As with most things in life, depression treatment and its effectiveness, really depends on the individual.
Having said that, it is widely regarded in the medical industry that the best treatment for depression includes psychological treatment AND medication.
Whatever the cause of depression, both psychological treatments and medications help to relieve the main symptoms.
It is best if a person with depression works together with their doctor or mental health professional, to find the treatment that is right for them.
Some people respond well to psychological treatments, while others respond better to medications.
While some people may only need psychological, «talking» treatment, other people (me included!), require BOTH psychological treatment and medication.
A word of caution: I am not saying that every person who has depression should take medication. For now what I would like to share with you, are my experiences with depression medication, that I have used to treat my depression.
Before we get into the effectiveness of depression medication, I think that it would be helpful to outline exactly what medications are used to treat depression.
Medications Used To Treat Depression
The most common medications to treat someone with depression are anti-depressants.
So what are anti-depressants?
They are medications that are designed to reduce or relieve the effects of depression.
Types Of Anti-depressants
There are many types of anti-depressants available. Each type, family or class has its own method of helping depression.
Within the classes, each drug is slightly different. There are side-effects and warnings common to each class of antidepressants, and many of the individual drugs have additional side-effects or warnings as well.
Let’s take a closer look at each family of anti-depressants, starting with the one most people have heard about.
SSRI stands for selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor. These medications work by preventing the neurotransmitter serotonin from being reabsorbed by the nerve cell that released it, thereby forcing the serotonin to keep actively working.
- Sertraline — this is what I take to manage my depression.
SNRIs and SSNRIs:
These two terms are essentially synonymous.
SNRI stands for serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor, while SSNRI stands for selective serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor, but there really isn’t any appreciable difference.
Both duloxetine and venlafaxine are SNRI’s. I was on a venlafaxine for 3 years before it seemed to stop working for me.
There are other classes or family of anti-depressants, but the above 2 are what I have used, and I don’t want this article to be too technical!
Unfortunately, when it comes to anti-depressants, one size does not fit all! It is only through trial and error by trying the anti-depressants your doctor or psychiatrist prescribes, until you find one that works for you.
Also, it is trial and error with the dosage amount. Each time that I was put on an anti-depressant, my psychiatrist started with a low dosage and increased it as need be over time.
As with all prescribed medications, there are possible side-effects. I was lucky with both venlafaxine and sertraline in that the only side-effects I had with each anti-depressant was a headache and mild nausea.
These side-effects only lasted a few days, so it was a small price to pay for the huge positive benefit that they gave me.
It is important to note, that a doctor or psychiatrist should monitor a person’s anti-depressant medication to see if it is still working and if the dosage is correct.
How Anti-Depressants Work
Anti-depressant medications help reduce the symptoms of depression.
These symptoms of depression include:
- Feeling extremely sad for no particular reason.
- Loss of interest or pleasure in things you usually enjoy.
- Sleeping too much or too little.
- Feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt or worry.
- Difficulty in thinking, making decisions or concentration.
People with depression often have an imbalance in certain natural chemicals in the brain. So anti-depressant medications work by helping the brain to restore its usual chemical balance and thereby reduce symptoms.
I often get asked the question, «How long does it take for them to work?»
For me, it took 2 to 3 weeks for the anti-depressants to work. But my research indicates that it can take up to six weeks after the first dose of medication before it has an anti-depressant effect.
For some people it can take up to eight weeks or a little longer before they start to feel better, and the maximum benefit is felt after six months.
Anti-depressant medication is generally very effective. Around 70% of people with major depression start to feel better with the first type of anti-depressant they are prescribed.
Before I started taking anti-depressants my depression just became worse and worse. Even though I was using «taking therapy», there was not much progress in my depression symptoms. My «break-through» with my depression only occurred once I started taking anti-depressants.
Psychological treatments used by psychologists and psychiatrists are very effective in helping a person to treat and even recover from depression.
I would go so far as to say that my psychological treatment has been instrumental in treating my depression to the extent that I now live a very happy and joyful life.
What are Psychological Treatments?
One of the most effective psychological treatments is Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT).
- CBT is a structured program which recognises that the way people think affects the way they feel.
- CBT teaches people to think rationally about common difficulties, helping a person to change their thought patterns and the way they react to certain situations.
- I like to think of CBT as «My thoughts affect my feelings.»
When people are depressed, they may think negatively about:
- Themselves e.g. «I’m a failure.», «Nobody would miss me if I died.»
- The world e.g. «The world is a cruel and scarey place.»
- Their future e.g. «I have nothing to live for and my life won’t get any better.»
Negative thinking interferes with recovery and makes the person more vulnerable to depression in the future. It is important to recognise unhelpful thoughts and replace them with more rational and realistic thoughts.
This is why I find CBT so powerful as it provides me with the tools that I need to challenge my negative thoughts.
Another psychological treatment is Interpersonal Therapy (IPT).
IPT is used when a person with depression is easily upset by other people’s comments. They may feel criticised when no criticism was intended. So what IPT does, is it helps people find different ways to get along with others.
And then there is Family Therapy.
Family therapy helps family members and close friends learn about depression and recognise that it is a real medical illness that can be treated.
Family and close friends of a depressed person need to know more about the illness because their support and understanding is very important.
A person who is depressed may need the help of an anti-depressant to treat their depression, and should consult their doctor. The earlier that depression is treated, the greater the chance of a quicker recovery.
If the first anti-depressant that a person tries doesn’t work, they must not get discouraged as they can try another one, that may really make a difference in helping them with their depression.
Once a person starts taking an anti-depressant, their mood should be monitored closely by a doctor or psychiatrist.
In addition to anti-depressants, I highly recommend that a person who has depression, see a psychologists or a psychiatrist for CBT.
This 2 pronged approach has worked very well for me for the past 20 years and I will continue with both the anti-depressants and CBT to ensure that I maintain the great quality of life I have today.
Depression treatment is available to help a person who has depression. Never give up! Depression is not the whole of you, it is merely are part of you, that can be treated.