unbelievable concern was seen in 20-44 year old women where numbers rose 264 percent in ten years!

Do Adjustment Disorders Really Require Drugs?

Adjustment disorders, the name of the diagnosis in which these drugs are usually prescribed, are basically those times in life when stress may be at its highest – marital concerns, divorce, job loss, job change, relocation, loss of home, death of a loved one, care giver to an elderly parent or sick spouse, etc.  Certainly no one would argue that all of these situations produce tremendous stress and emotional conflict.

Most of the antidepressant drugs currently prescribed are part of the Valium family of drugs and are quick acting – something that our “convenience-reigns-supreme” society adores. While this convenience may allow someone to seemingly be able to deal with their symptoms, these drugs also come with many side effects as well as the great possibility of becoming permanently hooked on a chemical.  Not to forget that antidepressants treat only symptoms and thus do not get to the root of the concern.

I am amazed at how many doctors prescribe antidepressants to women who have textbook symptoms of hormone imbalance and/or adrenal exhaustion. Yet because serum (blood) testing indicates the hormones are in balance, the woman is made to feel like her symptoms are all “in her head” when the doctor hands her a script for antidepressant drugs assuring her that this bottle of pills will make things better. If more doctors used saliva testing for hormones, in most situations a much more accurate diagnosis could be made thus allowing the real root concern to be addressed. This one change could end thousands of scripts for antidepressants that are given to peri-menopausal and post-menopausal women – unnecessarily.

According to Dr. David Muzina, a psychiatrist and national practice leader of the Medco Neuroscience Therapeutic Resource Center: “…with antidepressant medications in young adults, there is a risk early on of an increase in suicidal thoughts and perhaps suicidal behavior that clearly needs to be monitored very closely. The other example would be with the atypical antipsychotics, which have been associated with an increase in cholesterol. There’s an association with Type 2 diabetes, and it can be a very rapid onset. Thinking about the overall health risks is crucial.”

Actually, research shows that antidepressants don’t help many people. A major U.S. government study released in 2006 indicated that fewer than 50 percent of people become symptom-free on antidepressants, even after trying two different medications. And many who do respond to medication go back into depression within a short time period, despite being religious with their drug treatment. Other studies indicate 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.

 

Side Effects of Antidepressants

The most widely prescribed antidepressants are from a class of medications known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs. These include popular antidepressants such as Prozac, Zoloft, and Paxil.

SSRIs act on the brain chemical serotonin. Serotonin helps regulate mood, but it also plays a role in digestion, pain, sleep, mental clarity, as well as other bodily functions. Thus SSRI antidepressants can cause a wide range of side effects such as:

  • Nausea
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Dizziness
  • Weight gain
  • Tremors
  • Sweating
  • Sleepiness or fatigue
  • Dry mouth
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Headaches

While some side effects can disappear after using the drug for a few weeks, others can continue and may get worse. And if you are over 65 be aware that studies show SSRI medications can increase the risk for falls, fractures, and bone loss. SSRIs can also cause serious withdrawal symptoms if one decides to stop taking them abruptly.

Natural Remedies for Stress, Depression and Anxiety

Going through emotional trauma and stress can be discouraging and trying to get back on-track seems almost impossible. However, there are many natural things that one can try before running to the doctor for an anti-depressant.  For many, these remedies are literally life-savers and as an added bonus they come with no toxic side effects.

Cleansing & Detoxification.
  Total body cleansing is something that even many natural medicine practitioners don’t consider important or necessary.  However, the fact is that even if one puts the cleanest food and the best supplements into their body, if the digestive track and liver are sluggish then one will not get the total benefit of everything that is being consumed. The liver has been called the seat of the emotions.  A sluggish liver as well as constipation can be the culprit of misappropriated anger, stress, mood swings, hormone imbalance and an overall feeling of fatigue.

