Should You Use Antidepressants for ‘Feeling Depressed’?

Some clients come to me because they think they are depressed. When someone tells me they are feeling depressed I ask them how this feeling manifests itself. Often they tell me they feel sad, blue, unhappy or just plain down in the dumps.

My question is are you really feeling depressed or just feeling sad, blue or unhappy?

Although these feelings are unconformable they are not really symptoms of depression, at least from a clinical point of view.

The Change in the Definition of Feeling Depressed

Over the past 30 years or so the definition of depression has changed. It used to be that if you were feeling depressed you were actually being overcome by what is now known as clinical depression, which is different than feeling sad, blue or unhappy.

What is Clinical Depression?

Clinical depression can be defined as depression that is not a normal, temporary mood caused by life events or grieving. A person who is clinically depressed actually has a mood disorder that interferes with their ability to function normally on a day to day basis.

In the February/March 2008 edition of “Scientific American Mind” Charles Barber, a psychiatry lecturer atYaleUniversitywrote an article titled “The Medicated Americans”. In this article he writes, “Truly depressed people do not smile or laugh; they may not talk; they are not fun to be with; they do not wish to be visited; they may not eat and have to be fed with feeding tubes so as not to die; and they exude a palpable and monstrous sense of pain.”

These types of patients are often given antidepressants because the drugs are the only way they can cope with their depressed feelings.

These symptoms are very different than feeling sad, blue or unhappy.

Why Was the Definition of Feeling Depressed Changed? 

How did the definition of feeling depressed change? Many researchers argue that it was to widen the market for antidepressants like Prozac.

In a February 26, 2008 article of ‘The Guardian”, the author wrote that the “process of marketing depression helped create the clinical category itself. If the new drugs affected mood, appetite and sleep patterns, then depression consisted of a problem with mood, appetite and sleep patterns. A subtle shift in the defining symptoms of depression took place over the years, so that the category itself became taken for granted.”

In other words antidepressants were marketed toward people with certain symptoms such as feeling sad, blue or unhappy instead of being prescribed to people suffering from clinical depression which was their original intended use.

Should You Use Antidepressants for ‘Feeling Depressed’?

In the article ‘Antidepressant Drug Effects and Depression Severity’ in ‘The Journal of the American Medical Association’ Jay C. Fournier, MA; Robert J. DeRubeis, PhD; at el. wrote, The magnitude of benefit of antidepressant medication compared with placebo increases with severity of depression symptoms and may be minimal or nonexistent, on average, in patients with mild or moderate symptoms. For patients with very severe depression, the benefit of medications over placebo is substantial.”

In other words, people that are suffering from mind to moderate depression get no more measureable relief from antidepressants than from a sugar pill.

Antidepressants Have Side Effects

In the July 2011 edition of “Bottom Line Personal”, Richard O’Conner, PhD, a psychotherapist and author wrote an article titled “Do You really Need an Antidepressant”. In it he writes, “Too many doctors routinely recommend antidepressants for patients who are feeling blue or have little energy.”

He goes on to point out the problems with using antidepressants writing, “Even Prozac and other selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRls), which were originally touted as being easier to tolerate than older drugs, have side effects. These include weight gain, loss of libido and emotional “blunting” or loss of empathy-which can be quite troublesome and should not be taken lightly.”

Just taking the antidepressants could be bad for you.

Treating Mild to Moderate Depression

Most experts agree that one of the best treatments for mild-to-moderate depression is talk or psychotherapy. Larry Christensen, PhD, professor of psychology at the University of South Alabama in Mobile was quoted in an article on WebMD titled ‘Getting Started: Talk Therapy for Depression” saying, “Talk therapy can give you the skills to help handle your depression, so for many people it’s a very empowering experience. This makes it effective over a long period of time.”

Hypnotherapy for Depression

Hypnotherapy has also been found to be very helpful for people working with mild to moderate depression. In a Study titled “Cognitive hypnotherapy for depression: an empirical investigation“ by A. Alladin, researchers found that “cognitive hypnotherapy (hypnosis) combined with cognitive-behavioral therapy had a 8 percent greater reduction in depression, anxiety, and hopelessness over and above the CBT only group.”

In other words for many people hypnotherapy for depression can be another additional option to combine with talk therapy.

If You Are Feeling Depressed

If you are feeling depressed by all means get help.

Just remember that feeling sad, blue, unhappy or just plain down in the dumps does not mean you are depressed.

While these might be symptoms of one of many loosely defined (by pharmaceutical sellers of antidepressants) types of depression, this does not mean you are suffering from clinical depression and need antidepressants.

You are simply feeling sad, blue or unhappy.

So if you are feeling depressed by all means get help. That help just doesn’t have to be antidepressants.

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