Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Google+ Share on Reddit Share on Pinterest Share on Linkedin Share on Tumblr An alarmingly high number of Americans, both young and old, are on antidepressants. One in ten Americans in total are on some form of antidepressant medication. Middle aged women have the highest percentage of use of these medications with more than 20%. The necessity of antidepressants is a highly debated and sometimes controversial subject. Many people believe these medications to be highly dangerous and life threatening. Other groups think they are harmless but possibly overused. Some people, however, claim that the drugs are a literal lifesaver for people who battle depression on a daily basis. Who Is Right? The truthful answer to this is that none of the groups are completely right. Taking an antidepressant is a choice that is left solely up to the individual and each person has to decide for themselves which is the correct path to go down. There are a few key points to consider when trying to decide whether or not you should be taking antidepressants. Healthy Depression Life is full of ups and downs. Before you go out and try to get a prescription for any sort of antidepressant medication, you need to evaluate whether your depression is a healthy response or if it is something you cannot identify the problem of. Some people make the mistake of using medication to cope with difficult situations such as the loss of a loved one or being let go from a job. These are all times of your life when feelings of sadness and depression are a healthy response to the environment around you. During these times, it is more important to continue through your everyday and not try to mask your emotions. Should you decide that your depression has become a hindrance on your life you should consider the proper treatment. There are several options to consider and not all of them include heavy medications. Certain signs such as an inability to get yourself out of bed, difficulty eating, or a family history of depression may mean it is time to seek professional help. Alternatives to Antidepressants Before you run to your doctor and start taking medication, it is wise to seek other types of help. One of the most helpful first steps to combatting depression is to see a therapist. There are multiple types of therapy that you attend which will help with specific types of depression. Cognitive behavioral therapy is helpful for people who are struggling with self-deprecating thoughts and actions. Another form of therapy is useful for addressing the way you handle relationships and how this could lead to your depression. This type of therapy is called interpersonal psychotherapy. A therapist is especially helpful for younger people who need help getting a handle on their depression before it becomes a serious issue. Other alternatives to antidepressants include natural, at home remedies. Many people have been able to alleviate depression through the use of an herb called St. John’s wort, omega 3 fatty acids, or SAMe. These are much less addictive and less life altering than full on antidepressants. Are Antidepressants Enough Alone? Taking antidepressants is a major factor in helping with severe depression, but when it comes down to it more needs to be done. Along with the antidepressant, a depressed person should also assume certain lifestyle changes. These changes include exercise, taking time to do activities you enjoy, spending time with friends and family, getting the proper amount of sleep, eating properly, and drinking responsibly. Who Can Identify and Prescribe the Proper Antidepressants? Most prescriptions for antidepressants are written by your family doctor. Your primary care physician should be up to date on which medications can and should be prescribed for various illnesses, depression included. However, not every doctor is as competent as others when it comes to identifying and treating depression. It is advised that you seek out the help of specialist who knows how to properly handle the side effects, dosages, and other factors included in using antidepressants. Your family doctor is probably only family with a fraction of the medication available for treating depression. Your Brain Over Time Although there have not been any studies that show a correlation between long term antidepressant use and negative effects on the brain, it should also not be ruled out. Although it is uncertain as to whether antidepressants will negatively affect your mental state or not, it is known that depression does damage the brain. When left untreated, studies have shown that depression over time leads to the shrinking of the hippocampus. This is the section of the brain responsible for memory and causes issues thinking. This is why it is important to take antidepressants for as long as necessary but never longer. Quitting Antidepressants A general rule of thumb is that antidepressants should be taken for approximately six to twelve months at a time. When it is time to stop taking the drugs, some people experience what is called discontinuation syndrome. This effects about one in five users and should not be confused with withdrawals. Your body never becomes physically dependent on the medication in the way it does with narcotics. The discontinuation syndrome can be avoided by tapering down doses and listening to your doctor’s instructions. Conclusion There are many reasons to take antidepressant medications. There are also alternatives for people who are not suffering from severe depression. It is important to familiarize yourself with the medications and have a conversation with your doctor. In the end, it is important to make your own decision and do only what is best for you.