A Psychiatrist Argues For Treating The Side Effects Of Today's Antidepressant Medications ?
Q: For the majority of depressed people, these medications
offer a desperately needed bridge back from crippling and sometimes suicidal
despair. But their record on side effects has not been so good. For some
patients they have left daunting roadblocks to full recovery in the form of
serious side effects--including physical and mental lethargy, loss of sexual
drive and performance and significant weight gain.
A:some doctors do not appreciate, or may even dismiss, their patients' complaints about side effects. "You're so much better than you were before you started on medication," patients have been told as they are encouraged to accept their fate as the lesser of two evils. "Every drug has side effects. You'll just have to learn to live with them," they are counselled. This all-too-common response by physicians not only lacks compassion, it's also bad medicine. By dismissing antidepressants' side effects as something patients must learn to live with, doctors are forfeiting their patients' chances for full recovery. If a primary symptom of depression is an inability to enjoy life. I began working hard with individual patients, searching for a regimen that offered help. We looked at diet, stress levels, exercise and hormones. Today, more than 300 of my patients--about 80 percent of those who tried the program we developed--have found relief from their depression and the side effects of the medication. More than 25 million Americans are currently on antidepressant medication to treat depression and a wide range of non-depressive disorders, including: anxiety and panic disorders, obsessive/compulsive disorders, chronic pain syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome, migraine headaches and chronic fatigue. Yet depending on the survey and the side effects being reported, anywhere from 30 to 80 percent of patients on medication suffer such severe side effects that they are significantly impaired in their ability to function in their jobs or relationships. (As for the so-called "natural" remedies: A lot has been written recently about St. John's wort. And indeed, this herbal supplement helps many people cope with mild to moderate depression. But it doesn't work for many people with more severe depression. Also, St. John's wort has troublesome side effects of its own--and, unlike SSRIs--has no effect on the non-depressive disorders mentioned above.) I believe that no one should resign themselves to half a life simply because they're on antidepressant medication. Everyone recovering from depression should aspire to the happiness and fulfillment that comes with vitality, a positive body image, a healthy sex life and the higher-quality relationships they foster. In the end, it's not enough merely to survive depression.
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