It was hailed a wonder drug, and as antidepressant Prozac turns 25 years old in January, its popularity is still on the rise.

The drug, launched in 1988, was prescribed 3.9 million times in 2011 and its sales soared, with a 9.2% increase since 2010, along with its price, which has gone up by 22.6%, according to the NHS.

But herbal remedies are also on the rise, with over a quarter of GPs saying they would recommend remedies like St John's Wort over antidepressants, according to natural remedies provider Schwabe Pharma, which surveyed 201 GPs.


Dr David Edwards, an Oxfordshire GP, said: "Often GPs have become increasingly reluctant to treat cases of low mood with antidepressants such as Prozac as these drugs are both powerful and, for some patients, are not without side effects.

"Nevertheless, antidepressants have been shown to be an effective treatment in more serious cases of clinical depression.

"However, since the introduction of new licensed herbal medicines last year, many people have felt more confident in turning to a herbal remedy such as Rhodiola or St John's Wort to manage symptoms of low mood prior to seeking help from their family doctor."

St John's Wort is reported to be significantly more effective than a placebo and equally effective as antidepressant drugs in the short-term treatment of low mood.

A recent survey of 2,000 people by suppliers KarmaMood suggested 80% of herbal remedy users felt the mood-boosting benefits after just two weeks, while 99% of antidepressant users had experienced side effects, with loss of libido cited as the most common.

George Lewith, professor of health research at Southampton University, said: "There have been countless clinical trials on the effectiveness and safety of St John's Wort. It's very well tolerated, with most patients seeing fast results, with very few side effects and fewer withdrawal symptoms.

"If you are feeling low on a regular basis, perhaps irritable, moody, suffering insomnia or gaining weight, your first stop should be the GP."

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    Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is most commonly associated with winter blues, and it afflicts about 5 percent of Americans. But for less than 1 percent of those people, this form of depression strikes in the summer. Warm weather depression arises when the body experiences a "delay adjusting to new seasons," says Alfred Lewy, MD, professor of psychiatry at Oregon Health and Science University, in Portland. Instead of waking and enjoying dawn, the body has a hard time adjusting, he says, which could be due to imbalances in brain chemistry and the hormone melatonin. <strong>More from <a href="" target="_hplink"></a>:</strong> <a href=",,20419609,00.html" target="_hplink">10 Tips for Dating With Depression</a> <a href=",,20483493,00.html" target="_hplink">The Most Depressing States in the U.S.</a> <a href=",,20428990,00.html" target="_hplink">Depressing Jobs: Career Fields With Hight Rates of Depression</a>

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    It's no surprise that sleep deprivation can lead to irritability, but it could also increase the risk of depression. A 2007 study found that when healthy participants were deprived of sleep, they had greater brain activity after viewing upsetting images than their well-rested counterparts, which is similar to the reaction that depressed patients have, noted one of the study authors. "If you don't sleep, you don't have time to replenish [brain cells], the brain stops functioning well, and one of the many factors that could lead to is depression," says Matthew Edlund, M.D., director of the Center for Circadian Medicine, in Sarasota, Fla., and author of "The Power of Rest."

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    Spending too much time in chat rooms and on social-networking sites? A number of studies now suggest that this can be associated with depression, particularly in teens and preteens. <a href="" target="_hplink">Internet addicts</a> may struggle with real-life human interaction and a lack of companionship, and they may have an unrealistic view of the world. Some experts even call it "Facebook depression." In a 2010 study, researchers found that about 1.2 percent of people ages 16 to 51 spent an inordinate amount of time online, and that they had a higher rate of moderate to severe depression. However, the researchers noted that it is not clear if Internet overuse leads to depression or if depressed people are more likely to use the Internet.

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    When something important comes to an end, like a TV show, movie, or a big home renovation, it can trigger depression in some people. In 2009, some "Avatar" fans reported feeling depressed and even suicidal because the movie's fictional world wasn't real. There was a similar reaction to the final installments of the Harry Potter movies. "People experience distress when they're watching primarily for companionship," said Emily Moyer-Gusé, Ph.D., assistant professor of communication at Ohio State University, in Columbus. With "Avatar," Moyer-Gusé suspects people were "swept up in a narrative forgetting about real life and [their] own problems."

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    Although unhappy relationships with anyone can cause depression, a 2007 study in the American Journal of Psychiatry found that men who didn't get along with their siblings before age 20 were more likely to be depressed later in life than those who did. Although it's not clear what's so significant about sibling relationships (the same wasn't true for relationships with parents), researchers suggest that they could help children develop the ability to relate with peers and socialize. Regardless of the reason, too much squabbling is associated with a greater risk of developing depression before age 50.

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