Exercise vs. Drugs for Depression

Exercise As An Anti-Depressant During Cancer TreatmentsBy: Dr. Michael Greger, Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture at the Humane Society of the United States.

We’ve known for decades that even a single bout of exercise can elevate our mood, but enough to be used as a treatment for major depression? Well we know physical activity has been associated with decreased symptoms of depression, for example if you look at a cross-section of 8,000 people across the country, those that exercised regularly were less likely to have a major depression diagnosis.

That’s just a snapshot in time, though. If you look at that study, the researcher openly admits this may be a case of reverse causation. Maybe exercise didn’t cut down on depression, maybe depression cut down on exercise. The reason depression may be associated with low physical activity is that they feel too lousy to get out of bed. What we need is an interventional study, where you take people who are already depressed and randomize them into an exercise intervention and see if they get better. And that’s what we got.

Men and women over 50 with major depression were randomized to either do an aerobic exercise program for four months or take an antidepressant drug called Zoloft. This is where they started out before, with Hamilton Depression scores up around 18—anything over seven is considered depressed, but within four months the drug group came down to normal, which are exactly what the drugs are supposed to do. What about the exercise only group, no drugs? Same powerful effect.

They conclude that an exercise training program may be considered an alternative to antidepressants for treatment of depression in older persons, given that they’ve shown that a group program of aerobic exercise is a feasible and effective treatment for depression, at least for older people.

Not so fast, though. A group program? They had the exercise group folks come in three times a week for a group class. Maybe the only reason the exercise group got better is because they were forced to get out of bed, interact with people—maybe it was the social stimulation and had nothing to do with the actual exercise. Before you could definitively say that exercise can work just as good as drugs, what you’d like to see is the same study but with like an additional group, the same two plus a home exercise group, where they were just told to exercise on their own at home, no extra social interaction. But nothing like that had ever been done, until it was. The largest exercise trial of patients with major depression conducted to date, and not just including older folks but other adults as well and three different treatment groups this time, a home exercise group in addition to the supervised group exercise and drug group as before. And they all worked about just as well in terms of forcing the depression into remission.

So we can say with confidence that exercise is comparable to antidepressant medication in the treatment of patients with major depressive disorder.

Putting all the best studies together, they indicate that exercise, at least, has a moderate antidepressant effect, and at best, exercise has a large effect on reductions in depression symptoms and could be categorized as a very useful and powerful intervention. Unfortunately, while studies support the use of exercise as a treatment for depression, exercise is rarely prescribed as a treatment for this common and debilitating problem.

Doctor’s Note

Exercise may compare favorably to antidepressant medications as a first-line treatment for mild to moderate depression, but how much is that really saying? How effective are antidepressant drugs in the first place? Stay tuned for my next video: Do Antidepressant Drugs Really Work?

For dietary interventions that may improve mood, see:

Exercise can also help with ADHD (Treating ADHD Without Stimulants) and improve immunity (Preserving Immune Function in Athletes With Nutritional Yeast) not to mention extend our lives (Longer Life Within Walking Distance). But what we eat matters  Paleo Diets May Negate Benefits of Exercise.

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Michael Greger M.D.About Michael Greger M.D.
Michael Greger, M.D., is a physician, author, and internationally recognized professional speaker on a number of important public health issues. Dr. Greger has lectured at the Conference on World Affairs, the National Institutes of Health, and the International Bird Flu Summit, testified before Congress, appeared on The Dr. Oz Show and The Colbert Report, and was invited as an expert witness in defense of Oprah Winfrey at the infamous “meat defamation” trial. Currently Dr. Greger proudly serves as the Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture at the Humane Society of the United States.

Surviving Cancer & Depression: 4 Steps to Success (Part 2)

Surviving Cancer and Depression; 4 Steps To SuccessBy: Kathleen O’Keefe-Kanavos, International Bestselling Author, Breast Cancer Blogger & Cancer Hotline Counselor.

In part one of this article Depression is Deadlier than CANCER?: 7 Ways to Survive Treatment, we explored depression and cancer.

The recent suicide of actor Robin Williams has brought life and death associated with depression into our hearts and homes. It has deeply touched our lives and left us with many unanswered questions.  For those of us not suffering from depression, it was a surprise. For those of us touched by depression it was a wake-up call. For the whole world, it was a cry for help and a call to action.

Here are more facts and figures that may surprise and alarm you.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), mental illness is very common. One in five Americans aged 16-85 experience some form of mental illness in any year. Suicide is among the top 20 leading causes of death globally for all ages. According to (WHO), every year over 800,000 people die from suicide. That is an alarming statistic.

The most common mental illnesses are depressive, anxiety and substance use disorder. These three types of mental illnesses often occur in combination. For example, a person with an anxiety disorder could also develop depression, or a person with depression might misuse alcohol or other drugs, in an effort to self-medicate. A third combination would be incompatible pharmaceuticals that exacerbate mental illness during treatment for a physical illness.

