According to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (NCHA Data Brief #76, October 2011), use of antidepressant drugs has increased by 400% in the last two decades (since 1998).
This means that antidepressant drugs are the MOST frequently used medication among adults (ages 14-44) – with nearly 1-in-4 of middle-aged women taking antidepressant drugs (23% use among ages 40-59 – the highest of any age group). The CDC report also noted that women are 2.5 times more likely to take antidepressant drugs as males.
Many experts believe that both elevated stress levels caused by the struggling economy and drug company advertising campaigns are the main reasons for the astonishing increase in such a short period of time.
As I’ve written about previously, MOST people who are taking antidepressant drugs DO NOT need them – and by taking them, they are putting their health (and lives) at risk. Antidepressant drugs carry the FDA’s most stringent “Black Box” warning – alerting users to a significant risk of death from the use of these drugs (death is a pretty risky side effect). Antidepressant drugs have been approved to treat severe depression – not the mild forms of stress-induced depression (and the associated fatigue and burnout) for which most people get an antidepressant prescription. Patients who are using antidepressant drugs to “treat” stress-induced burnout (the opposite of vigor) are not only putting their health at risk, but they’re using the wrong tool for the job (a sledgehammer to swat a fly) – and there are MUCH better options.
Since at least 20% of women will develop moderate/major depression at some point in their lives – and upwards of 80% of women are exposed to enough daily lifestyle stress to result in mild/moderate stress-induced depression (burnout) – it makes sense to try some natural approaches to warding off the detrimental effects of chronic stress. Here are a few suggestions:
Drink Coffee or Tea – Harvard researchers have recently shown that women who drank 2-4 cups of coffee each day had a 15-20% lower risk of developing depression compared to women who drank 1 cup or less. The study looked at lifestyle habits among more than 50,000 women in the Nurses’ Health Study and was published in the Archives of Internal Medicine (September 2011). Keep in mind that too much caffeine can cause insomnia, rapid heartbeat, and stomach upset – so cut it off after about 200-400mg of caffeine (about the amount in 2-4 cups of coffee).
Get Your Sleep – Researchers from the University of Chicago have shown (in several different studies) that getting less than the required 8 hours of nightly sleep results in overexposure to cortisol, the body’s primary stress hormone. Excess cortisol exposure can interfere with neurotransmitter metabolism in the brain – leading to the familiar feelings of burnout, fatigue, mental fog, tension, and depression experienced by millions of people and often “brushed off” as the normal signs of aging and stressful lifestyles.
Supplement Wisely – As I write about in many of my books, including the most recent Secret of Vigor, there are a wide range of natural dietary supplements that can help to restore biochemical balance in the body and help alleviated burnout and depression. Balancing biochemistry (such as lowering cortisol or reducing inflammation) restores normal states of Vigor (physical energy, mental acuity, emotional well-being) – and some of the most effective supplements include Eurycoma longifolia, Cordyceps sinensis, and Theanine (but there are many others covered in the book that are also very effective in different ways).
Depression can be a terribly vicious cycle to break because once you have it, you often have no motivation to take the steps required to help dig yourself out of the hole. Getting your sleep, grabbing a coffee, and adding a daily supplement can be easy steps for anybody to take to give them a “biochemical edge” against depression.
About the author: Shawn M Talbott is a nutritionist (PhD, Nutritional Biochemistry, Rutgers), physiologist (MS, Exercise Science, UMass Amherst) and lifestyle entrepreneur (EMP, Entrepreneurship, Massachusetts Institute of Technology). Dr. Talbott is the author of 10 books translated into multiple languages and has appeared on numerous media outlets including The Dr Oz Show (to talk about vigor) and The White House (to talk about obesity). He competes in Ironman triathlons and runs ultramarathons – which help keep him in a good mood!