Q. Ever since I retired a few years ago, I have been suffering from low-level depression. I work hard to keep it hidden from friends and family, but it’s getting worse.

There are so many things I want to do but every morning I have to force myself to get out of bed and then force myself not to lie back down.

Some friends who take antidepressants say they help. I tried Wellbutrin for a while but I don’t think it made a lot of difference. My physician said I would know if it was helping. Would you suggest something I might ask my physician to try?

A. Depression is a serious condition; it can also increase your risk of suffering heart disease, weight gain or dementia. Rather than trying to hide it, please ask your doctor for an effective strategy to combat depression.
Many people tell us that some generic forms of bupropion (Wellbutrin) are ineffective. A different generic formulation might help. No single antidepressant works for everyone.

If Wellbutrin did not help, you may have to try others to discover one that improves your mood. We are sending you our Guide to Dealing with Depression, in which we discuss the pros and cons of a variety of antidepressant medications and a number of non-drug approaches that can be helpful.Exercise, fish oil, talk therapy and exposure to bright light may also be helpful strategies.

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  1. Angela

    I have been struggling with depression for almost a year. I have no logical reason to be so down, yes I work part time as a hairstylist, wish I was busier and worked in a better place but I really feel it is hormone perimenopausal related. I am going to the doctor next week, I am going to ask them to check my fsh levels and also check my thyroid. I have tried various herbal remedies, including Maca for menopause, which helped maybe 15 to 20 percent at times, took for about 4 months off and on..they say to go off for a week after 30 days then go back on but not much and many others, nothing seems to work, I have spent money. no ins…
    I went to a clinic and the doctor put me on Celexa. After 3 weeks I weaned myself off because it wasn’t doing anything but making me constipated and tired. Tired enough… Maybe I should have given it more time, what I do not like is doctors use everyone as a guinea pig and try different things and they really do not know if there are any underlying causes. I have tried to look deep inside to see if anything is making me feel this way..
    I am a Christian, I try to be and stay positive, it is a horrible feeling to be depressed and my heart goes out to anyone who is battling with this… does anyone have any suggestions? I feel maybe if the fsh levels are high then it would be better to take a low dose of hormone(HRT) than an antidepressant.

  2. PM

    I have suffered from clinical depression my entire adult life. Suicide was always an option for me. One of my children is disabled and he, as well as my other dear children, are the only reason I did not commit suicide earlier.
    Last fall my doctor took a blood test and found I was very low in Vitamin D. I began taking 1,000 IU in over-the-counter vitamin D and within 3 weeks I began to feel more energetic. Within 2 months I felt positively cheerful. My psychiatrist agreed we would taper me off from lithium, the most potent drug I was taking.
    I was amazed at how “drugged” I had felt while taking the lithium — I no longer needed naps, no longer slept 9 or more hours a day. Since I began the Vitamin D, I have been through the usual lifes’ ups and downs and have not sunk into a depression.
    Now my psychiatrist and I are working on tapering me off the second drug I take — Lexapro. I have noticed a return of anxiety, but I do yoga and meditate regularly and feel I have the skills I need to handle anxiety. I am willing to breathe deeply, relax and deal with anxiety in a natural way rather than walk around like a zombie.
    I have no thoughts of suicide and feel I can life my life peacefully and gratefully one day at a time.
    I highly recommend the Vitamin D– everyone got a bottle in their stocking at Christmas! — and also Mindfulnesses training to learn to see the beauty that exists in every moment. Learning to “wake up” and really taste the steaming hot coffee, really see the the beauty of the natural world. Yoga is also very helpful. I wish you the best and hope you are able to feel better soon.

  3. Ricky

    I’ve been disabled for over 10 years because of chronic back pain and severe depression. After trying me on several different depression medications my doctor found that a combination of Celexa 60mg. and Remeron 45 mg. has kept my depression pretty well under control for the last few years. Good luck, I hope you’re feeling better.

  4. SH

    I would say do NOT take St. John’s Wort. It’s not good for your liver, and it interacts with many medications. It’s not a bad idea to get a physical to make sure you’re not thyroid deficient or anemic or something.
    What really does help:
    1. Exercise–make yourself walk every day. You won’t feel like doing it, but do it anyway. It pays off.
    2. Sunshine–make sure you get 20 minutes a day
    3. Flax Seed Oil helps a great deal
    4. Do some kind of activity that makes you be with people.
    5. Monitor your thought patterns and “change the channel” if you find yourself feeling negative or sorry for yourself*. Honest.
    6. Do some kind of “productive” chore once a day–clean a closet or something. You will be amazed.
    *There is a book called “Feeling Good” that helps you identify self defeating/depressive thought patterns.
    It will start to help right away, and you will experience gradual improvement if you keep it up. It’s WAY better than antidepressants and their scary side effects.

