Andrew Weil: Another View On Depression and Pills

Andrew Weil, MD, is the founder and program director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine and the author of many bestselling books on health topics. His most recent, Spontaneous Happiness (2011), reflects more than just professional experience with the issue of depression—he’s been there.

From Publisher’s Weekly: “Weil’s program aims for ‘positive emotionality’—a far better destination than the roller-coaster ride between bliss and despair. This is more than a New Age prescription for contentment. Weil’s revelations and insights from his own lifelong battle with depression lift this guide from a hip and clinical ‘how to’ to a generous and heartfelt ‘here’s how.'”

Andrew Weil notes that many people take medications that are in fact worthless and possibly harmful. Among the problems with these meds is the existence of a condition known as tardive dysphoria, meaning “lingering bad mood,” that can occur over time on antidepressants.

As possible treatments for depression, Weil prefers more consideration to lifestyle changes and less to ineffective drugs. Two things that he says have been proven to work well, for example, are walking regularly and having sufficient omega 3 fatty acids in one’s diet. Also, social support: “If you want to be in optimum emotional health, realize that social isolation stands between you and it. Reach out to others. Join groups—to drum, meditate, sing, sew, read, whatever. Find communities—to garden, do service work, travel, whatever. We humans are social animals. Spontaneous happiness is incompatible with social isolation. Period.”

Weil admits, however, that he has tried only one antidepressant himself and that he stopped using it after only a few days—he didn’t like the way it made him feel. Many other users have tried various medications before finding one that works well for them, just as many have decided to wait out initial periods of discomfort, as these often pass.

Although the views of Weil are important contributions to this area of study, I want to emphasize that he is not saying antidepressant medications don’t in fact help some folks, particularly those with more serious depressive disorders.

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