One in two people or half the population in the world will suffer from some form of mental illness in their lifetime. One in three people will come down with some form of cancer in their lifetime. More people will have mental illness than cancer.

Cancer, like depression and many other diseases that were once considered terminal, is no longer a death sentence. It may take time and a team of experts to formulate a treatment that works for all diseases that plague our minds and bodies, but that help is available.  Knowing your options is paramount to being successful in health. The internet is a great way to connect with other patients, groups and organizations and to research information and success stories.

Success is possible.

Long-term follow-up procedures during and after any health related treatments are extremely important for keeping all diseases under control or cured.

Here are 4 steps to ensure personal success over depression during health treatments.

  1. Be an active part of your treatment team.
  2. Show up.
  3. Follow through.
  4. Focus on success.

It was not that long ago that many diseases now controllable such as tuberculosis, pneumonia, diabetes, blood pressure and heart disease were considered incurable. Now, stories of treatment success far outnumber the stories of failure. Many patients live with or beyond disease.  Decide to become one of the success stories.

Since the suicide of Robin Williams, the illness of depression has been in the news and on the minds of many cancer patients. Unfortunately, cancer and depression go together like peanut and butter. The pharmaceutical cocktail of anti-depression medication and chemotherapy can become a hair-raising roller coaster ride, if you have any hair left after chemo.

As an R.A. Bloch Cancer Foundation Hotline Counselor, I mentor woman newly diagnosed with cancer who seek help through the HOTLINE’s center by calling 1-800-433-0464 and I’m pleased to say that I’ve seen a rise in the number of women talking about their depression.

Yes, you read that last line correctly

Keeping depression a secret is deadly.

Talking about depression brings a dark controlling force into the light where it can be seen and conquered. Trying to overcome depression that is kept a secret is like trying to fight an enemy that is an expert at hiding. It is shooting in the dark.

Being ashamed of depression is like being ashamed of having the flue. It’s not your fault that you have it. You did not deliberately go out and try to acquire any of these diseases.

Like life, sh#t happens. Find it. Fix it!

We are also learning that certain people are genetically predisposed to certain diseases. We are often not aware of that fact until certain tests are preformed when symptoms are displayed. Once test information is shared with us our lifestyle can be adjusted accordingly and our health monitored.

Life goes on. Statistics have proved that unhealthy diets and lifestyles can exacerbate an existing illness like cancer and depression. My book, Surviving Cancerland: Intuitive Aspects of Healing addresses this in chapter 35, The Finish Line and Depression.

There is also evidence that living a healthy lifestyle that includes a nutritious diet, plenty of exercise and good sleep and work habits and can decrease the chances of acquiring certain diseases like cancer and depression, keep them under control if they do occur, or from returning once they are cured. Ways to change diet and lifestyle are discussed in my book, Surviving Cancerland: Intuitive Aspects of Healing.

We’ve come a long way, Baby. Health care is not perfect, but it is improving and we have the statistics to prove it. Focus on that during times of trouble.

Kathleen O'Keefe-Kanavos Breast Cancer Authority ContributorBIO: Kathleen O’Keefe-Kanavos believes dreams diagnose your life. Did you have a déjà- vu or did your dream come true? Kat survived three cancers diagnosed by her dreams. International bestselling author, inspirational speaker, radio-host, columnist, blogger, Cancer Hotline Counselor; she has been featured on radio and TV, in magazines and newspapers, SURVIVING CANCERLAND: Intuitive Aspects of Healing is the first in her three book series on waking up to healing dreams. Kat taught Special Education and Psychology at (USF) University of South Florida.www.AccessYourInnerGuide.com  www.SurvivingCancerLand.com

Depression is Deadlier than CANCER?: 7 Ways to Survive Treatment (Part 1)

Kathleen O’Keefe-Kanavos Interview

Kathleen O’Keefe-Kanavos – R.A. Bloch Cancer Foundation Hotline Counselor

By Kathleen O’Keefe-Kanavos, Cancer Hotline Counselor and Author of SURVIVING CANCERLAND: Intuitive Aspects of Healing .

Today, a statement made by a woman I mentor shocked me into silence. It also made me realize how devastating and emotionally defeating depression is as a mental illness.  No wonder Robin Williams chose to take his life rather than continue in a state of illness he felt was incurable.  His lonely death left us with many unanswered questions.

However, according to The World Health Organization (WHO) statistics, Robin Williams was not alone because mental illness is very common. One in five Americans aged 16-85 experience some form of mental illness in any year. According to WHO, lifetime prevalence rates for any kind of psychological disorder are higher than previously thought. This may be because people suffering from psychological disorders tend to keep them a secret either out of shame, fear, or their inability to communicate their symptoms to practitioners. These disorders are increasing in recent cohorts and affect nearly half the population.  Suicide is among the top 20 leading causes of death globally for all ages.

