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Antidepressant Risks Nobody Talks About

Neuroaffect Circuit

By: Michael Lam, MD, MPH; Carrie Lam, MD; Jeremy Lam, MD

According to statistics published in May 2020, almost 25% of all adult Americans show symptoms of depressive disorders, with the median age of depression onset estimated at 32.5 years. This implies that the use of antidepressants is on the increase. Doctors often suggest antidepressant medication as a quick way of addressing symptoms, but there can be serious antidepressant risks when taking these medications. It is always a good idea to do your research before starting a new medication.

Depression As StressUnder ideal circumstances, nobody should use antidepressants for longer than nine months, with two years as the maximum. And they should only be used longer than nine months in those cases where someone experiences further episodes. But, sadly, more and more people stay on antidepressants for increasingly longer periods. In so doing, their antidepressant risks also increase. These risks could potentially affect your Neuroaffect circuit and, by association, also your Bioenergetic circuit.

We will be taking a look at how antidepressants affect your body and how long-term use could cause antidepressant risks that damage these two important bodily systems.

Depression As Stress

Before looking at antidepressants, we first need to look at how your body deals with depression. In fact, it sees depression as a major form of stress.

Your Body’s Response to Stress: Neuroaffect Circuit

Your body has a built-in mechanism to handle stress. It is called the NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) Stress Response. When stress occurs, it triggers a biochemical orchestra affecting your body’s various biological circuits and their corresponding physiological circuits. And this process starts with your Neuroaffect Circuit in the brain.

In your brain, stress is channeled through the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) axis. Stress is first perceived by the hypothalamus. Once stress occurs, your hypothalamus uses chemical messengers called neurotransmitters to alert the pituitary glands to the occurrence of stress. In turn, your pituitary gland signals the adrenals to produce more cortisol. Increased cortisol production is your body’s way of dealing with stress. This leads to a cascade of events that includes an increase in heart rate, increased blood pressure, and general readiness to fight or flee from the stress.

While short-term cortisol increase is great at dealing with the issues surrounding stress, long-term cortisol production may harm your health. It could lead to adrenal fatigue and a host of health issues including depression, diabetes, heart issues, hormone imbalance, and many more.

Depression and Your Stress Response

Depression arises from a hormone imbalance in the brain. Many of your brain hormones act like neurotransmitters. But these hormones are also responsible for mood and emotions. An imbalance in these brain chemicals could result in the onset of depression.

Doctors often respond by prescribing antidepressants without making you aware of long-term antidepressant risks. And these medications often do not address the reason for your depression.

There are many reasons for depression.

The oft-cited psychological cause may very well not be the only reason your NEM has kicked into prolonged action. Extended periods of stress, poor sleep, an inadequate diet, and the resulting imbalances in your body can also cause depression. You may also have physical causes such as an injury, or environmental causes such as exposure to certain chemicals, pollution, or even a sensitivity to certain foods or electromagnetic fields.

If this is the case, antidepressants may be addressing the symptoms of your condition, but not the cause. And to make matters worse, by not addressing the cause, you may prolong your depression and the use of these medications. This puts you in a position that increases antidepressant risks.

Your Body’s Response to Stress: Bioenergetics Circuit

The Bioenergetics circuit is also part of the NEM Stress Response and is directly influenced by what happens in the Neuroaffect Circuit. The three main organs that make up the Bioenergetics circuit are the liver, pancreas, and thyroid gland.

The effects of stress on your body could cause imbalances in this circuit leading to possible health issues.

Hyperglycemia, for example, may result from an increase in cortisol production and a corresponding increase in glucose levels. This is because your body responds to stress by asking for an increase in cortisol production and energy production. This energy, derived from your body’s fat stores, is released as glucose into your blood. Prolonged stress may thus see a marked increase in blood sugar levels.

Because of an increase in glucose, your pancreas may strive to mitigate the issue and, in so doing, increases its insulin production. However, over time your pancreas may start to suffer the consequences, incur damage, and fail to produce the insulin needed to balance your glucose levels. This may result in constantly elevated blood glucose levels leading to diabetes.

This is significant because diabetes is one of the major risks associated with the use of antidepressants.

Your Risk for Diabetes

Your Risk for DiabetesNow, while prolonged stress may contribute towards diabetes, other causes also exist. These include, amongst others:

  • Certain medications
  • Your diet
  • A lack of exercise
  • Obesity
  • Hormonal imbalance
  • Physiological issues like infection or disease

You also get three types of diabetes:

  • Type-1 diabetes that results from immune system dysfunction.
  • Type-2 diabetes that results from insulin resistance, i.e. when your pancreas does not make the necessary insulin needed to deal with higher blood glucose levels.
  • Gestational diabetes that develops during pregnancy.

We will see how antidepressant risks relate to diabetes in a moment.

Antidepressant Side-Effects

Different antidepressants affect each of us differently. Your healthcare professional may change your medication or adjust the dosage until the medication has a positive effect on your mood. Other common side effects caused by antidepressants include:

  • Drowsiness or an inability to sleep
  • Lower libido
  • Dry mouth
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Agitation
  • Headaches
  • Weight gain
  • Anxiety

But what about the long-term effects of antidepressants? The severity of your antidepressant risks may increase with a longer period of use.

