Monday, March 17, 2014

10 Tips for Dealing with Depression Naturally

exercise, healthy, outdoors, family, depression, diet, life, walking, bicycling, holistic, natural

Passing along some helpful tips from an article by Andrea at Frugally Sustainable.

10 Tips for Dealing with Depression Naturally:
Instead of pharaceutical drug therapy, perhaps it would be beneficial to begin looking toward natural remedies for depression.
  1. Prevention is key. If you know your depressive triggers, do all that you can to avoid them. Reduce anxiety, maintain a healthy diet, and participate in an exercise program, all easier said than done I know, yet they are the most effective preventative measures. 
  2. Exercise. If you aren’t exercising on a regular basis I highly recommend it. There are so many different forms of exercise (i.e. yoga, aerobics, weight lifting, running, etc.) Begin slowly building up to at least ½ hour a day – it can be even more beneficial for treating/preventing depression if you can do it outside — this alone will help the blood start flowing to all parts of your body and you’ll begin to feel better almost instantly. The most important element to any exercise program is to find one that is the most suitable for you. 
  3. Diet. Your diet should be high in calcium and B vitamins, cut out the refined carbs, and avoid sugar like the plague. Coincidence that the rate of refined carbohydrates and sugar in our American diet is increasing at an alarming rate and so is the rate of depression? I don’t think so. Eat local, fresh, and sustainable, and use supplements when necessary. 
  4. Herbal supplements. Herbs contain many medicinal powers and can heal a variety of ailments. St. John’s wort is one of the most promising herbs for the treatment of depression. It has been used for centuries by people and cultures all over the world. A few of the other beneficial herbs include passionflower, lavender, lemon balm, Valerian, oat leafy tops, and nettles. Begin researching the benefits of herbs on depression and anxiety while you seek out the council of a certified herbalist, naturopath, or other holistic health care practitioner.  
  5. Get enough sleep. Once in a depressed state, one of two things can happen…you sleep to much or you can’t sleep at all. An excellent way to ward off sleep irregularities is to create a bedtime routine and stick to it every single day. Take a soothing bath (using Epsom salts), drink an herbal tea to help naturally induce restful sleep, reduce stimulants…do whatever works into your lifestyle, but guard your sleep!
  6. Pay nature a visit. Prioritize your time in nature by spending at least 30 minutes a day outdoors. It is essential for us to connect with nature, especially during times of depression. Chop wood, mess around in the garden, walk the dog, take a hike, ride a bike, go canoeing, go skiing…whatever you choose to do, do it outside for at least ½ hour — longer if you can. The exposure to sunlight alone can do wonders.
  7. Use your hands to create something. Revive your God-given gifts — ’cause we all got ‘em — and use them to make something beautiful. I have discovered that the times in which I’ve been the most depressed I have not listened to a longing deep inside of myself…you know, the one that calls me to do something outside of myself. Whether it be making your home, cooking meals for your family, working on your car, leaning to crochet, baking, writing, taking pictures, painting  pictures…stop resisting, follow your heart, and do what you love.
  8. Do something for someone else. When depressed, our thoughts tend to turn inward. We often begin re-living our hurts and sometimes helping other people who are hurting, helps us. It’s theraputic to be able to find meaning in doing good.
  9. Talk it out intellectually. Depression is not the cause of hopelessness and extreme sadness — it is a symptom. If there is a specific problem you are having that is causing these feeling…hit it head on. Research solutions, meet with a therapist or counselor, set goals, and come up with a plan. Do not allow your problems to go unanswered. Hope can be found in moving, step by step toward addressing our issues. 
  10. Call a friend. It could be that we are afraid of becoming a burden to those that love us, but we must remember we are relational beings — specially designed to live in community with others. Resist the temptation to isolate yourself and call a friend!
Copyright © 2014

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Long-term Effects of Antidepressants (SSRI's)

