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What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About DepressionThe Breakthrough Integrative Approach for Effective Treatment
By Michael B. Schachter Deborah Mitchell
WARNER WELLNESSCopyright © 2006 Michael B. Schachter, MD, and Lynn Sonberg
All right reserved.
IntroductionAs I sit down to write this book, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has just approved another antidepressant. The name of the drug doesn't matter; it joins the ranks of about one dozen others already on the market. Presently, more than two dozen additional antidepressants are under development, according to the trade group Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. And as you sit today and read this book, another antidepressant has been, is being, or soon will be released to the market, to be followed by others currently in research-and-development or trial phases.
While the good intentions of those who work so diligently to find remedies for the millions of people who suffer with depression may be commendable, I remain largely unimpressed. Why? Because regardless of the number of antidepressants introduced to the market or when they appear, the bottom line is that psychotropic drugs are not the complete answer to the critical and growing problem of depression in this country. In fact, I believe that in some ways they contribute to it.
On the surface, these statements may seem daunting and depressing. After all, we've been told by the conventional medical community, the pharmaceutical companies, and MadisonAvenue marketers that drugs will lift your spirits, improve your mood, and spark up your sex life.
If drugs are not the answer, then what is? There is no simple answer to this question, but there is an approach to helping people with depression that has largely been ignored by conventional psychiatry. I and a growing number of my colleagues have found it to be a natural, biofriendly approach called orthomolecular psychiatry-the practice of treating psychological problems by providing the body with optimal amounts of substances that are natural to it-including amino acids, vitamins and minerals, trace elements, and essential fatty acids-combined with positive lifestyle habits and mind-body therapies. Linus Pauling, PhD, originally introduced this term in 1968 in the journal Science.
In this book I explain how you or a loved one, and the tens of millions of Americans who suffer with depression and related disorders, can find relief naturally, safely, and effectively, without the use of medication. This approach has worked for tens of thousands of individuals, and it can work for you, too. I see proof of it every day at my center, the Schachter Center for Complementary Medicine in Suffern, New York. You don't need to come to Suffern to win your battle against depression, but you do need to take your healing process into your own hands, and that's what I can help you do with this book.
I was introduced to the compelling and dramatic capabilities of orthomolecular medicine in the early 1970s, when I heard of several cases in which individuals who suffered with clotting problems were treated successfully with vitamin E. My interest was piqued, and as I read what little but impressive literature there was on the subject, I also learned that some children with brain damage had been helped with vitamin E therapy. This information hit home, because my two-and-a half- year-old daughter suffered from cerebral palsy. Despite intensive, daily rehabilitation, she had not progressed past crawling on her belly. I began to give her 100 International Units (IU) of vitamin E daily, and her energy and awareness levels increased within days. After three weeks, I doubled the dose, and within hours she responded by getting up on all fours and rocking back and forth. When I gave vitamin E to her mother, who was pregnant at the time and complaining of fatigue, her energy level improved significantly. I felt I was onto something big.
At the time, I was a conventionally trained, board-certified psychiatrist, and I began to wonder whether a nutritional approach in general-and nutritional supplements in particular- might be able to help my psychiatric patients. The more I explored the world of orthomolecular psychiatry, the more I saw how this approach might hold the answers to many of the medical problems that plague humankind today, including depression and related disorders. Indeed, some of the most convincing work in orthomolecular psychiatry occurred in the 1950s with Abram Hoffer, PhD, who, along with several colleagues, discovered that adding niacin (vitamin B3) in high doses to the treatment of schizophrenic patients significantly improved results. Since then, said Dr. Hoffer in Vitamin B-3 and Schizophrenia, "orthomolecular psychiatry has evolved from a simple use of one vitamin for treating one disease to a comprehensive holistic program which includes use of many different nutrients, in combination with standard psychiatric treatment."
Gradually, I became more and more convinced that using only conventional psychiatric medications and psychotherapy was insufficient to treat depression and related disorders. In addition, this approach is fraught with problems because of the adverse side effects of the medications and the failure to address issues relevant to the development of depression and other psychiatric conditions. So how much of a problem is depression in the United States? The following facts are sobering:
Depression affects more than nineteen million Americans in a given year.
Ten percent of young people are depressed.
Major depression is the leading cause of disability in the United States.
Depression costs an estimated $40 billion each year in lost production, medical costs, and loss of life.
In 2003, US doctors wrote 213 million prescriptions for antidepressants.
Many people who are prescribed antidepressants stop taking them because the side effects are too debilitating.
