Antidepressants… Is That All You’ve Got?

Graeme Cowandepression

Antidepressants do have their place in treating depression.

But new evidence indicates a worrying trend: Antidepressants – which interfere with your brain chemistry – are increasingly a first resort and being prescribed at an ever-increasing rate.

The revelations come in the recently published OECD publication ‘Health at a Glance’ and show that the consumption of antidepressants has increased significantly in most countries surveyed since 2000. In 2008 in Iceland, for example, almost 30% of women aged 65 and over had an antidepressant prescription.

The report points out that one explanation includes the extension of indicators of some antidepressants to milder forms of depression, generalised anxiety disorders or social phobia.

Further, prescriptions for antidepressants have jumped 20% in five years in Spain and Portugal, which have been badly affected by the global economic crisis, another possible explanation for the exponential increase.

However, separate research indicates that global rates of depression have not increased in step, although depression is being diagnosed more in certain countries.

But in the main, it appears that antidepressants are being prescribed more frequently, but for more mild conditions which didn’t previously extend to warranting antidepressant treatments. Is this really appropriate when antidepressants can have a powerful effect on the body chemistry?

Now, if antidepressants always worked all the time, with no side effects, this wouldn’t be a problem.

But antidepressants don’t work all the time and do carry the risk of side effects – in fact they can even make some people suicidal.

In short: anti-depressants are not a magic pill ­– they form part of, but are not in their entirety, a depression treatment plan.

Alastair Campbell, for example, has tried several antidepressants over the years and is slowly tapering off them. But he uses other strategies for managing his mood, such as exercise.

As I point out in Back From The Brink, depression funding and research is often focused on investment-returning efforts i.e. pharmaceuticals. Slowly but surely, research into the efficacy of other strategies and therapies is gaining pace, but for many doctors – and indeed uninformed patients – antidepressants are often the first thing tried.


What are the benefits of a holistic approach to treating depression?

A holistic approach to treating depression incorporates lifestyle changes as part of a treatment plan that incorporates, but neither excludes nor overly relies on, medication.

A holistic treatment plan can be low-cost (often free) and can be extended and incorporated into a healthier, more positive and fulfilling lifestyle to help thrive, not just beat the immediate episode of depression and survive.

Everyone I interview in Back From The Brink uses and benefits from a holistic treatment plan. Whether it’s Greg Montgomery’s integration of mindfulness and gratitude practice into his daily life, Tricia’s fanatical devotion to exercise or Bob Boorstin’s self-monitoring and changing his relationship with the illness, they don’t simply pop a pill and pin their hopes of getting through on a little capsule alone.


How Do You Get Started in Treating Depression Holistically?

The first step is to assess your mood using the moodometer (link to article). There’s no point taking antidepressants if, in reality, you’re a 4 or above on the scale!

Once you’ve worked out your mood, you can take informed action and put together a holistic treatment plan, using the book, the strategies contained within and the stories for inspiration and encouragement.

I also recommend that you sign up for the FREE 30 Day Mood Boost Program on

Based on interviewing 4000+ people that who have learned to beat or manage their depression or bipolar, the FREE Challenge provides you a series of daily e-mails which help you build and maintain your resilience and a positive mood.

You won’t bring about lasting and positive change to your mood overnight. Instead, each e-mail in the Challenge focuses on one small, manageable, and measurable thing you can do each day to feel better.

The e-mails contain practical tips, real-life examples, and optimistic encouragement to inspire you to take realistic action.

Structured and logical, the 30 Day Mood Boost Challenge builds on each day’s progress and gradually introduces positive improvements you can make in all areas of your life, from working out your current mood, getting expert help, changing your diet and physical activity, to improving your support from family and friends.

I hope you find them useful, and if you’re interested you can sign up at


 Graeme Cowan’s book Back From The Brink, brings you true stories from well-known and everyday people, and practical help for overcoming depression and bipolar disorder. Touching, moving and often surprising, the stories in Back From The Brink are living proof that you too can overcome depression, using the tools and resources provided in the book.

Cowan survived the worst depression his psychiatrist had ever treated. Click here to find out more.