Anti-depressants or natural anti-depressants?
A new meta-analysis has shown that anti-depressants are effective. There have been doubts expressed over the years with some studies suggesting they only work in the most severe cases. I was suffering from major depression disorder when I tried a number of anti-depressants in my desperation to find something to help me. Unfortunately they did nothing for me except give me horrible side-effects when I was at my most vulnerable. These are mind-altering drugs and being rushed to A&E because I was having an hallucination was one of the most frightening and saddest moments of my life. I was at my lowest point when the drugs didn’t work for me. I felt such a failure, helpless as well as hopeless. I had already been down the therapy route but picking over my emotional wounds only left me feeling more distressed, it didn’t help me overcome depression. I already knew what was wrong in my life, making me marinate in the misery of talking about it didn’t solve anything.
So although it’s good to know that the drugs do work, it still raises questions.
- What if you prefer a non-chemical approach to overcoming depression?
- What about the side-effects?
- What happens when you come off the pills and nothing has changed in your thinking or circumstances?
- The problem of depression is massive but is it desirable to put so many of the population on mood-altering drugs?
Medicine has tended to a narrow, biological view of depression seeing it as an imbalance of brain chemicals which can be remedied by taking a pill. But the causes of depression are more than biological. Will a pill cure your broken heart? Or solve your financial problems? Or change your pessimistic thinking? There are many causes of depression, but in the UK the treatment options seem to be a narrow choice between pills or therapy.
I did eventually find a solution to my episodes of depression which was both natural and backed by science. I experimented with positive psychology practices that have been shown to build positive emotion, I gained a sense of my strengths and learned the techniques of optimism to challenge the pessimism that takes you into the downwards spiral to depression. It worked for me – ten years on and now on a maintenance diet, I’ve not had an episode of depression since. It also led to a major change. I quit my work in the media and in mid-life embarked on a Masters in Positive Psychology, which came with a positive side-effect. Out of my suffering came a new source of meaning and purpose – to show people how to use the science of happiness to recover from depression. A natural solution backed by science.
We need to extend the treatment options for depression. Positive psychology practices are scientifically-grounded practices and they act as natural anti-depressants. The tools include savouring, gratitude, kindness, using your strengths, meditation, optimism, finding meaning, nurturing relationships, green exercise and journalling.
Miriam Akhtar is the author of Positive Psychology for Overcoming Depression. The 2nd edition is published in April 2018.