I was talking to a friend the other day. He told me a story that I suspect is all too common these days. And it shows why our medical system is failing so desperately.
Tim wasn't sleeping well. So he went to see a doctor about it. The doctor came into the room, asked him what was going on. It took Tim all of about three minutes to explain his insomnia. The doctor didn't ask any more questions. Instead, he took out his prescription pad and started to write a prescription. Tim asked, "What's this for?" The doctor's answer was shocking.
The doctor said, "Well, it's obvious you're depressed. So this is an antidepressant."
I can tell you, Tim is anything but depressed. He's one of the easiest going guys I know. He's happy, has a great family, and is a joy to be around. He wasn't even down when he went to the doctor. It's clear, Tim isn't the problem here. The doctor is. And he's not alone. A recent study found that nearly 70% of the people taking antidepressants are not depressed.
The researchers in this study found that more than two-thirds (69%) of those who take antidepressants do not meet the criteria of a major depressive disorder. Of course, doctors will prescribe antidepressants for other psychiatric disorders. But again, these researchers said 38% of the people taking antidepressants don't have obsessive compulsive disorder, panic disorder, social phobia, or generalized anxiety disorder either. I suspect the numbers are even higher than this, simply because many people who receive these diagnoses don't take the drugs (like Tim).
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What this means is that about 40% of the people who take antidepressants have no medical reason whatsoever for taking them. Statistics show that about 11% of Americans over the age of 12 take these drugs. That's 36.3 million people taking antidepressants, which means 14.52 million of these people are taking the drugs for no medical reason. It's no wonder our medical system is failing.
So what defines clinical depression? In the U.S., you qualify as clinically depressed if you have five or more depressive symptoms over a two-week period, most of the day, nearly every day. These symptoms can include a depressed mood; a loss of interest or pleasure in activities; weight loss, weight gain or changes in appetite; insomnia or increased desire to sleep (this is the only symptom Tim had – and yet his doctor gave him a prescription); and thoughts of death or suicide. The range of symptoms is so wide, it's surprising the researchers found anyone who didn't fit this definition. Yet they said over 14.5 million of them shouldn't be taking the drugs.
If your doctor tells you you're depressed and need to take an antidepressant, get a second opinion. Antidepressants are a last resort in my book — and you should take them only for a few months. Taking them longer can cause serious side effects and can compound some of the symptoms.
Instead, see if you have a nutrient deficiency, such as iodine, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, magnesium, vitamin B complex, folate, amino acids, iron, or zinc. A deficiency in any of these can lead to many symptoms common with depression. You also might want to check your thyroid function. Hypothyroidism is another condition that doctors will mistake for depression. You'll also want to check your blood sugar, as low blood sugar can mimic depression. So can dehydration, food intolerance, and caffeine withdrawal. As you can see, many things can cause the body to feel depressed. But one thing you can be sure of — it wasn't a deficiency in antidepressant drugs that caused it.
Your insider for better health,
Steve Kroening is the editor of Nutrient Insider, a twice-a-week email newsletter that brings you the latest healing breakthroughs from the world of nutrition and dietary supplements. For over 20 years, Steve has worked hand-in-hand with some of the nation's top doctors, including Drs. Robert Rowen, Frank Shallenberger, Nan Fuchs, William Campbell Douglass, and best-selling author James Balch. Steve is the author of the book Practical Guide to Home Remedies. As a health journalist, Steve's articles have appeared in countless magazines, blogs, and websites.