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Reconsidering antidepressants? Other options exist

January 7, 2010 |  6:19 pm

Rain So if, as a new study suggests, antidepressants don't help people with anything less than very severe depression -- marked by crying jags, social withdrawal, a willingness to just give up completely -- what does? Many things.

Social support, sleep, stress reduction, a diet with a minimum of fried snack foods topped with cheese-like powder (paraphrased), exercise ... all are important, says Even if you do opt for the meds -- and many people swear by them -- you should make these other things part of your get-well package.

As it notes: "Lifestyle changes are simple but powerful tools in treating depression. Sometimes they might be all you need. Even if you need other treatment as well, lifestyle changes go a long way towards helping lift depression. And they can help keep depression at bay once you are feeling better."

Here's a recent Los Angeles Times story explaining how exercise specifically can help.

And of course, there's therapy. (Along those lines, tomorrow afternoon, we'll offer a look at the "holy war" among psychologists. On one side are those who say too many practitioners are ignoring the most science-based approach: cognitive behavioral therapy. On the other are those who say the skill of the therapist is more important than the type of therapy.)

Here's more -- much more -- about depression -- from MedicineNet. It begins with a bit of history (black bile, anyone?) and proceeds through self-help tips, alternative therapies and beyond. Among those tips: "Break large tasks into small ones ...." "Do not make major life decisions, such as changing jobs or getting married or divorced without consulting others who know you well."

The guide is a gold mine, with not just the typical explanation of drug options, though it has that too, but also patient discussions, resources, a quiz. 

And here's a booklet on depression from the National Institute of Mental Health. It notes the differences in depression as experienced by men, women, older adults, adolescents, teenagers and children.

As for that new study, the LA Times story about it began:
"Antidepressant medications probably provide little or no benefit to people with mild or moderate depression, a new study has found. Rather, the mere act of seeing a doctor, discussing symptoms and learning about depression probably triggers the improvements many patients experience while on medication."

-- Tami Dennis

Photo credit: Pedro Armestre / AFP / Getty Images