At Statera antidepressants are not our first choice of treatment for depression, though we do use them when needed. There are many very successful approaches to depression management that do not include medications. And, that is another “Ask your Healthcare Provider” question for another day.
To answer today’s question, let me start by saying that I am on a one-man crusade to change the category name for “anti-depressants” to "neurotransmitter modulators." I know that doesn’t roll off the tongue, but that is what the so-called "antidepressants” are doing. We use the same medications for everything from depression and anxiety to chronic pain, fibromyalgia, migraines, neuropathic pain, peripheral neuropathy, insomnia, irritable bowel syndrome and a myriad of other problems. They really are not just for people who are sad.
Many patients suffering from a wide variety of problems have, as a result, a depletion of or imbalance in neurotransmitters. This is especially common in patients who are under chronic physical or emotional stress. The body simply can not keep up with the drain on the system, and eventually we run critically low on neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters (serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine to name a few) are the chemical messengers that control nerve function and regulate the nervous system and brain ( GI function, concentration, mood, sleep, pain perception, etc). When they run low, we experience many of the symptoms that are commonly associated with depression including physical and emotional exhaustion, body aches, sleep disturbance, abdominal upset, fluctuating appetite, fatigue, anxiousness, headaches, feeling overwhelmed, poor concentration, no feelings of joy, apathy, and sadness. And, it is important to note that you do not have to have all of these. You do not have to be sad to be neurotransmitter deficient.
So calling the medicines that can help alleviate many of these symptoms "anti-depressants" is unfairly restricting. Many people who could benefit from stabilizing their neurotransmitters avoid natural remedies, counseling, supplements and medications that could be of great benefit to them because of the stigma of taking “anti-depressants." I hope we can approach these symptoms for what they are--signs of neurotransmitter depletion--and focus on removing the physical or emotional stress that is causing it, supporting the system while it recovers, and correcting the neurotransmitter imbalance which may require “neuro-modulators” from time to time.
~Dr. Lawrence Hutchison, MD