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Antidepressants: Is That All You’ve Got?

Antidepressants: Is That All You've Got?Antidepressants do have their place in treating depression.

But new evidence indicates a worrying trend: Antidepressants — which impact your brain chemistry — are increasingly a first resort and being prescribed at an ever-increasing rate.

The revelations come in the recently published OECD publication ‘Health at a Glance’ and show that the consumption of antidepressants has increased significantly in most countries surveyed since 2000. In 2008 in Iceland, for example, almost 30 percent of women aged 65 and over had an antidepressant prescription.

Healthy at a GlanceThe report points out that one explanation includes the extension of indicators of some antidepressants to milder forms of depression, generalized anxiety disorders or social phobia.

Further, prescriptions for antidepressants have jumped 20 percent in five years in Spain and Portugal, which have been badly affected by the global economic crisis, another possible explanation for the increase.

However, separate research indicates that global rates of depression have not increased in step, although depression is being diagnosed more in certain countries.

It appears that antidepressants are being prescribed more frequently, but for milder conditions which didn’t previously extend to warranting antidepressant treatments. Is this really appropriate when antidepressants can have a powerful effect on the body chemistry?

If antidepressants always worked all the time, with no side effects, this wouldn’t be a problem. But antidepressants don’t work all the time and do carry the risk of side effects — in fact, they can even make some people suicidal. Anti-depressants are not a magic pill. They form part of, but are not in their entirety, a depression treatment plan.

Alastair Campbell, for example, has tried several antidepressants over the years and is slowly tapering off them. But he uses other strategies for managing his mood, such as exercise.

As I point out in Back From The Brink, depression funding and research is often focused on investment-returning efforts, i.e., pharmaceuticals. Slowly but surely, research into the efficacy of other strategies and therapies is gaining pace, but for many doctors — and indeed uninformed patients — antidepressants are often the first thing tried.

What are the benefits of a holistic approach to treating depression?

A holistic approach to treating depression incorporates lifestyle changes as part of a treatment plan that incorporates, but neither excludes nor overly relies on medication.

A holistic treatment plan can be low-cost (often free). It can be extended and incorporated into a healthier, more positive and fulfilling lifestyle to help thrive, not just beat the immediate episode of depression and survive.

Everyone I interview in Back From The Brink uses and benefits from a holistic treatment plan. Whether it’s Greg Montgomery’s integration of mindfulness and gratitude practice into his daily life, Tricia’s fanatical devotion to exercise or Bob Boorstin’s self-monitoring and changing his relationship with the illness, they don’t simply pop a pill and pin their hopes of getting through on a little capsule alone.

How do you get started in treating depression holistically?

The first step is to assess your mood There’s no point taking antidepressants if, in my opinion, you’re a 4 or above on the scale!

Once you’ve worked out your mood, you can take informed action and put together a holistic treatment plan, using the book, the strategies contained within and the stories for inspiration and encouragement.

To help you do this, I’ve created a free 30 Day Mood Boost Program on our website. Based on interviewing over 4,000 people who have learned to beat or manage their depression or bipolar, the free Challenge provides you a series of daily e-mails which help you build and maintain your resilience and a positive mood.

You won’t bring about lasting and positive change to your mood overnight. Instead, each e-mail in the Challenge focuses on one small, manageable, and measurable thing you can do each day to feel better. The e-mails contain practical tips, real-life examples, and optimistic encouragement to inspire you to take realistic action.

Structured and logical, the 30 Day Mood Boost Challenge builds on each day’s progress and gradually introduces positive improvements you can make in all areas of your life, from working out your current mood, getting expert help, changing your diet and physical activity, to improving your support from family and friends.

I hope you find them useful, and if you’re interested you can sign up at the website today.

Antidepressants: Is That All You’ve Got?

Graeme Cowan

Graeme Cowan’s book, Back From The Brink, brings you true stories from well-known and everyday people, and practical help for overcoming depression and bipolar disorder. Touching, moving and often surprising, the stories in Back From The Brink are living proof that you too can overcome depression, using the tools and resources provided in the book.

He went through a five-year episode of depression which his psychiatrist described as the worst he had ever treated and which nearly cost him his life. But after writing his suicide note in 2004, Graeme found the help and support he needed to bounce back and thrive, and has dedicated his life to helping others do the same.

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APA Reference
Cowan, G. (2018). Antidepressants: Is That All You’ve Got?. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 27, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 29 Jan 2014)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.