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Depression: Affecting 1 in 25 Americans

The aggressive rise of this condition in society is debated widely in the medical and scientific community. The diagnosis of depression has now grown to 17 million people in the US - which is about 7%. Yet it affects young adults the most at 13%. (National Institute of Mental Health).

The word depression has expanded its reach to define many things, and in doing so, has grown into a complex set of classifications including persistent, seasonal, bipolar, psychotic, and major depressive disorder.

First, it was diagnosed only for extreme cases. Compare this to today, where the word is now used to describe extreme mood impairment, people who have experienced a trauma, people who feel they’re going through a tough time, or those who experience extended distress or despair.

I think this expanded classification and less precise diagnosis of depression is dangerous to our youth and our mental health as a society, because this diagnosis can have treatment. You would expect for treatment to include counseling, like rational emotive therapy or cognitive behavioral therapy, but instead we are given a “trial by error" drug therapy. 

The medical industry highly favors the use of anti depressants as seen in the staggering rise of use in the US.

So now anyone with an imprecise depression diagnosis can receives a drug treatment with a "finger's crossed!" from the Doctor that it will work. This is not a satisfactory standard, and is unfortunately dangerous.

A groundbreaking meta analysis including 522 clinical trials of antidepressants shows there was no better improvement than a placebo at 8 weeks. (Goldhill, 2018)

Many studies show this same conclusion. Majority of studies that show improvement long term have only been done by the drug industries themselves, and have not be reproduced by outside independent researchers.

Furthermore, there are are little to no long-term studies on most anti depressants. Longest study was a 2 year study on a couple of medications, but that is it. (Peterson, 2019.) Due to liability and lack of known alternatives, doctors are afraid to pull anti depressants - which leads many patients to stay on them much longer than has ever been tested. This is extremely dangerous.

There is also the question of efficacy and ethics related to drug clinical trials.
Of the 522 studies in the meta analysis, 409 were done by the pharmaceutical companies. The study reported that majority of those studies were reported to have high to moderate bias by the researchers doing the research. (Goldhill, 2018.) This calls into question pharmaceutical research ethics.

So my question is: why do we use such controversial treatments as a first-approach? Especially when there is so much data supporting the low risks of adjusting diet, exercise, counseling, and supplemental approaches (like SamE).

As someone who was fortunate enough to overcome diagnosed OCD in my late teens with behavioral therapy without the use of medication, I am now a health coach working with hundreds of depression cases. Medication without therapy is temporarily helpful at best - which is congruent with the recent research.

In summary, there are times to use medication; but, without behavior therapy this is a dangerous assumption that a pill can solve the problem. Yet, for majority of depression cases, it’s clear that medication is not the safest and a low percentage positive outcome option. Until we can get more unbiased research that can help pinpoint what meds would be best for who (like genetic testing) we should significantly reduce antidepressant use for a natural first approach.

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National Institute of Mental Health, Prevalence of Major Depressive Episodes Among Adolescents. Retrieved from

Goldhill, Olivia. 2018, Feb. 22, Researchers Are Still Working to Prove That Antidepressants Are More Effective Then Placebo. Retrieved from…/researchers-are-still-working-t…/amp

Peterson, Andrea. 2019, Aug 28, New Concerns Emerge About Long-Term Antidepressant Use. Retrieved from…/new-concerns-about-long-term-antidepr…

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