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Antidepressants: Side Effects and Alternatives

Q: I've been taking medication for the past three years to help with my depression, and I've gained a lot of weight because of it. I really want to do something natural instead so I don't have to take the pills anymore. What can I do?

Dr. Donnica:
Antidepressants are very effective in treating depression, but there are side effects and weight gain and decreased libido are among them. As with any side effects, I recommend discussing them with your physician. S/he may recommend lowering your dose or switching brands. You should also discuss your desire to discontinue medication. Your doctor's recommendation will be based upon your original diagnosis and its severity, your improvement, your life circumstances then and now, and whether you are in psychotherapy. 

As for "natural" alternatives, the best thing is regular aerobic exercise.  In patients with mild to moderate depression, regular aerobic exercise may reduce depressive symptoms and elevate mood. It also has many other health benefits, like weight loss.  A healthy diet and sleep regimen may also help. Before taking a natural supplement, talk with your doctor. While many patients with mild depression benefit from St. John's wort, this herb can interact with other medicines and has its own side effects.  

Click here for more information about depression or other mental health issues.

Created: 5/13/2002  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

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