Posted by: jedwardswright | May 1, 2010

To Med, or Not to Med: Part 1

hand with pillsEveryone who has been diagnosed with clinical depression faces this dilemma. Your doctor says, “I want to prescribe an antidepressant for you,” but your gut, and many other sources of advice say,  “You should be able to beat this thing without any drugs!”

There are a number of arguments against taking prescription antidepressant medications. Let’s take a look at a few of them.

1) I don’t want to be dependent on drugs.

Many of us have a reasonable fear of drug addiction. Perhaps someone in your family struggles with alcoholism or another substance abuse problem, or worse, you have been an addict yourself.  The last thing that you want is for any chemical to suck you further into a downward spiral of despair.

Fortunately, the majority opinion among the medical community is that antidepressants are not considered to be addictive.  While it is true that some people do suffer adverse symptoms when they discontinue taking an antidepressant too quickly, gradual elimination of antidepressants can be done without any significant problems.  However, any reduction in dosage or discontinuation of these medications should always be approved and supervised by a doctor.

2) I prefer to manage my depression naturally.

Exercise, healthy eating, weight management, journaling, meditation or prayer, vitamin supplements, and light therapy for SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) are all strongly recommended practices for people with depression, whether they are taking medication or not. All are good first steps toward a healthier mind and body if you think that you may have depression, or are newly diagnosed. For some individuals with mild chronic depression, also known as dysthymia, incorporating such lifestyle patterns may even be enough to allow them to manage successfully.  Check out my post Positive Affirmations for an exercise that I have found helpful in fighting negative self-talk, a debilitating habit which plagues depressive people.

Another type of non-medicinal treatment is psychotherapy. A professional counselor usually has a Masters degree in psychology or social work from a reputable college, so look for those credentials before choosing a therapist. Through talking to an objective professional who understands the nature of depression and its sources, you can learn better strategies for coping with the symptoms you are experiencing, and have assistance in identifying and healing from circumstances in your past and present which are contributing to your depression.

When considering non-medicinal forms of treatment, most people immediately think of naturally-sourced remedies from health food stores, naturopaths, or homeopaths.  The effectiveness of these approaches has sometimes been questioned by the medical and scientific community, but all have gained considerable followings.

St. John’s Wort is the most popular herbal remedy reputed to help ease depression’s symptoms.  It should never be taken with an antidepressant as this can result in dangerous side effects.

To be honest, most anecdotal accounts I have read from other depressed persons who have tried SJW have not reported significantly positive effects. There are always a few though who claim to be feeling much better while taking it. My personal opinion, based on experience and observation,  is that people diagnosed with major depression receive far more relief when taking antidepressants than they do when relying only on natural methods, but there is no doubt that individual responses to any treatment vary considerably.

If you do choose to take a natural remedy approach, keep in mind that anything strong enough to help your symptoms is strong enough to have side effects, regardless of its source, and that even many pharmaceutical medications have been derived from natural sources (e.g. Aspirin), and proceed with caution.

To be Continued as:  To Med, or Not to Med, Part 2

Sources and Resources

Antidepressants and Addiction

Are Antidepressants Addictive?

Journal Therapy Information

Dysthymia — Mayo Clinic

Psychotherapy — Mayo Clinic


  1. Thanks for being willing to take on this oft-asked question!
    I love Part 1.

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