Taking Antidepressants: The Pros & Cons

Dr Daniel Amen and Tana Amen BSN RN On The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast

For some people, the choice to take antidepressants leads to a happier, healthier quality of life. For others, it only makes things worse. Therefore it’s crucial to understand the benefits and drawbacks of choosing this route of treatment. In the first episode of a series on antidepressants, Dr. Daniel Amen and Tana Amen arm you with the information you need to decide if antidepressants are the right choice for you or your loved one.

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Dr. Daniel Amen: Welcome to the Brain Warrior's Way Podcast. I'm Dr. Daniel Amen.
Tana Amen: And I'm Tana Amen. In our podcast we provide you with the tools you need to become a warrior for the health of your brain and body.
Dr. Daniel Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast is brought to you by Amen Clinics where we have been transforming lives for 30 years using tools like brain SPECT imaging to personalize treatment to your brain. For more information visit amenclinics.com
Tana Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast also brought to you by Brain MD where we produce the highest quality nutraceuticals to support the health of your brain and body. To learn more go to brainmd.com
Dr. Daniel Amen: Welcome back. This is going to be Depression Week and things you can do, and maybe some things you shouldn't do. Depression is the number one illness, not just mental illness, it is the number one most expensive illness worldwide and seems to be increasing despite the fact that the use of antidepressants has skyrocketed. It's quadrupled since 1987 when Prozac was first released so there seems to be a bit of a disconnection between, "The medications can just solve everything." But you have a review. We haven't read a while.
Tana Amen: I do. This says, "I really appreciate this podcast on brain health. Years ago I was misdiagnosed as bipolar and it seems like ever since then I'm trying hard through a healthy lifestyle to live optimally. This is a great short but thorough podcast and you always walk away with at least one tip for the day to be mentally or physically healthy. I wish insurance covered brain scans because it would be awfully useful for everybody to see why we are the way we are," from OceanBliss770. Doesn't insurance cover more now?
Dr. Daniel Amen: Well we actually did a study of the patients who came to Amen Clinics and of the people that submitted it to insurance, 60% of them got some reimbursement.
Tana Amen: Right so it's more than people think.
Dr. Daniel Amen: That imaging is just so important but thank you for the review and if you'll leave a review at brainwarriorswaypodcast.com we'll actually enter you into a raffle to win a signed copy of one of Tana's cookbooks. We also want you to ... What's the one thing you're going to learn from this podcast? Post it on any of your social media sites and hashtag Brain Warrior's Way Podcast.
Tana Amen: Yep. So yeah, let's talk about depression. I'm really curious as someone who's suffered from depression and we see people every day, thousands of them a month, that are suffering. There's so many questions and over the next week let's ... Throughout this week let's talk about depression, the causes, what you can do but also what's the connection between depression and anxiety? How do antidepressants change your personality? And is it a good idea or a bad idea? So let's talk about a few of these.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Well I had a girl last night I was seeing who was struggling with depression and she said the school counselor told her about antidepressants and I said-
Tana Amen: That's not a good idea.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Well I said, "Let's talk about it," right? And head to head, omega-3 fatty acids versus Prozac in a study from New Zealand, omega-3 fatty acids were actually more effective. Prozac was effective 51% of the time, the omega-3 fatty acid, EPA, was effective 57% of the time. And then when they were used together they were actually ... it had a higher level. Also head to head against exercise, walking like you're late four times a week, head to head against Zoloft, now they're good antidepressant. They were equally effective at 12 months ... at 12 weeks, and at 10 months exercise beat the socks off Zoloft. Head to head against cognitive behavior therapy against antidepressants found to be equally effective so we always talk about not believing every stupid thing you think.
And then I told the girl ... and she's 15, I'm like, "Antidepressants, they don't tell you once you start them, they're hard to stop because they change your brain to need them. And yes, they can help with depression but they tend to block all emotion." And so you are less depressed but you're also less happy. You're also less joyful and -
Tana Amen: No one tells you that part.
Dr. Daniel Amen: The serotonin antidepressants, Prozac, Paxil, Lexapro-
Tana Amen: Those give you PTSD?
Dr. Daniel Amen: Luvox, all interfere with sexual function. So they make it harder to have an orgasm which is a little weird talking about it with a teenager but if she's sexually active-
Tana Amen: Or going to be.
Dr. Daniel Amen: It's very important to know. And I do it because I'm not opposed to antidepressants and I use them when appropriate but I always want to do the natural things first or least give my patients the options of doing the natural things first. And one of the things nobody ever tells you when they prescribe an antidepressant or an antianxiety medicine, or medicine for ADD, or whatever that they affect your insurability. That they affect your ability to get health insurance-
Tana Amen: A pilot's license.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Life insurance, a pilot's license but longterm care insurance-
Tana Amen: Military.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Disability insurance and if there's a non medicine way to do it, isn't it smart to at least try that first?
Tana Amen: So if I had a 15 year old, I have a 16 year old actually, that came to me and said she was depressed I would be very open, number one. This is what I would do knowing what we know and what we do, I'd be very open to listening and I wouldn't shut her down. I would just want to hear what's going on with her but some of the things-
Dr. Daniel Amen: And the last thing you should say is, "You have nothing to be depressed about."