The Downsides of Prozac
Prozac, antidepressants, drugs, medicine, depression, suicide, healthy, therapy, SSRI

 by Craig Lambert

Harvard Magazine  

Like many others, Elizabeth Wurtzel ’89 and Lauren Slater, Ed. M. ’89—the authors, respectively, of Prozac Nation (1994) and Prozac Diary (1998)—suffered “Prozac poop-out”: the drug’s mood-altering effects wore off and depression returned. In fact, according to a 1995 study by associate professor of psychiatry Maurizio Fava, Prozac wears off within a year for about one-third of those who take it. “This is tolerance,” says clinical instructor in psychiatry and University Health Services physician Joseph Glenmullen, M.D. ’84. His new book, Prozac Backlash (Simon & Schuster), documents not only tolerance, withdrawal syndromes, and drug dependency, but a panoply of dangers linked to “Prozac-like drugs”—selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). “We now have unequivocal evidence from a wide range of side effects that Prozac-type drugs impair the normal functioning of the brain,” Glenmullen says.

SSRIs include Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, Luvox, Celexa—trade names that invariably include an x or z for drugs that are best known as antidepressants. But “calling them that is misleading,” says Glenmullen, who notes that primary-care doctors, not psychiatrists, write 70 percent of SSRI prescriptions. SSRIs are now prescribed for anxiety, obsessions, substance abuse, chronic pain, shyness, even “to feel ‘better than well,’” Glenmullen says. “They’ve become all-purpose psychoanalgesics. People think they’ve got to keep up with the Joneses, pharmacologically—if everyone at your office is taking Zoloft to stay alert and work long hours, you’ve got to have it, too.”

Prozac sales surged in the wake of Listening to Prozac, the 1993 bestseller by psychiatrist Peter Kramer ’70, M.D. ’76, who coined the term “cosmetic psychopharmacology” and sang that with Prozac he had seen “patient after patient become…’better than well.’ Prozac seemed to give social confidence to the habitually timid, to make the sensitive brash, to lend the introvert the social skills of a salesman.” Sales also broadened as pharmaceutical houses developed what some are now calling “a strategy of marketing diseases as an effective way of marketing drugs. It’s a trend toward pathologizing daily life,” Glenmullen says. He points to a psychiatric syndrome called “social phobia,” a very rare disorder that a therapist might encounter once or twice in a career—people so terrified of social contact that they may, for example, avoid going to restaurants for fear of being seen eating in public. “Over the last few years, psychiatrists have been inundated with drug-company mailings that cite ‘experts’ renaming ‘social phobia’ as ‘social-anxiety disorder,’” Glenmullen says. “The Food and Drug Administration [FDA] recently approved Paxil to treat social phobia. But the mass media report this to the public as a treatment for shyness!”

The drug panaceas, however, may be illusory. Rigorous studies have shown that the placebo effect accounts for most—at least 64 percent, and perhaps much more—of SSRIs’ benefits. Furthermore, in clinical trials, side effects often tip off research subjects that they are getting the active drug. Better-designed studies use placebos with side effects (like dry mouth), but no antidepressant properties. Under these conditions, Glenmullen writes, the “performance of the placebo climbs and the difference between the placebo and the antidepressant is virtually washed out.”

What is not washed out are the side effects, which include the potential for brain damage. A few years ago one of Glenmullen’s patients who was taking Prozac developed a tic—the tongue darting in and out of the mouth—that persisted for months after the drug was discontinued. That sent Glenmullen to Countway Library. He found reports of tics and other neurological side effects, like drug-induced Parkinsonism, associated with SSRIs. “The tics include lip smacking, lip puckering, fishlike kissing motions, and pelvic thrusting,” Glenmullen says. “They are involuntary, disfiguring, and can be very noticeable—and may persist long after the drug is stopped. This is the dread side effect in psychiatry, and it can indicate brain damage. Such reactions are not rare. Neurologic agitation is estimated to occur in 10 to 25 percent of patients, and muscle spasms in 10 percent."

