Obviously this is not the kind of book that will appeal to all readers. It has a specialized audience, but if the statistics that are being bandied about by health organizations are anything to go by, the audience for this book is growing every day.
The World Health Organization estimated in 2002 that approximately 154 million people worldwide suffer from depression. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 14.8 million adults Americans suffer from major depressive disorder. This is a staggering number, and most continue to suffer to some degree despite the so called super “happy” drugs that keep appearing on the market. So, despite the best treatment and the best drugs ever available to deal with the Black Dog, people are still living their lives in shadows. This book addresses the big picture as to why people are still suffering and what can be done about it.
There are plenty of books out there offering hope for sufferers of depression. There is yoga for depression, eating right to deal with depression, exercise for depression, and natural herbs for depression, all offering alternative treatments. This book goes one step farther to look at many factors, since Dr. Schachter has come to understand after years treating depressing patients that depression is a complex disease and a holistic approach is required to treat suffering. There is no magic bullet, but there is hope. This book is one of the more definitive books on the subject available.
Schachter is the medical director of the Schachter Center for Complementary Medicine. He practices an approach called orthomolecular psychiatry – which he describes as:
“The practice of treating psychological problems by providing the body with optimal amounts of substances that are natural to it – including amino acids, vitamins and minerals, trace elements, and essential fatty acids – combined with positive lifestyle habits and mind-body therapies.”
Schachter uses real examples from patients he has personally treated to educate the reader about orthomolecular psychiatry and how the approaches he takes can work to treat depression. He explains that relief can be obtained without the use of medication or even alongside the use of traditional medication.
Schachter begins with what is wrong with the mainstream approach to treating to depression. He explains that, too often now, it is the practice of our society to look for quick fixes, with pharmaceutical companies telling us that the new anti-depressants are so good they can cure depression. Doctors are too easily led to prescribing these medications without looking at any other elements or treatments.
Schachter looks in-depth at depression and what actually occurs in the brain to cause depression to explain why the quick-fix drugs do not always work. The word serotonin has been on the lips of many of us for years. Ask anyone suffering from depression what causes it, and they will likely say lack of or low production of serotonin. Hence, the standard treatment for depression are SSRI drugs or Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors – they act by inhibiting the re-uptake of serotonin by the neuron that secretes it, resulting in an increase of the neurotransmitter in the synapse. In layman’s terms, the drug stops the serotonin being taken back, leaving more serotonin available in the brain. The more serotonin your brain can access, the better you will feel.
Little did we know that this is not the entire story. Low serotonin levels do indeed contribute to depression, but there are other factors. Schachter describes how depression is the result of a chemical imbalance in the brain, an imbalance that includes dozens of substances and not just serotonin. These include dopamine, glutamine, epinephrine and others, all described in easy-to-understand detail. He goes on to suggest that there are other causes of depression not related at all to serotonin, such as hormone imbalances, exposure to toxins and other causes.
With this information laid out, it is easy to see why medication alone will not help everyone. It is at this point in the book where many sufferers of depression will start to feel very hopeful indeed that there is something they can do to address the imbalances in their brain; they can note that they are not crazy that despite being on the “best” drug available they are still not obtaining relief.
Schachter is not totally anti-modern medication. He thinks it may have a place in certain circumstances, but he does stress that the levels of all the chemicals in the brain should be checked before a SSRI is given to a patient showing signs of depression. He advocates investigation into an individual person’s symptoms which, let’s face it, is basic common sense.
The book continues to discuss how these chemical imbalances and other causes of depression can be addressed through supplements of amino acids, vitamins, minerals etc as well as diet and lifestyle changes.
This book is sensible. It does not offer a quick fix, nor does it advocate anything potentially unhealthy or faddish in nature. Schachter explains everything from how the brain works to how certain toxins and foods can affect our bodies and brain, and he gives real examples as he goes.
I have no problem recommending this book to all those suffering from depression who have not been able to attain a good result through traditional medication alone. If you are looking for a real solution to your problem and are prepared to change your lifestyle, this book offers good, solid advice backed up with simple science. Schachter also recommends finding a good doctor who will support you, understand your feelings and needs, be willing to try alternatives and send you for tests to see what imbalances you may be suffering from. Self-treatment can be dangerous, and this is pointed out throughout the book.
A word of warning for depression sufferers: If you are taking medication, do not stop taking your medication suddenly. It is imperative that you visit your doctor and discuss alternative treatments with them. If it is decided that you should come off your medication, your doctor will advise you how to do this slowly and safely. It can be very dangerous to stop taking anti depressants suddenly, and Schachter does not advise it.
Other than, you will find this to be a guide to effective treatments that could potentially help you get your life back. This book educates that with a bit of hard work, change and time, and with a better understanding of your illness, you can regain your health and go on to live a fuller life.
Schachter is a graduate of Columbia College, and received his medical degree from Columbia’s Physicians and Surgeons in 1965. He is board certified in psychiatry and has achieved advanced proficiency in chelation therapy from the American College for Advancement in Medicine (ACAM). He has been involved with alternative and complementary medicine since 1974. For more information visit