In the gay community, we have higher rates of anxiety, depression and other mental illnesses than the general population does, mostly a product of the difficulties and prejudices we face in our lives. Let me stress that evidence suggests it is a combination of treatments that is most effective for anxiety and depression, and that using any one treatment in isolation is not the best solution.
I think it is irresponsible of doctors to suggest a medication or a natural substance without emphasizing the importance of counseling with a qualified professional. I refer patients to psychologists, counselors, or psychotherapists. Psychiatrists prescribe medications, but generally do not do as much counseling.
The medications most often used for anxiety and depression are SSRI’s (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) such as Celexa, Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil and Effexor. Large-scale studies suggest that they are effective for severe depression, but not as effective for mild to moderate depression.
I am by NO MEANS anti-medication. I believe that there is a time and a place for them, and I believe they are absolutely necessary at times. That being said, I feel that they are too frequently prescribed, and I believe that (if possible) the ideal situation for patients is to decrease dependence on medications to avoid negative long-term effects. The most common adverse effects I see in my patients are weight gain and sexual dysfunctions. Other negative effects include:
nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
drowsiness, dizziness, fatigue
loss of sex drive
mania, anxiety, psychotic disorders
serious heart conditions, high blood pressure
increased risk of bone fracture and osteoporosis
In my office, I often see patients with anxiety and depression who are looking to either avoid pharmaceuticals or get off of their medications. I wean patients off their medications slowly, to avoid adverse effects. If needed, there are many naturopathic therapies that I can use to treat anxiety and depression, and to promote an optimal mood. Below are a few examples.
Consume more fish, walnuts, flax seeds and other foods high in omega 3.
Consume 6-8 servings of fruits and vegetables per day, ensures you are getting essential vitamins and minerals
Cut out refined carbs/sugars, caffeine and alcohol
In several clinical trials, St. John’s Wort is shown to be as effective as SSRI’s
Lemon balm improves both anxiety and depression. It has calming effects.
Rhodiola Rosea is one of my favourite herbs because it improves resistance to emotional stress
Ginkgo Biloba: increases oxygen and blood flow to the brain
Vitamins and Supplements:
B Complex and high dose B12: these are essential for neurotransmitter function
Omega 3 fatty acids: 3g/day is shown to be effective in treating depression
SAMe (S-adenosyl-L-methionine): increases availability of serotonin and dopamine
5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan): precursor to serotonin
Studies show that acupuncture can be effective for both anxiety and depression. It has a very calming effect.
Sleeping 7-9 hours per night, every night, no more, no less.
Exercise: try to 30 minutes, 5 days per week to boost endorphins
Meditation, Mindfulness, Deep Breathing and Yoga all help you to bring a sense of inner peace into your life
NEVER SELF PRESCRIBE SUPPLEMENTS; THEY CAN INTERACT WITH EACH OTHER AND WITH MEDICATIONS.
ALWAYS CONSULT YOUR HEALTH CARE PROVIDER.
NEVER STOP TAKING YOUR MEDICATION WITHOUT CONSULTING A HEALTH CARE PROVIDER, THIS CAN BE VERY DANGEROUS.
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