The FDA mandates clinical trials for antidepressants that typically last only six weeks and primarily test the drug’s efficacy and short-term safety. “We lack systematic monitoring of long-term side effects,” Glenmullen says, noting that a former FDA head estimated that only 1 percent of long-term side effects comes to the agency’s attention. Glenmullen adds that such side effects of psychiatric drugs typically take three decades to gain a critical level of attention, as with the restlessness and involuntary twitching—tardive dyskinesia—associated with Thorazine and other major tranquilizers. “Those drugs were prescribed the way Prozac is now,” Glenmullen states. (To date, an estimated 30 million people have ingested SSRIs.)
Earlier generations of serotonin-targeting drugs like cocaine, amphetamines, diet pills, and Ecstasy “have been exhaustively studied in animals, and all have been shown to be neurotoxic to cells in the brain—for example, destroying nerve endings. But there’s very little comparable research on the SSRIs,” Glenmullen says. “To do animal research, you need tiny doses of the pure drug. Yet researchers say that each pharmaceutical company controls the supply of pure drug while it is under patent. To do studies under a company’s auspices means signing a contract that allows it to veto publication unilaterally."

Hence, side effects show up in the massive field trial of the marketplace. “Repeated studies have shown that about 60 percent of patients have some form of sexual dysfunction—loss of libido, difficulty reaching orgasm, impotence—on SSRIs,” Glenmullen says. “But Eli Lilly’s official figure is 2 to 5 percent.” More ominously, the Prozac “lift” has lifted some into violent rampages, like that of the Louisville printing-press operator who in 1989 killed eight and wounded a dozen more with an AK-47 assault rifle just weeks after starting Prozac. Glenmullen has seen some of his own patients besieged by suicidal thoughts of “a particularly obsessive quality” after starting Prozac, and says that the Swedish and German equivalents of the Physician’s Desk Reference warn doctors of this potential side effect and provide guidelines for managing it.

For his part, Glenmullen has long prescribed Prozac and other SSRIs and continues to use them in specific cases. But he also suggests numerous treatment alternatives for anyone using or contemplating the use of such drugs—including psychotherapy, cognitive therapy, behavioral treatment, 12-step programs, herbal remedies like St. John’s wort, exercise, and diet modifications. About one SSRI user in four really does benefit from the drug, he says, but he adds, “There is no free lunch. Most of these people who feel so good about the long-term use of Prozac think it’s cost-free. Patients need to be better educated about the risk-benefit analysis. If they are taking Prozac to feel ‘better than well,’ that’s a big mistake."

Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Dreamless Night

The Dreamless Night - by Jamie Hughes
suicide, depression, hope, poetry, courage, clouds, dreams

There once was a night like no other
Skies were dark and empty
Dark like looking down into a deep, black well
Soul-less, nothingness forever
Not one star could be seen
Not a twinkle, not a glimmer
There were no wishes made that night
No hopes, no dreams
That was the Dreamless Night
The moon was absent
Her mysterious, beautiful glow was gone
No reflection of the Sun could be seen or felt
There was no tomorrow coming
There would be no joy in the morning
Silence could be heard
Both pleasant and eerie
Soothing yet frightening
The dreamless night was just beginning

This is a poem I wrote several years ago while going through a depressed episode. It definitely reflects the feelings I was experiencing at the time. Melancholy, despair, hopelessness - the usual gambit for depression. Do you have negative feelings like these during depression? As real and potent as these feelings are, they don't accurately describe what I know to be true. God has tried to teach me over the years to learn to recognize thoughts based on pure feeling (which I already know are influenced by my depression) and not let them control me during down times. This is easier said than done, of course, but is 100% learnable and doable. Psalm 30:5 says "weeping may stay for the night, but joy comes in the morning." Even though my emotions were telling me there was no hope or joy in the future, God's truth says the opposite. With Him, there is a better day coming, there will be a sunrise. Right now, we have to make it through the dark, cold night before we see the promise fulfilled, but God doesn't lie. The next time you are feeling hopeless, try admitting to yourself that those feelings are real, but not true. It helps me a lot during those times.

God bless!