CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. -- When it comes to dealing with depression, experts warn that too often people turn to prescription drugs as their first option.
Their warnings come on the heels of recent data that show more than 30 million Americans, or about 1 in 10 people in this country, are currently taking antidepressants.
Dr. Jim Gordon, founder and director of the Center for Mind-Body Medicine, said while antidepressants do help some patients, they also have drawbacks.
Lots of other options should be considered first, he said, such as getting active.
"Physical exercise, aside from talking with a gifted professional listener, is the single best treatment for depression," Gordon said. "It should be used immediately and always for people who are depressed, not regarded as peripheral or incidental or unimportant."
Other ways to deal with depression include meditation, a healthy diet and having a supportive social environment, he suggested.
Another reason why antidepressants should be a last resort, Gordon explained, is because about 70 percent of people who take them experience negative side effects.
"There's a kind of irony in it because the side effects are things that are likely to make you feel depressed, such as having your digestion thrown off, putting on weight, getting headaches, sexual dysfunction and lack of emotional responsiveness. All of those come out in a very significant number of people," he said.
Additional information is available from the Center for Mind-Body Medicine at http://cmbm.org/resources/self-care/.