Why: The American Psychological Association reports that
12.7% is the percentage of the U.S. population over age 12 who took antidepressant medication in the past month, according to an analysis from the National Center for Health Statistics.
64% is the increase in the percentage of people using antidepressants between 1999 and 2014. In 1999, only 7.7 percent of the population took the medication.
19.1% is the percentage of older adults (over age 60) who took antidepressants in the past month. Antidepressant use increases with age. These medications are used by 16.6 percent of people ages 40 to 59, 7.8 percent of those ages 20 to 39, and 3.4 percent of adolescents ages 12 to 19.
Women are twice as likely as men to take antidepressant medication (16.5 percent compared with 8.6 percent). Women are more likely than men to take antidepressants in every age group.
What To Do:
Connection: Healthy relationships alleviate depression. Strong social networks reduce isolation, a key risk factor for depression. Keep in regular contact with friends and family, or consider joining a class or group. Volunteering is a wonderful way to get social support and help others while also helping yourself.
Exercise: Regular exercise can be as effective at treating depression as medication. Not only does exercise boost serotonin, endorphins, and other feel-good brain chemicals, it triggers the growth of new brain cells and connections, just like antidepressants do. Best of all, you don’t have to train for a marathon in order to reap the benefits. Even a half-hour daily walk can make a big difference. For maximum results, aim for 30 to 60 minutes of aerobic activity on most days.
Nutrition: Eating well is important for both your physical and mental health. Eating small, well-balanced meals throughout the day will help you keep your energy up and minimize mood swings. While you may be drawn to sugary foods for the quick boost they provide, complex carbohydrates are a better choice. They’ll get you going without the all-too-soon sugar crash.
Sleep: Sleep has a strong effect on mood. When you don’t get enough sleep, your depression symptoms will be worse. Sleep deprivation exacerbates irritability, moodiness, sadness, and fatigue. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep each night. Very few people do well on less than seven hours a night. Aim for somewhere between seven to nine hours each night.
Stress reduction: Make changes in your life to help manage and reduce stress. Too much stress exacerbates depression and puts you at risk for future depression. Take the aspects of your life that stress you out, such as work overload or unsupportive relationships, and find ways to minimize their impact.
Therapy: Good talk therapy can be extremely helpful in putting sadness and depression into perspective and in implementing healthy coping skills.
Life Coaching: A good life coach can help us turn the focus from disappointments and sadness to the potential for our good future.
Medication: Antidepressants may help improve the way your brain uses certain chemicals that control mood or stress. You may need to try several different antidepressant medicines before finding the one that improves your symptoms and has manageable side effects. A medication that has helped you or a close family member in the past will often be considered.
According to NIMH, antidepressants take time – usually 2 to 4 weeks – to work, and often, symptoms such as sleep, appetite, and concentration problems improve before mood lifts, so it is important to give medication a chance before reaching a conclusion about its effectiveness. If you begin taking antidepressants, do not stop taking them without the help of a doctor. Sometimes people taking antidepressants feel better and then stop taking the medication on their own, and the depression returns. When you and your doctor have decided it is time to stop the medication, usually after a course of 6 to 12 months, the doctor will help you slowly and safely decrease your dose. Stopping them abruptly can cause withdrawal symptoms.
In some cases, children, teenagers, and young adults under 25 may experience an increase in suicidal thoughts or behavior when taking antidepressants, especially in the first few weeks after starting or when the dose is changed. This warning from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also says that patients of all ages taking antidepressants should be watched closely, especially during the first few weeks of treatment.
If you are considering taking an antidepressant and you are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or breastfeeding, talk to your doctor about any increased health risks to you or your unborn or nursing child.
Rhonda Sciortino fought depression that followed many years of childhood abuse, neglect, and poverty. She has written extensively on fighting depression and attaining happiness, including in her book, 30 Days To Happiness, which was included in Ellen DeGeneres' monthly subscription Kind Box.