Every year, over 800.000 people die from suicide. This is an alarming statistic.  

One in two people or half the population in the world will suffer from some form of mental illness in their lifetime. One in three people will come down with some form of cancer in their lifetime. More people will have mental illness than cancer.

The most common mental illnesses are depressive, anxiety and substance use disorder. These three types of mental illnesses often occur in combination. For example, a person with an anxiety disorder could also develop depression, or a person with depression might misuse alcohol or other drugs, in an effort to self-medicate.  A third combination would be incompatible pharmaceuticals that exacerbate  mental illness during treatment for a physical illness. This was brought to my attention by the following story.  As an R.A. Bloch Cancer Foundation Hotline Counselor, I mentor woman newly diagnosed with cancer who seek help through the HOTLINE’s center by calling 1-800-433-0464. The conversation I had today saddened me beyond words.

A woman recently diagnosed with stage 4 triple-negative breast cancer, a formidable form of  cancer, shared her sad story:

 “I was just released from a week long stay in the hospital after trying to commit suicide. I could not help myself. I have been dealing with severe depression most of my adult life and the Adriamycin/Cytoxan chemotherapy I began taking two months ago made it worse. My husband found me unconscious in the morning after I had swallowed seventy-five pills during the night when I got up to use the bathroom. I don’t remember doing that. I always remembered trying to kill myself before. This time I had no memory of it. ”

This was chemo-brain in action. Chemo-brain is a result of the chemotherapy on brain synapses and memory. It is described in my book, Surviving Cancerland: Intuitive Aspects of Healing in chapter 31,Sex, Drugs & Rock & Roll.

I asked her if she had attempted suicide because she felt she could not recover from the triple negative stage-four breast cancer.   “Oh, no. I know cancer is curable. Depression is not.  And I don’t want to live depressed anymore.”

That statement made me realize just how depressing depression truly is. When a patient facing advanced aggressive cancer is not afraid to die with cancer but afraid to live with depression, something needs to be done about how our society tackles BOTH illnesses because cancer treatment often triggers deep depression in patients who do not have a history of mental illness. Imagine what it does to those who are already battling it when the chemotherapy cocktail of pharmaceuticals mix with anti-depression medications. The result is an emotional roller-coaster-ride beyond comprehension.

This CancerLand ride is the focus of chapter 33 in my book.

If you are already prone to depression, or perhaps you are taking anti-depression medication or ever took medication for depression and are facing cancer treatment, here are 7 things you can do to survive depression while getting well.

1.Tell your oncologist about your previous experiences with depression, even if they are no longer an issue in your life.

2. Ask your oncology medical team for the name of a psychiatrist at your treatment center so that everyone can be informed about your emotional progress during treatment.

3. Journal your emotional journey during treatment to help you be aware of your progress during times of depression. This can be a light at the end of the tunnel.

4. Share your journal with your therapist or psychologist so they can monitor your emotions and watch for “red flags” or troubling behaviors before they become a dire situation. Creating an online journal will be easy to email to your therapist.

5. Most depression during treatment occurs five to seven days after chemotherapy. Do not be alone during those times. If you do not have someone to stay with, be sure to check in with your therapist often.

6. Have a family member or friend remove or hide all dangerous pharmaceuticals that you are not currently taking from your home during treatment.

7. Stay connected to your Higher-Power and belief system through dreams, prayers and meditation. This can be a guiding light in your hours of darkness.

Cancer AND depression are curable. Some medical practitioners prefer to say that cancer patients, after successfully completing treatment are in remission. They believe that with proper lifestyle adjustments that include a healthy diet and outlook on life, the cancer will remain in remission. Others prefer to say, “You’re cured!”  The same holds true for depression. The treatment regimen of finding medications that work at proper doses may not be easy, but the alternative is less so.  After surviving cancer three times, 15 and 10 years ago respectively I always say, “I’m cured.”  Join me and celebrate life.   In part 2 of this article titled Surviving Cancer & Depression: 4 Steps to Success we will discuss ways  to survive cancer and depression.

Kathleen O'Keefe-Kanavos Breast Cancer Authority ContributorBIO: Kathleen O’Keefe-Kanavos believes dreams diagnose your life. Did you have a déjà-vu or did your dream come true? Kat survived three cancers diagnosed by her dreams. International bestselling author, inspirational speaker, radio-host, columnist, blogger, Cancer Hotline Counselor; she has been featured on radio and TV, in magazines and newspapers, SURVIVING CANCERLAND: Intuitive Aspects of Healing is the first in her three book series on waking up to healing dreams. Kat taught Special Education and Psychology at (USF) University of South Florida. http://www.AccessYourInnerGuide.com   http://www.SurvivingCancerLand.com

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