Sunday, December 10, 2006

A Good Mood Guide

If you told me four years ago that I would be writing a book on alternative therapies for mood disorders, I would have found the idea highly amusing. As the senior vice president of medical affairs for an Internet marketing agency, I was not only writing copy for antidepressant web sites, but I was taking two antidepressants everyday. The pharmaceutical industry was my means of support as well as my savior from insanity. Deadline pressures, business travel, and the stress of managing a busy team of writers, editors, and proofreaders made it seem impossible to me that I would ever be able to stop taking those pills.

As is increasingly the case these days, one of the two pills I was taking had come under investigation by the FDA. My psychiatrist told me that the drug caused an increased risk of liver failure and that I would have to have blood tests done every month, to ensure that my liver enzymes were not elevated. The artificial defense that I had constructed for myself was starting to crumble, and I would need to make life-changing decisions as a result. Now, I look back at that discovery as a catalyst for all the positive, renewing changes I’ve made in my life, but at the time, I was terrified.

What do you do, when you have to stop taking the antidepressant medications that you’ve come to rely on? Many people turn to alternative medicine as a solution for their specific problems. In study after study, these therapies are proving to be as effective as medications, without the side effects. Doctors may even recommend that their patients with mood disorders consider alternative therapies during pregnancy or lactation, an important matter for the many bipolar women who choose not to have children at all, rather than risk going off their medications. For women who are having mood issues during menopause, now that estrogen replacement therapy is no longer recommended, alternative therapies are also an attractive option.

I'm going to offer suggestions in this space for lifestyle changes that can help to ensure a stable good mood throughout your lifetime. I will discuss the most effective therapies based on their proven effectiveness in clinical trials including:

  • Talk therapy--cognitive-behavioral
  • Biological therapies--e.g., omega-3 fatty acids, SAM-e and 5HTP
  • Lifestyle changes--good sleep hygiene, nutrition, and social networks
  • Mind-body therapies--exercise, yoga, and meditation
The best way to begin being accountable for your mood is to make one small change at a time and to record your moods on a calendar or in a journal over the course of a month. If you're still menstruating, know first how that affects your moods. I've drawn simple up or down arrows on the calendar in my kitchen. Predictably, my mood is worse a week before I get my period. That's a law of physics. Nothing I do has changed that. But the rest of the month is malleable and amenable to some of the above therapies.

I haven't found one simple thing that's improved my mood. I look at the supplements, social support, exercise and many other changes that I've made in my life as a finely woven net that holds me up. Each strand adds strength to the structure, but if one breaks, I'll still be OK. Each of us has to construct her own net. I'll share what I know from my personal experience and the research that I've been doing on this subject over the past ten years.


Anonymous said...

just catchin up with some of your writings....good to see ya working on those sub-chapters (your future works...)

it is nice...after reading a bit, i think...what is my co-pay ?

wishing you and yours a wonderous 2007 and birthday to C-girl !!!

hope to see ya soon - after a blizzard !!!!

peas to too


Kim Barke said...

Judy--What are you doing reading my dumb blog on New Year's? You should have been here with me, eating some vegetable curry. Miss you. Let's see each other soon.