Today there are more teens, young adults, and elderly people suffering from depression than ever before, and yet, in many spheres, the subject remains taboo—to be whispered about behind closed doors. Shining a light on this illness is long overdue in public discourse. And the open discussion around depression is essential for breaking down the stigmas around it.
Many people with depression have trouble describing the particulars of how they are experiencing it. Often, depression is described as a cloud hanging over you. But for some people, it manifests as numbness and apathy. Others can have extreme and overwhelming negative emotions. Depression can even present itself as a persistently malevolent voice in your head, causing everything from mild anxiety to sheer terror.
No matter the nature of the monster, we have the tools to fight back. We will work with you to get a firm grasp on your condition, understanding the why and the how of your symptoms. Whether you end up on medication, therapy, or both, getting your foot through the door is the first step in removing this weight from your shoulders.
But, what types of medication are used to fight depression? How do they work? And what results can you expect if you’ve been considering taking medication? These questions are more than appropriate. We want you to be asking them! Here at Ellie, we will work to remove any barriers between our providers and their clients.
How Can Medication Help My Depression?
The experience of being depressed is as individual as the person suffering from it. Correspondingly, the mind is an infinitely complex dance of chemical and electrical signals and, as such, we truly do feel and experience things differently. Symptoms of depression can range from mild to severe and can be caused by numerous factors, and everyone reacts to these disparate conditions in their own specific way.
Medications add another layer to this puzzle, as each person reacts to medication differently. This is why it is vital to be in communication with your provider throughout treatment. We want you to ask questions! Being engaged, aware, and able to report changes you may notice in your disposition and general health is crucial for effective medical care.
Terminology You Should Know
Before we deep dive into the potential benefits of depression medication, let’s start things off by getting a few things out of the way.
- Antidepressant is a term used to describe medications that treat symptoms of depression. These medications often work on the neurotransmitters serotonin, norepinephrine, or dopamine.
- Neurotransmitters are the chemical vehicles in your nervous system that send messages from one nerve cell to the next cell. Basically, these are foundational blocks in how your body talks to itself, and how you respond to stimuli.
- Serotonin, Norepinephrine & Dopamine are (for simplicity’s sake) neurotransmitters involved in a variety of ways with your body function, including emotional regulation. They are often targeted to relieve symptoms of depression.
Benefits of Antidepressants
The goal of antidepressants is to reduce the core symptoms of depression, including a down mood, low interest, changes in appetite, weight, or sleep, restlessness or slowness, fatigue, feeling worthless, lack of concentration, or thoughts of death. The aim of reducing your symptoms of depression is to improve your overall quality of life.
It is imperative to have a qualified professional — such as a psychiatrist (someone whose practice is mental health) — help you choose which medication may be best for the best chance at a successful outcome. Here at Ellie, we’re not beholden to any pharmaceutical company or specific treatment. We believe in solutions, not pushing pills.
While there are many benefits to taking antidepressants, keep in mind that it may take several days or weeks for the medication to become effective.
Risks of Antidepressants
About one in five people experience nausea or indigestion when taking fluoxetine (Prozac) for depression. In less than 1:100 patients, taking fluoxetine increases suicidal thoughts or behaviors.
it is important to understand the risks of taking medication and to discuss them with your provider before starting any new medication. We will work with you to ensure you know of and are able to differentiate between common side effects and those that are rare but severe. We will also help you develop warning signs of serious side effects early on so you can identify them and communicate with your provider.
A few potential risks associated with antidepressants include:
- Lowered libido
- Sexual dysfunction
- Loss of appetite
- Suicidal thoughts
As mentioned, medications affect each person differently. Where one antidepressant may make your symptoms subside, another may cause you unwanted side effects. If the latter occurs, it is time to speak with your mental health provider about different treatment options.
Combining Therapy with Medication
In the past, it wasn’t nearly as common for those suffering from depression to undergo psychotherapy alongside taking medication. The stigma behind mental illness often prevented or discouraged many people suffering from depression to seek out treatment or even talk about what they were experiencing openly – even in a safe environment. But here at Ellie, we’re changing all that.
Combining treatments, such as talk therapy or counseling, with a medication management regimen can not only produce better and faster short-term results, but it can also help to generate better results in the long run as well. Also of note, some studies suggest that the rate of relapse is reduced when undergoing a combined treatment program. With a safe space to talk through your depression, this may be all you need to feel that glimmer of hope that so many with depression find elusive.
Many times, those who have treatment-resistant depression benefit from the combination of psychotherapy methods and medications. Some folks simply need a person to confide in when they’re going through a tough time. Having a lifeline can make all the difference in the world. This is why we are here.
How Long Do You Need To Be on Medication to Treat Depression?
Perhaps the most common question we get regarding taking medication for depression is: “How long should I take it?” As with everything with depression, it’s complicated. The answer is dependent on a variety of factors, including the following:
- Type of medication
- Prescribed dosage
- Your medical history
- Length of your treatment
- Your risk of relapse
- The type of depression you have
You and your mental health provider need to work together on whether you should stop taking medication or not, and how. It is important to keep in mind that stopping medications such as antidepressants, abruptly can result in withdrawal, unwanted side effects, or a total relapse.
We cannot rush treatment. Healing takes time. Keep in mind that some medications can take up to two months to begin working and as long as six months for your symptoms to improve. A general rule is that you should continue taking medication for four to six months after your symptoms stop. After you reach the point where feel that you’d like to get off medication, it is important to discuss your options with your mental health provider.
In addition, getting off medication may also involve several other factors as well, including:
- Underlying health issues
- Lifestyle choices
- Stressors present in your daily life (relationship problems)
- Your family’s history of mental illness
Working with your provider to come up with a plan for reducing your dosage over time is usually the best solution. Just keep in mind, it’s best not to go it alone for your own safety.
Psychiatric Treatment and Medication at Ellie Mental Health
Here at Ellie, we know how tough life can be at times. Social media, relationships, the news – sometimes you just need to unplug, right? Even something as simple as missing a green light on your way to work can start your day off on the wrong foot. Dealing with depression on top of everything else life is constantly throwing at you can be overwhelming and exhausting. This is why we take a personalized approach to mental health care.
The success rate for those with depression who undergo psychiatric treatment alongside medication is reason enough to give combined therapy a try. And we’re here to walk you through the entire process. If you have questions about your medication, ask us! If you have questions about how treatment works, we’d love to answer.
We’re here for you – the real you. So, let’s walk this path together.
Want to learn more about how psychiatric treatment and therapy can help with depression? Find an Ellie location in your state and get matched with a provider.