Two-thirds of people who are depressed never seek or receive treatment, and so suffer needlessly, and about 50 percent of people with chronic depression who do receive treatment do not get sufficient relief. One study (Journal of the American Medical Association, June 18, 2003) found an even more disturbing result: Of the people with major depression who sought help, only 22 percent received adequate treatment. (Of course, the adequate treatment referred to in this article consists primarily of antidepressant drugs. As you will see, I agree with the notion that many depressed people are not getting the help they deserve, but this help involves much more than just antidepressant drugs-which in many cases may not be needed when the other issues discussed in this book are addressed.)
Every one of these points gives us reason to pause, but it may be the last two that are the most distressing. You or someone you love may be part of these staggering statistics; this book can help change that. Here I present effective treatments that are as accessible as changing your diet, supplement habits, and lifestyle, a multifaceted approach designed to bring emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual harmony back into your life often without the use of drugs. This approach is also helpful for related conditions, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, eating disorders, anxiety disorders, and alcoholism.
HOW TO USE THIS BOOK
This book is divided into two parts. In part 1, "Coming to Terms with Depression," I talk about what depression is, what causes it, and where to begin to get help. Such a discussion may seem elementary, but it is critical, because many people carry misconceptions about depression, its causes, and how to treat it. For many, the major (or only) way to treat it is to take antidepressant medication. This is understandable since the vast majority of information we've been given about depression has come from those with a vested interest in medication- from pharmaceutical companies to advertising firms and doctors who write prescriptions for these drugs. There is very little discussion about the various alternatives that I will be addressing in this book. Thus, in the first few chapters I try to set the record straight by:
Comparing the conventional and orthomolecular approaches to treatment of depression and the merits and limits of each.
Exploring briefly the many causes of and contributors to depression.
Introducing some tools, including checklists and tests, to help you identify which natural approaches to treatment may work best for you.
Armed with those tools and information, you are now ready to begin work in part 2, "How to Prevent and Treat Depression Comprehensively." In this section, you will learn how different approaches-amino acids, essential fatty acids and other fats, nutrients and herbs, nutritious food, hormones- work to fight depression, and how to use the checklists from chapter 3 to identify which methods are most likely to improve your mood. Because treating depression requires a multifaceted, holistic approach, I also devote several chapters to three other essential areas:
How to remove dangerous toxins from the body.
How to fight depression by modifying lifestyle habits.
How to incorporate energy medicine and personal growth elements into the healing process.
I also devote a chapter to antidepressant and other psychotropic medications, which remain an option, along with the various alternatives discussed in this book. This frank discussion includes their characteristics, benefits, and potential side effects. In this chapter, I also discuss how medications can be added to a natural regimen of amino acids, essential fatty acids, and other natural approaches, if and when necessary. Finally, the book concludes with three success stories, just a few of the many tales from people who have found answers to their depression by using several of the ideas discussed in this book.
Following the text of the book, I have supplied some additional tools. These include:
Selected notes that supply some references to the text.
An appendix that lists a variety of resources for further information and further help.
A glossary in which many terms introduced in the text are defined.
A suggested reading list for further information on various topics discussed in this book.
As you read this book, I'd like you to keep several points in mind. First, each of us is somewhat different in many ways, including our biochemistry. This notion of biochemical individuality was emphasized by Roger Williams, PhD, in several books back in the 1940s and 1950s. Therefore, it is very important for you to learn to pay attention and listen to your own body. What is good and right for one person may not be good or right for you. Your individual reactions are the key authority, and you must always consider them when evaluating any treatment concepts.
With regard to terminology, I will be using the term orthomolecular throughout this book, but some other terms have also been applied to approaches to health care that deviate from conventional medicine. These include alternative medicine, complementary medicine, alternative and complementary medicine, integrative medicine, functional medicine, environmental medicine, naturopathic medicine, and holistic medicine. Each has a slightly different meaning and different emphasis, but they all have in common that they use a model or approach different from the conventional approach to health care.
Joseph Campbell once said, "If you are following your bliss, you are enjoying that ... life within you, all the time." Everyone deserves an opportunity to follow their bliss. If you are in the throes of depression, bliss seems unattainable. But when you break free, anything is possible. This book is about possibilities. I encourage you to explore them with me.
Excerpted from What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Depression by Michael B. Schachter Deborah Mitchell Copyright © 2006 by Michael B. Schachter, MD, and Lynn Sonberg. Excerpted by permission.
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