Chances are, you know someone who is depressed. Depression is so prevalent that by the year 2020, the World Health Organization predicts it will be the number 2 cause of disability in the world.

Antidepressants are the treatment of choice clinicians use to treat depression. Pharmaceutical companies have made a billion dollar industry out of selling them. In 2007-2008, antidepressants were the number one prescribed medication for adults ages 20-59. For adolescents, it was the third most prescribed medication (CDC, 2010). Many people take them because they trust the advice of their physician or therapist.

The question is, do they work?

In early 2010, JAMA (The Journal of the American Medical Association), published an astounding research article on antidepressants that largely went unnoticed. According to the authors, who analyzed several different studies done on the effectiveness of antidepressants throughout the past thirty years, antidepressants work as well as a placebo. A PLACEBO! Except in the case of severe depression, taking a sugar pill would work as well as a prescribed medication for depression.

This study highlights many different problems our world is encountering today. First, the rates of depression continue to rise. The medical and pharmaceutical industry's answer to the problem is to cover up the symptoms with a band-aid solution that has been proven ineffective, or at least as effective as a sugar pill. The managed care companies, if you have insurance, is in control of your therapy—who gets it, which therapist they will pay for, for how long, and which treatment plan will be allowed. This puts the patient's care in the hands of their insurance providers. What if you can't afford therapy or don't have access to it? And, what if therapy is not an acceptable solution for those who are ashamed to admit they need it?

How do we fix the underlying issues of depression? How did it become such an epidemic in the span of only 50 years or so? With all of our modern conveniences, technology, medicine, and advances; why are so many people unhappy? Maybe instead of looking outside of themselves for a solution, people can begin to look inward for the answers to their own depression. Maybe all that is needed are some changes instead of another pill to take. Depression is a complicated issue. It won't go away overnight, but the pattern right now is skyrocketing statistics of people who are or will be experiencing depression and a lack of adequate and accessible treatments to help those who need it.

My own low-grade depression lasted off and on for about thirty years. I was the product of a traumatic childhood that I thought I could escape. I was always able to go about my daily activities, but I lacked the joy, passion, and happiness that others had. Most of the time I was sad, had trouble sleeping, I had low energy, and had a hard time concentrating. When I was a young mother, I thought it was because I was tired from taking care of my children. It didn't go away. Eventually, I sought the help of a competent therapist. Then, my marriage fell apart. I continued therapy even though I couldn't afford it as a single mother. It was the best decision I ever made.

I've tried antidepressants and they didn't work for me. Instead, they numbed me; flat-lined me in a way that made me unemotional and unresponsive to life. Great. Except that at some point I was going to have to deal with all of the feelings and thoughts that were being suppressed and repressed inside of me. I did. And you know what? Even though it was hard confronting my issues and taking 100% responsibility for my life, it was the best thing I have ever done. It is harder to be depressed than it is to work on yourself so that you once again experience happiness. Do I still feel sad? Yes, on rare occasions I do, but my feelings do not run my life anymore because I feel them, then let them go.

When the depressed start looking inward for change instead of outward for relief, they will start to alleviate the epidemic of depression. It begins by owning your own stuff and becoming a hero(ine) of your life instead of a victim. It's not an overnight process. Instead, it is one thought at a time; one behavior at a time; one hour and one day at a time until these new thoughts and actions become a habitual way of being in the world. We are gifts. We are miraculous human beings meant to grace this planet with our light and love. We were not meant to diminish our lights feeling sad all of the time.

References:

Fournier, J. C., DeRubeis, R. J., Hollon, S. D., Dimidjian, S., Amsterdam, J. D., Shelton, R. C., & Fawcett, J. (2010). Antidepressant drug effects and depression severity: A patient-level meta-analysis. JAMA, 303(1), 47 - 53.

Gu, Q., Dillon, C.F., & Burt, V.L. (2010). Prescription drug use continues to increase: U.S. prescription drug data for 2007–2008. NCHS data brief, no 42. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics.

Author's Bio: 

Nicole Nenninger is the author of "Transforming Divorce - How to Get Back on Track and Create a Life You Love" as well as the "Transforming Divorce Workbook - How to Make Divorce the Best Thing that Ever Happened to You." She wrote these books after going through her own painful divorce process. She is the founder of nicolenenninger.com and co-founder of mydailymotivator.com. Nicole is pursuing an advanced degree in psychology and is a competitive runner. She and her new husband live in New York with their 4 children, 2 dogs, and cat.