Healthy Diet. You can actually change your mood with what you eat and drink. Eliminating just sugar, which is known to alter mood, can help many adults as well as children to become more emotionally balanced. Unfortunately sugar is often the first thing reached for when we get emotionally taxed. Why?  Because sugar gives a very short emotional lift which seemingly makes one feel better. However, that “sugar high” is quickly followed by a crash making one feel fatigued and moody. Try to make it a practice to reach for Omega 3 fatty acids (needed for normal brain function) such as sardines, flax seeds, hemp seeds and walnuts. Avoid caffeine and alcohol intake as both can bring one’s mood down. Try juicing your vegetables.  According to Cherie Calborn, The Juice Lady: “Greens like spinach, kale, and broccoli are rich in folic acid—a deficiency contributes to depression.  Magnesium deficiency is linked with depression, poor attention, memory loss, fear, insomnia, and restlessness (including restless leg syndrome).  Juice magnesium-rich vegetables—beet with greens, spinach, Swiss chard, collards, and parsley.  Chlorophyll in dark greens helps fight depression. Fennel juice has been a traditional tonic to help release endorphins—the feel good chemicals that elevate mood and dampen anxiety and fear.  According to folklore, celery helps you forget your troubles from a broken heart and soothes your nerves.” 

Water.  Your body requires no liquid other than pure, clean water. Water is used for virtually every biological and cellular function necessary for life and health. Our cells are bathed in water. Drinking one-half of your body weight in ounces of pure, clean water every day is a basic stress prevention technique.  I highly suggest using a Wellness Water Carafe to filter your water.

Sunshine. For many people inadequate light (sunshine) can make any type of depression worse.  Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is more common in the winter months for those that live in areas that receive less sunlight.  If possible take a daily walk in the sunshine. Consider purchasing a light-box for winter months. Sunlight on the body also increases the oxygen carrying capacity of the blood and increases the adrenaline available to the tissues and overall tolerance to stress.

Adequate Sleep.  Often, sleeping difficulties are the first sign of depression. Just as we need proper light during the day, the body needs proper darkness at night in order to be able to heal and repair sufficiently.  Restful sleep and mood are very connected.  University of Pennsylvania researchers found that subjects who were limited to only 4.5 hours of sleep a night for one week reported feeling more stressed, angry, sad, and mentally exhausted. When the subjects resumed normal sleep, they reported a dramatic improvement in mood. I suggest being in bed by 10:30 PM every night, even weekends. Make sure your bedroom is dark and cool. Turn off computers, TVs, cell phones, etc. Turn the alarm clock away from your face and put a cloth over it to block out the light or better yet, move it across the room. Forty-five minutes before bed take a warm bath with 1 cup of Epsom salts added to the bath water. Keep bed linens clean and fresh.

Exercise.  The American Council on Exercise indicates that one of the most effective methods of stress relief is exercise. Regular exercise reduces the amount of adrenal hormones the body releases in response to stress. Exercise also helps your body release greater amounts of endorphins which are powerful, pain-relieving, mood-elevating chemicals in the brain.  No gym membership is required. Walking, rebounding, bicycle riding, swimming, tennis, yoga, Wii sports or exercise games, etc.  Anything that gets your body moving can be effective. Exercise also helps open four of the body’s elimination routes: breathing, sweating, urination and defecation.

Aromatherapy.  Aromatherapy is the practice of using essential oils for psychological and physical well-being. Aromatherapy can affect your mood and help alleviate or temporarily eliminate stress or other psychological factors.  Some good oils to try are peppermint, lavender, lime or any of the citrus oils.

EMF Sensitivity.  Every day, we literally walk through a maze of electromagnetic radiation. Detrimental energies from electromagnetic fields emitted from high tension wires, industrial radar, microwave beams, electric current, wi-fi, computers, cell phones, televisions, fluorescent lights, and other electrical appliances have been found to be dangerous to mental and physical health. When an individual sleeps or works for extensive periods within electromagnetic frequency zones, these energies create a constant source of stress (altering body polarity) which can lead to fatigue, frustration, tension and illness. Signs of exposure may include drowsiness, chronic aches and pains, sleep disorders, irritability, low energy and general malaise and may lead to more serious health situations such as cancer. PurchaseEMF protection products for your cell phone, office area, home, computer, water pipes and appliances.

