Is Psychiatric Treatment Synonymous With Gaining 10 Pounds (or MORE)?
Burgers or Bust! (Jughead #185, 1970)
In our cartoon, ‘Jughead’ Jones – famously created by publisher John L. Goldwater, written by Vic Bloom and drawn by Bob Montana – is astonished as he finds himself bloated and gaining weight. The ‘Archie’ characters were based in part on people Goldwater met “in the Midwest” during his travels throughout the United States while looking for jobs and places to stay. He might find the same people today, but struggling even harder with a weight gain issue.
Survey results published by the CDC/NCHS, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, shine a light on some very grave concerns for Americans. NHANES is a continuous survey conducted to assess the health and nutrition of the American people. The survey is designed to be nationally representative of the U.S. civilian non-institutionalized population.
Survey Results – Obesity Threatens America
‘Obesity’ – a clinical term, not a judgment – is calculated as; Body Mass Index (BMI), as weight in kilograms, divided by height in meters, squared. Obesity in adults is defined as BMI greater than or equal to 30. The combination of Depression and Obesity are threatening the very core of our health. They go hand-in-hand. According to the survey:
- Forty-three percent of adults with depression were obese, as compared with 33% of adults without depression.
- Women with depression were more likely to be obese than women without depression. The relationship was consistent across all age groups among women and was also seen in men aged 60 and over.
- As the severity of depression increases, the percentage of all adults and of women with obesity increased as well.
And that’s not all. When antidepressants are thrown into the mix, the situation seems to be exacerbated:
- Moderate to severe depressive symptoms were associated with a higher rate of obesity both in persons who were taking antidepressant medication and those who were not.
- Antidepressant use was associated with a higher rate of obesity in persons with moderate to severe depressive symptoms and those with mild or no depressive symptoms.
“This (weight gain) is clearly a problem for the majority of drugs used to treat depression, and while it doesn’t occur with every drug or for every person, when it does happen, it can be a significant problem that we shouldn’t just ignore,” says Jack E. Fincham, PhD, RPh, professor of pharmacy practice at the School of Pharmacy at the University of Missouri at Kansas City, and author of The Everyday Guide to Managing Your Medicines.
Seeking Help for Depression
The fact is that depression is a growing condition, as more people become aware of it and more people actually seek help.
The acknowledgement and search for assistance is the first step in dealing with the problem. After a consultation with a doctor or physician, the first port of call for many sufferers is to start taking antidepressants. This is the standard response from the medical profession and has a positive impact on depression for many of those that have been diagnosed with it.
Side Effects of Prescription Antidepressants
As with any drug or treatment, the intended effect of the antidepressant drug isn’t always the only effect. Those who regularly use antidepressants can find themselves gaining more than a respite from the symptoms of depression. Use of antidepressants has been consistently linked to weight gain.
It is reported that up to a quarter of those taking the more common antidepressants can see a weight gain of ten pounds or more. This is a significant amount of weight for anyone to gain through the use of a drug.
Betty and Veronica Spectacular Giant #145, 1967
Why is this happening?
Researchers have studied the phenomenon of weight gain for those who take antidepressants to see if a link can be established. Patients report that they do not feel as though they are eating more, but they still gain weight. Yet others report a craving for the carbohydrates that inevitably turn into fast weight gain.
Although no conclusive answers are reported, the general consensus is that antidepressants affect the metabolism and appetite of those who take the drugs to treat depression. The fact is that once a depression sufferer starts to turn the corner with the aid of medication, they enjoy many of the things in life they once ignored. Consuming food is one of these little pleasures that can easily escalate when antidepressants start to take effect.
Concerns From Potential Users
Some patients have been diagnosed with depression and prescribed antidepressants as the only or main way to combat their illness. But we don’t want to be in a situation where people are put off from approaching a medical professional, or put off from taking their medication over fear of gaining weight.
Some believe in herbal remedies for weight loss, but even holistic practitioners advise you to speak to your physician and discuss anything that you take alongside your antidepressants. The use of another supplement to control the weight gain may have an impact on the effectiveness of the antidepressants you take, so it may not be wise to start taking more supplements to counter the side effects of the first drug.
Patients and medical practitioners are discovering non-pharmacological treatments for depression that are proving more effective than prescription antidepressants.
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation
Transcranial magnetic stimulation is a relatively new and sophisticated device‐based therapy for treatment resistant depression. TMS involves the skillful application of a strong magnetic field close to the surface of the scalp. The TMS device delivers strong and very brief magnetic pulses that stimulate the brain and its network of neurons. TMS is a relatively painless and non‐invasive technique that stimulates parts of the brain involved in mood, to increase activity and lift depression.
TMS patients are delighted to report that they do not experience the negative side effects associated with antidepressant medications, including weight gain.