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Re: what happens with long term antidepressant use?

Posted by yardena on August 23, 1999, at 21:42:23

In reply to Re: what happens with long term antidepressant use?, posted by Carmen on August 23, 1999, at 12:06:03

I am not up to speed on how being on long term antidepressants can affect your health. But I have read about the long term effects of stress, and increased cortisol in your system. There is a great book called "Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers". I forget the authors name, but I can post it tomorrow (the book is in a box in the trunk of my car). This guy is a physiologist and he is very amusing. He explains how we have the same stress response as Zebras, but the stress response is suited to the kind of stress the Zebra has to contend with and not to the kind of stress we usually contend with. The Zebra needs to respond to acute life threatening stress, whereas we tend to have long term social stress. So, our bodies secrete cortisol and other hormones that would help us run like hell from a hungry lion, but only damage our bodies because we are not running like hell from hungry lions. I also saw this same physiologist on a PBS documentary series on the brain, and they showed him doing research on baboons (I think it was baboons, but I am not literate in primate species)in Africa. Apparently this one species has great living conditions--abundant food and water, no predators, etc. So what do they do? They do what we do--they create their own form of stress, ie, social stress. This is in the form of hierarchies. And it turns out that the lower status animals are depressed, look and act depressed, and when they measured their cortisol levels they were very high. They also had actual damage from the cortisol--they stopped growing, loss bone and muscle, etc. Apparently, high levels of cortisol is also well documented in depressed people.

The way I understand it is, the cortisol helps to supress growth and maintenance of the body tissues, because in an acute stress situation, the Zebra needs to activate energy for immediate use and not store it for later. But, luckily for the Zebra, the stress is acute and subsides, so it can return to building and maintaining itself. But for us chronically stressed and depressed folks, the chronic secretion of cortisol just wears away at our bodies and immune systems, etc.

So, I guess even though I, too worry about the effects of long term antidepressant use, I also know that my long term depression is probably just as, if not more, damaging. Aside from the fact that when untreated, my depression can be so crushing that life seems unbearable at all. Do I really have a choice?????




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