Tana Amen: Right. And the last thing I would want is the school counselor who may not have all the information telling her what she should do. It's good she goes to the school counselor and talks to her but giving her advice on things she may not know about ... I would want to be in the know more than that, I would want to know what to tell my child. So in Brain Warrior's Way we talked about mastery. One of the questions I would have for my child ... that I would have in my own head and that I would have for you if your child is depressed, have you had their blood work done? Because you just talked about omega-3 fatty acids.
They should be on fish oil if they need that if their vitamin D is low. If they are on birth control they're likely to have depression, that increases their risk dramatically because it drops their vitamin B which you can supplement. It also decreases their serotonin but you can increase that with exercise. So mastery would teach them about what you just talked about, exercise, nutrition, their assessment, assessing their blood work. So empower them with this information before you just go out and put them on an antidepressant at that age especially. And again we're not anti antidepressants it's just that they do change your brain, they're hard to get off and in the next episode I want to talk about how they change personality.
Dr. Daniel Amen: I'm really happy you brought up all the medical causes of depression. In The End of Mental Illness, which I would just dearly love for you to pre order, it's not going to be out until March but it's done, it's great and I think you'll really love it, I argued that depression really shouldn't be a diagnosis. It's not an illness, it's a cluster of symptoms that have a gazillion different causes. And having low serotonin is only one and probably one in five or one in seven.
Tana Amen: But then why did you have ... get the low serotonin? Is it birth control pills? See just giving someone an antidepressant is like putting a bandaid over a bullet hole if you don't actually figure out what's going on.
Dr. Daniel Amen: So you don't know. And as you experienced, low thyroid is a major cause, low iron is another cause.
Tana Amen: Yeah. That was like Lazarus effect for me, just getting an iron.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And one of her tests showed really low cholesterol which is another cause. People get upset about high cholesterol when low cholesterol can be a problem.
Tana Amen: Well and being put on the wrong antidepressant can be a disaster and I learned that the hard way.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Do you want to share?
Tana Amen: Yeah why don't we share that in the next one when we talk about personality? But being put on the wrong antidepressant when someone is ... Well especially back when I was put on it and they didn't know as much about them, and they were just like, "Oh it helps with depression," but they weren't taking into account what type of brain you have. Or if you have ADD or if you have whatever, if you're a more anxious brain or a more sleepy brain, they just put you on an antidepressant. And we read horror stories about people on Prozac and on different antidepressants because for some people it was a miracle cure, but not for everyone, right? It just wasn't that way for everyone.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And it's very common after people have had a head injury. And I wrote a column in the local newspaper where I lived in Northern California, The Daily Republic, for years, probably a decade I wrote a column every week. And I wrote a column on the connection between head trauma and suicide. And I got a call late one night from a mother who was hysterical and so I actually stayed late to see her. And she said her 16 year old son, who was normal and sweet and just one of her closest the people in her life, and he got into a bike accident where his front tire hit a curb, and he flipped over onto his forehead. And she said after that he didn't do well in school, he was really irritable, he was very angry and depressed. And at the age of 19 he shot and killed himself. And she said, "Do you think the head injury had anything to do ... " because she was really blaming herself. And it's so common.
And so what happens, people have head injuries, they get sad, they get disinhibited, they get mad, they have dark thoughts. And then they go to the pediatrician or the family practice doctor, to the psychiatrists who, "This kid meets the DSM-5 criteria for major depression." There's eight criteria, he has seven of them and so he meets the criteria. And the first thing all people do is they put people on SSRIs. And what do SSRIs do? They drop activity in the brain. They're inhibitory so they lower activity. But what happens when you start with low activity and someone puts you on something that lowers it further is it actually dis inhibits you, and you're more likely to act in ways that you normally wouldn't act. And sometimes can do some really awful things as is that happened in that case. So the takeaway I want people to have is depression is a symptom cluster, it's not a diagnosis by itself and we should always be searching for the cause.
Tana Amen: And one question I have is if you are suffering from depression or you have a child who's suffering from depression, have you taken them in for a full assessment? I don't mean just someone questioning them, I mean have you gotten their blood work done? Has someone actually dug deep to figure out what the cause behind the depression could be from a physiological, biological standpoint? We talk a lot about the brain but we all ... When we check someone out we look at the brain but we also look at all of these other things. It's all important. So please post one thing you've learned, tag us and you can go to brainwarriorswaypodcast.com, leave a question or a comment or a review. You can also go to Apple Podcasts and leave a review. And if you do go to brainwarriorswaypodcast.com there are instructions on how to leave a review and a question. And if you leave a question you will be entered into a raffle to win my cookbook, Brain Warrior's Way Cookbook.
Dr. Daniel Amen: That you signed for them.
Tana Amen: I will sign it, yes.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Stay with us.
Tana Amen: If you're enjoying The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast please don't forget to subscribe so you'll always know when there's a new episode. And while you're at it feel free to give us a review or five star rating as that helps others find the podcast.
Dr. Daniel Amen: If you're considering coming to Amen Clinics or trying some of the brain healthy supplements from Brain MD, you can use the code Podcast10 to get a 10% discount on a full evaluation at amenclinics.com or a 10% discount on all supplements at brainmdhealth.com. For more information, give us a call at 8-5-5-9-7-8-1-3-6-3.