Hormone Balance.  Many women and their doctors don’t quite understand the huge connection between the hormonal changes that occur during peri-menopause/menopause and depression. Estrogen dominance, unbalanced cortisol levels, thyroid and adrenal dysfunction can make one feel horrible and eventually lead to depression. Performing a simple saliva testwill allow you to know your hormone levels and which, if any, need to be balanced. Saliva testing measures the unbound biologically active hormone levels, while serum (blood) testing only measures the protein bound biologically inactive hormone levels in the body. If you are experiencing depression and stress – saliva test your hormones levels before using any type of hormone replacement therapy or using antidepressants.

Meditation. Meditation allows us to get quite and still for a period of time.  Even scripture reminds us to “Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10. Taking time to quiet the mind of the cares of the day allows the body to actually relax and restore to a calm state as well as helping one to reduce negative emotions. Many believe that mediation is literally a “refueling” time for their body and mind. Meditation is also a good time to practice lymphatic drainage with deep breathing exercises.

Supplements. The following supplements are suggested for stress, depression and anxiety: Vitamin D-3; Vitamin B6; Max B-ND (B Complex); 5-HTP (do not combine 5-HTP with antidepressants); Lithium Orotate; Magnesium Orotate; Free Aminos; Melatonin ND andMethylcobalamin B-12 Select.  Every person should be on an organic, liquid multi-vitamin/mineral complex such as intraMAX. Without a doubt, minerals are “the gift of life” and cellular function becomes impossible without them. The 74th Congress, 2nd Session of United States declared 99% of Americans are mineral deficient because our foods no longer contain adequate amounts of essential Organic trace minerals critically necessary to maintain health and promote healing.

Talk, Talk, Talk.  Find a trusted and non-judgmental friend or practitioner who you can talk to about the happenings in your life.  Many times just the act of speaking deep-down thoughts can be cleansing and refreshing to the mind.  Anger, unforgiveness, victim mentality and hurt from past wrongs all need to be dealt with and put to rest. You will be amazed at the freedom you experience once toxic emotions are healed.  Two excellent books to read are Feelings Buried Alive Never Dieand the sequel Healing Feelings…From Your Heart by Karol Truman.

When dealing with stress, depression and anxiety it’s so easy to be talked into the quick fix “pop-a-pill” philosophy rather than take the time necessary to address the entire body. Certainly one can use only the supplements suggested above and get some good results, but choosing to address all possible causes will give the best results with the added benefit of helping support your body toward healing and health!  You will not only look better and feel better – you will “be” better.

See also:

Depression is not a chemical imbalance, it is a sign your life is out of order

70% of Americans on at Least One Prescription Drug, Over 50% on at Least Two

New Study Says Antidepressant Drugs Next to Worthless

Taking Time to Smell the Roses Really CAN Ease Stress

How to Make Your Home a Haven

Stress and Depression by Jon Barron

Natural Supplement Found Superior to Prescription Antidepressants

This article was originally published at http://www.oasisadvancedwellness.com/health-articles/2011/12/1-in-4-american-women-on-drugs-for-stress-depression-anxiety.html

About the Author:

Loretta Lanphier, NP, CN, CH, HHP is a Naturopathic Practitioner, Clinical Nutritionist, Clinical Herbalist and Holistic Health Practitioner as well as Founder/CEO of Oasis Advanced Wellness. As a stage III cancer survivor since 2000, she understands the necessity of providing the body with what it needs to repair and heal. Loretta is dedicated to helping people create lasting changes in their health and well-being through whole body nutritional balancing, physician strength supplementation and up-to-date natural health education and modalities. Loretta is Editor and contributor to the worldwide e-newsletter Advanced Health & Wellness and her new health and wellness blog Exhibit Health.  She is also a co-moderator of our Yahoo Health Group focused on cancer, Oleandersoup.

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