Long-Term Antidepressant Risks

Long-Term Antidepressant RisksMany studies show antidepressant risks may have far-reaching consequences.

Antidepressant Risks: Anxiety

Numerous studies indicate that the use of antidepressants may increase your anxiety levels. Of course, increased anxiety may increase your risk of depression, which has an even greater negative effect on someone already battling depression and its many physiological and psychological implications. Furthermore, your healthcare practitioner may then prescribe other medications to deal with the side effects of your antidepressant, which have their side effects as well.

Antidepressant Risks: Akathisia

Studies also show that akathisia is another antidepressant risk most people are unaware of. Akathisia, a side effect of antipsychotic drugs, is a movement disorder that decreases your ability to stay still. The condition is also associated with a tendency towards increased aggression, violence, and suicidal behavior.

Antidepressant Risks: Suicide

Some studies indicate suicide may be an antidepressant risk in both children and adults. Those most at risk are in the under-25 age group.

Antidepressant Risks: Physiological Damage

Literature suggests that prolonged antidepressant use may cause various types of physiological damage. Amongst these are an increased risk of kidney damage, stroke, and seizures. It could also affect your gastrointestinal health which directly impacts your propensity towards developing adrenal fatigue.

Antidepressant Risks: Brain Changes

Some antidepressants may change your brain’s chemical structure either permanently or for an exceedingly long time. When they affect your brain even after weaned off them, the effects could include prolonged chemical changes as well as continued withdrawal symptoms.

These changes may permanently alter the way your neurotransmitters function. This could mean that, once you stop taking these antidepressants, your brain’s neurotransmitter functionality never returns to normal. Thus a possible permanent, or prolonged, change in your Neuroaffect circuit can result. This could lead to an increased need for cortisol production, eventually leading to an adrenal crash or further issues.

Antidepressant Risks: Diabetes

As noted above, the Neuroaffect and Bioenergetics circuits are both connected to depression, stress, and the development of diabetes. This helps describe why this risk may occur.

One would think that by taking antidepressants your body’s stress levels would go down. And they may. Yet literature strongly links antidepressant use with type-2 diabetes and gestational diabetes.

A study on gestational diabetes, for example, found that the expectant mothers who used antidepressants stood a much higher chance of developing gestational diabetes than those who did not use them.

Regarding type-2 diabetes, those with prolonged antidepressant use have a much-increased risk. A link between prolonged antidepressant use and type-2 diabetes has been established, but those using two types of drugs at the same time see their risk almost double.

So, if you have diabetes or have a tendency towards this condition, please be aware of the risks associated with your antidepressant.

How to Reduce Your Antidepressant Risks

Adrenal Fatigue SyndromeThe most effective way of reducing antidepressant risk is, obviously, not to take antidepressants. However, depending on your type of depression and other conditions, your body may require medication. If you are already using an antidepressant, do not use it longer than necessary. Ideally, not more than nine months.

Also, do not just stop using them. Most antidepressants come with serious withdrawal symptoms and side effects. Weaning yourself off them carefully and slowly will help reduce any possible consequences.

The most effective way of dealing with depression is finding out the root cause and addressing it.

Some ways of dealing with depression naturally include:

  • Making dietary changes to exclude sugary and processed foods while consuming fresh organic fruit, vegetables, more omega-3 fats, and lean protein. The adrenal fatigue diet may help as it provides adrenal support and helps provide what your body needs to address depression.
  • Taking up a form of gentle exercise like cycling, brisk walking, or yoga. These get you out into the open air while not putting too much of a strain on your adrenals.
  • Social interaction like spending time with your family and friends. Phone calls and video calls are also a good option. You could also enroll in a class, learn a new skill, or volunteer your time for a good cause.
  • Go on a diet if you are overweight. Obesity often leads to depression and increases your risk of diabetes and other health issues.
  • Explore the use of herbs. Many herbs help with depression without having the same negative effects of antidepressants. Just be sure to talk to your healthcare practitioner as to their suitability, dosage, or possible interactions.

In Closing

While many people suffer from depression, few are aware of the antidepressant risks posed by their medications.

If you are worried about possible antidepressant risks, here are a few things you can do about your situation.

  1. Talk to your healthcare professional about the possible risks associated with your medication and make an informed choice about whether you wish to start or continue using it.
  2. Make appropriate lifestyle choices that will help your body naturally fight depression like exercise, changing your diet, and so forth.
  3. Explore the use of herbal supplements that fight depression.

Whatever course of action you decide to take, please do so with the guidance of your healthcare professional. They are better able to guide you as to the usage and suitability of supplements as well.

If you would like to know more about or need assistance with antidepressant risks, the team at Dr. Lam Coaching can help. We offer a free** no-obligation phone consultation at +1-626-571-1234 where we will privately discuss your symptoms and various options. You can also send us a question through our Ask The Doctor system by clicking here.

© Copyright 2021 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.

Dr. Lam's Key Question

Yes, they do. The various antidepressant risks could, in fact, directly impact adrenal fatigue and worsen the condition. Please take care when using antidepressants and make sure you ask your healthcare practitioner about their possible health risks.

© Copyright 2001-2021 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.
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