  5. patricia

    It may be genetically caused, and certainly has a lot to do with retiring from work (activity, people, etc.). Wellbutrin is the only antidepressant that does NOT work primarily through Serotonin – the most likely (low levels of) reason for the depression, also age, lack of exercise, diet, lack of companionship, lack of sunshine, lack of vitamins B & D, and yes, omegas help, but if the above mentioned reasons for depression are accurate in your case, omegas (alone) will not affect depression.
    You may also try SAMe for depression – an OTC that may help without the use of antidepressants, however, as (women) age, loss of hormones, and depletion of other vital nutrients, etc., cause depression. DEFINITELY get your thyroid checked for hypo(low) thyroid by an ENDOCRINOLOGIST who specializes in this. Many primary doctors do not have a reliable understanding of thyroid disorders and can inadvertently prescribe the wrong amount (thyroid imbalance is VERY common in post menopausal women) and cause for depression, and many other serious maladies to ones overall health.
    I take Wellbutrin (for focus and energy) however, the generic seems not to be working very well. I also take Armour thyroid – vs Synthroid – as Armour is ‘real’ thyroid vs chemical, and is the only thyroid medicine containing T-3. Get a good book from Borders Books on thyroid problems – there are many. Then ask your primary to give you a referral to an endocrinologist who will do specific blood tests to see if you are hypothyroid.
    I also take Pristiq with the Wellbutrin, for Norprehephrine along with serotonin, which are the two chemicals that may be lacking due to genetics and/or age. I also take Omegas, fish oil predominantly for the Omega 3 which is ‘most’ important – Omega 6 being somewhat controversial. Again, try SAMe before (not during) antidepressants, with Omegas, a good diet, daily exercise (minimum of 30 minutes ‘brisk’ walking, and if you love animals and can have one – definitely get a dog or cat – they make all the difference in the world. Good luck.

  6. Pearl

    Stop drinking milk, stop all dairy products. I did this and perked up within a week. Not only that, the arthritis in my fingers went away after 3 weeks. Does anyone have similar experience with dairy?

  7. dp

    My Mom who, lived with us for several years until her passing, became depressed after a stroke left her on a walker. St John’s wart worked for her. She became irritable and depressed if she ran out of it and forgot to tell me. So, for her, it made a noticeable difference.

  8. Ruby C

    Have your Vitamin D levels tested. Taking Vitamin D along with my antidepressants helped to kick some left over depression. Make sure you get a chance to try name brand antidepressants if the generics are not working. In my case I was switched by insurance (without my consent) to generics (which are supposedly as good as the name brand) and they never worked. I cant imagine never having the chance to try the name brands. Also make sure you have a doctor who listens to what you have to say.

  9. CW

    Whatever you do, EXERCISE. There is no better cure. I too suffer from depression, and I refuse to take medication for the simple fact that it only leads to more problems. I am not knocking people for taking it, I just don’t want the side effects that come along with the medicine.

  10. DK

    I too had depression when I retired and took several antidepressants for my illness. They did help and I may have to go back to them in the future if my fish oil pills do not help me.
    One day I went to Wild Oats, a health foods grocery store, and asked the person in charge of the health foods pharmacy if she had anything for my depression. She said Eskimo 3 may help. Eskimo 3 is a brand of fish oil and came in 200mg softgels. I started taking 1200mg daily and received immediate relief.
    They were so expensive, but who cares, and I felt so good. I found that the Costco brand which is USP verified was so much cheaper work just as well and I found that Fish Oil is also good for the heart. I was so disappointed that the many doctors I had seen had not suggested I take fish oil for help.
    I am finding that my Kaiser health plan does test for deficiency of certain vitamins when I am ill now.
    I found having someone to talk too very important. I did not try a support group but would not rule it out.
    Time is a good healer, things will get better, believe me, things will get better.
    Good Luck

  11. SL

    Please have your doctor check your thyroid panel. My depression was severe and on switching to a new doctor I was told that the depression was likely due to an inactive thyroid. Synthroid (no generics) has taken care of the problem. Maybe this will work for others as well.

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