Posted on: September 23, 2016 at 10:43 am
Last updated: September 27, 2017 at 1:43 pm

This amazing guest post was written by Dr. Andreia Horta, ND and Dr. Emily Lipinski, ND, founders of Infusion Health! You can check out their website here!

Did you know? The use of psychotropic drugs (including antidepressant medications) by adult Americans increased 22% from 2001 to 2010! One in five adults is now taking at least one psychotropic medication!

In 2010, Americans spent more than $16 billion on antipsychotics, $11 billion on antidepressants and $7 billion for drugs to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Psychotropic drugs can have tremendous value for some who respond to this medication when prescribed appropriately, and used in conjunction with other therapies.  In essence, antidepressants should be a crutch, but not necessarily a lifetime solution.

According to some recent studies, filling a prescription to treat a mental health disorder may not be the safest or effective option for patients. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) patients are often receiving psychotropic medications without being properly evaluated by a mental health professional.

Many people are not aware of some of the other very effective treatments for depression, such as psychotherapy. According to Dr. Steven Hollon, PHD, who has conducted extensive research on the effectiveness of antidepressants:

“At least half the folks who are being treated with antidepressants aren’t benefiting from the active pharmacological effects of the drugs themselves but from a placebo effect. If people knew more, I think they would be a little less likely to go down the medication path than the psychosocial treatment path.”

Are Antidepressants Really That Effective?


A growing body of research suggests that antidepressants aren’t as effective as many people believe. Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors (SSRI’s) remain as one of the most commonly prescribed antidepressant medication in the United States and Canada.

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An analysis of all FDA clinical trials for four SSRI antidepressants found that the drugs didn’t perform considerably better than placebos in addressing mild or moderate depression, and the benefits of the drugs were “relatively small even for severely depressed patients.”

The study was led by Irving Kirsch, PhD, a clinical psychologist, and researcher who is now associate director of the Program in Placebo Studies at Harvard Medical School. Some opponents of this study have challenged the methodology or cited other research that supports the efficacy of antidepressants.

Additionally, antidepressant use can come with some unwanted side effects.

Common Side Effects of SSRI Antidepressants


  • Drowsiness
  • Nausea
  • Dry mouth
  • Insomnia
  • Diarrhea
  • Nervousness, agitation or restlessness
  • Dizziness
  • Sexual problems, such as reduced sexual desire or difficulty reaching orgasm or inability to maintain an erection (erectile dysfunction)

It is important to point out again that for some, antidepressant medication is very helpful and side effects are minor.

The Alternative

The good news is that psychotherapy may be just as effective as antidepressants in many cases, without the risk of side effects and with lower occurrences of depressive relapse!


Psychotherapy is the treatment of mental disorder by psychological rather than medical means.

A study of 240 patients with moderate to severe depression and found that patients who responded to psychotherapy, such as cognitive therapy, were considerably less likely to relapse into another bout of major depression than patients who responded to antidepressants and were later withdrawn from the antidepressant medication.

Psychotherapy actually provides you with tools to use long term to manage anxiety and depression, instead of just relying on medication and pills.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)


The National Health Service in England has now adopted a type of psychotherapy called cognitive behavioral therapy as a first-line treatment for mild and moderate depression because the risk-benefit ratio is “poor” for antidepressants.

In fact, in 2011, the British government invested £400 million over the next four years to increase patient access to psychotherapy to treat depression and anxiety disorders!! Amazing!  The effort by the English includes plans to train up to 6,000 therapists in cognitive behavioral therapy.

According to a review of the current literature, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) refers to a family of interventions that are among the best-known empirically-supported treatments for depression. The strongest support exists for CBT of anxiety disorders, bulimia, anger control problems, and general stress.

CBT was found to be similarly efficacious than clomipramine (a psychotropic medication) and selective reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) for the treatment of anxiety. And, compared to pharmacological approaches, CBT and medication treatments had similar effects on chronic depressive symptoms, with effect sizes in the medium-large range.

CBT is usually taught by a mental health counselor (psychotherapist or therapist) in an organized way, attending a certain number of sessions. CBT helps you become aware of negative thinking so you can view challenging situations more clearly and respond to them in a more effective way.

This is ideal as the more mindful we are of our thoughts, the better we become at controlling our responses to our thoughts- over time, this can significantly improve our mood.

CBT is a useful tool to address emotional challenges.


Some Illnesses CBT Can Help Manage

  • Manage symptoms of mental illness
  • Prevent a relapse of mental illness symptoms
  • Treat a mental illness when medications aren’t a good option
  • Learn techniques for coping with stressful life situations
  • Identify ways to manage emotions
  • Resolve relationship conflicts and learn better ways to communicate
  • Cope with grief or loss
  • Overcome emotional trauma related to abuse or violence
  • Cope with a medical illness
  • Manage chronic physical symptoms

Mental Health Disorders That May Improve with CBT

Again, in some cases, CBT is best when used with other medications.

If you are looking for other ways to effectively address your anxiety and depression, look for an expert in CBT in your area, or ask your health care professional to refer you to one.

If you are suffering from anxiety download our ebook here on how to stop anxiety in 5 minutes.

Diet is also an important factor when addressing mood. Find our free downloadable guide for foods to boost your mood here.


  1. American Psychological Association
  2. The Mayo Clinic, 2016
  3. PLOS Medicine, 2008
  4. Archives of General Psychiatry, 2005
  5. Driessen E, Hollon SD. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Mood Disorders: Efficacy, Moderators, and Mediators. The Psychiatric clinics of North America. 2010;33(3):537-555. doi:10.1016/j.psc.2010.04.005.
  6. Hofmann SG, Asnaani A, Vonk IJJ, Sawyer AT, Fang A. The Efficacy of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: A Review of Meta-analyses. Cognitive therapy and research. 2012;36(5):427-440. doi:10.1007/s10608-012-9476-1.

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