by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.
Numbers of people have asked me if I know of any drugs that are not ototoxic that can help them with their depression and anxiety. If you are one of them, I trust this article will help you.
Here’s a shocking statistic. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 35% of the entire population of the United States are taking antidepressant drugs. Millions more are taking anti-anxiety drugs. It bothers me that so many people, especially hard of hearing people, are hooked on these drugs. Because they are taking drugs, they suffer from ototoxic (and other) side effects. Much of this suffering is unnecessary since there are better ways to treat depression.
Here’s another shocking statistic. Did you know that only 19% of patients who had seen a primary care physician had received appropriate treatment for anxiety or depression? (1) In his wonderfully insightful book called “Healing Anxiety and Depression”, psychiatrist Dr. Daniel Amen explains, “These well-meaning doctors often take a simplistic approach to anxiety and depression, assuming that one treatment fits all which leads to many treatment failures.” He adds, “‘Medication only’ treatment for these disorders is bad treatment and can make some people worse.” (1) With today’s “drug” mentality, far too many people neglect the psychological and social aspects of anxiety and depression and only take drugs.
Incidentally, depression and anxiety often go hand-in-hand. Thus, you want to deal with both issues, not just depression by itself.
Usually anxiety and depression are the result of poor “brain health” combined with the stresses of life. Unfortunately, all too often people set themselves up for anxiety and depression. They don’t do this deliberately of course, but by not actively following steps for good physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health, they doom themselves to a lifetime of fighting anxiety and depression. Adding hearing loss into the mix only compounds the problems they face.
“Dr. Amen’s work shows that most cases of depression and anxiety are really symptoms of underlying brain dysfunction. For example, depression can arise if brain activity is too low in your frontal lobes. This inactivity means you cannot inhibit your negative feelings. Depression can also be a symptom of heightened or excessive activity in your frontal lobes, as this leads to an inability to stop thinking the bad thoughts in your head.
Other brain-related factors include brain injuries, toxic exposures, and/or a combination of poor lifestyle habits such as a poor diet and lack of exercise. Dr. Amen’s treatments to optimize brain function focus on the four-pronged approach of diet, exercise, nutritional supplements, and correcting negative thought patterns.” (2)
There are a number of things that you can do to help control your feelings of anxiety and depression, or better yet, prevent them from occurring in the first place. Here are three of them.
1. Practice Good Brain Health: If you are anxious or depressed, or a combination of both, you would do well to read Dr. Amen’s book (mentioned above). It will give you good insight into the five highly interconnected brain circuits that underlie most anxiety and depression problems. More importantly, it will show you how to restore these areas of your brain to health again. As you do this, you will find that your anxiety and depression begin to disappear.
Dr. Amen uses SPECT brain imaging to determine a person’s brain health. (SPECT stands for Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography.) In actuality, SPECT measures blood flow and activity patterns. In other words, it looks at how the brain works.
When using SPECT imaging, he looks for three things: first, areas of your brain that work well; second, areas of your brain that are low in activity; and third, areas of your brain that are high in activity. (1) He then works to balance the different areas of your brain for optimal brain (and body) health.
Dr. Amen has five clinics—2 on the west coast and 3 on the east coast: (Newport Beach in San Francisco, California; Bellevue, Washington; Reston, Virginia; Atlanta, Georgia; and New York City). You can learn more about the work of the Amen Clinics here. Each of these clinics performs brain SPECT imaging in the context of a full clinical evaluation. They also provide a wide variety of treatment options.
You can learn much more about brain health in his book Healing Anxiety and Depression, so that is a good starting point.
2. Practice Cognitive Therapy or “Think on These Things”: Cognitive therapy is very simply, therapy for your thoughts. Cognitive therapy has proven to be very helpful in treating anxiety and depression.
In the Bible, God, through the pen of the Apostle Paul laid down the principles of cognitive therapy 2000 years ago. In fact, as Dr. Amen states, “Philippians 4:8 is a very clear statement on the most helpful way to think and behave. What you allow to occupy your mind will sooner or later determine your feelings, your speech and your actions.” (1)
Paul wrote, “Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble [honorable], whatever things are just [right], whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely [lovable], whatever things are of good report [admirable], if there is any virtue [moral excellence], and if there is anything praiseworthy think on these things.”
If you have been filling your mind with negative and anxiety-producing thoughts, no wonder you are feeling anxious and depressed. That is why it is so important to think on positive things if you want to have good mental health. (Since most news is about bad [negative] things—and this often leads to anxiety and depression as you mull over it—it is a good idea to limit how much news you read, listen to or watch if you value your mental health.)
As Dr. Amen says, “Thoughts are biologically-based, and have a real impact on how you feel and behave. Every time you have an angry, unkind, sad, or cranky thought, your brain releases negative chemicals that activate your deep limbic system and make your body feel bad.
Conversely, every time you have a good thought, a happy thought, a hopeful thought, or a kind thought, your brain releases chemicals the calm your deep limbic system and help your body feel good.” (1)
Therefore, you want to surround yourself with good people who emanate good thoughts. This is because who you spend your time with also really makes a difference to the quality of your mental health.
When you are with positive, supportive, and loving people, you feel happier and more content and your anxiety and depression tend to be less. Likewise, when you spend time with negative or hostile people, you tend to feel tense, anxious, upset, sick, and less intellectually on the ball. In short, you feel even more anxious and depressed.
3. Optimize Your Gut Flora for Good Brain Health: Few people realize just how important healthy gut flora is to good mental health. According to Dr. Amen, as much as 95 percent of the serotonin in your body is produced in your gut, so strategies designed to optimize gut production of serotonin could certainly go a long way toward optimizing your mental health.
Many people do not maintain a healthy gut flora. The “good guys” are regularly wiped out every time you take antibiotics, not to mention being decimated by the typical American diet of junk food you eat.
Therefore, you want to keep your friendly gut flora at optimal levels. You can do this by eating traditionally fermented foods, or by taking high-quality probiotics.
Dr. Joseph Mercola has become passionate about teaching people to massively increase the amount of fermented foods they eat—specifically fermented vegetables—in order to replenish the beneficial bacteria that produce serotonin. (2)
As Dr. Amen explains: “Your gut is really your second brain. They’re totally interconnected. If you have an overgrowth of poor gut bacteria, you are not producing serotonin and the other neurotransmitters that you need in order to stay healthy. (2)
This is by no means an exhaustive treatment of this subject, but if you have problems with anxiety and/or depression and want to avoid ototoxic drugs, it is enough to get you started in the right direction.
And of course, to learn which drugs can damage your ears—if you need to take them—see “ Ototoxic Drugs Exposed 3rd edition. This book contains information on the ototoxicity of 877 drugs, 35 herbs and 148 chemicals.
(1) Amen, Daniel. “Healing Anxiety and Depression”. 2003. ISBN 0399150366.
((2) Mercola, Joseph. “Why Psychiatry Needs to Add Brain SPECT Imaging, Especially in Complex Cases“. October 28, 2012.