RELATED POST: Dealing with Depression – An Introduction
To medicate or not to medicate – that is the question. There is a lot of research out there about the benefits and downfalls of medications for depression. The key in my opinion is to use the resources available to you to do your own research on medications when your doctor offers them. Many doctors- either your Primary Care Provider or a Psychiatrist will often prescribe whatever drug is being pushed by pharmaceutical companies at the time. That is why we see ‘phases’ of popular anti-depressant medications. If you are new to these medications – getting on the “latest and greatest” med probably won’t help you much initially – but it will please the drug reps. Also the side effects, and general effectiveness of the medication may not even match your depressive symptoms – especially if it is your family doctor doing the prescribing. If you really want to find the best medication for your illness; you are going to have to do some work on your own or you may find yourself on the anti depressant merry-go-round that can result in ineffective and sometimes expensive treatments that just won’t work. With a little research on your own you can seriously limit the number of medications you have to ‘try’ in order to find the one that works best for you and your symptoms.
Here is a handy list of current anti-depressant medications that lists what they claim to do, how they work, how long you should stay on them, and what dosage is recommended. As much as your doctors may not appreciate you walking into their office knowing what you think you should try, they will get over it. No doctor, no matter how awesome, knows every drug available, their side effects or their reliability. You can help reduce the guesswork because you know yourself, your habits, your depression symptoms, and just what you are willing to endure for treatment (which side effects may be more tolerable for you). Make your doctor your ally – not your personal savior.
If you have a substance abuse problem, do not get on medications for your depression. They won’t work, and you will experience all of the side effects without any benefit. This is especially true for alcohol abusers or people who abuse any ‘depressant’ drug. Alcohol is a depressant – mixing that with an anti-depressant medication is a waste of money and does more harm to your body than good. So if you are seriously struggling with depression, the first thing to do to help it is deal with your addictions. This goes back to therapy – more often than not, once you get your addictions in check, the depression just might go away on its own. Weird huh? There is no miracle cure for depression, but depending on what the root of your depression really is determines the treatment for it (behavioral, chemical, environmental, situational). If you drink alcohol because you are sad – well, stop drinking alcohol and you might be happier. If you aren’t happier after you stop then it’s time to look into other treatments. Medications – even really effective ones merely reduce the symptoms of depression, they do not cure it; so if you can find any other way to reduce the symptoms of your depression without medication – in my opinion do those things first.
Currently I take a low dose of Celexa. I asked my doctor for it because of situations currently going on in my home, and to help with my normal ‘winter blues’ otherwise known as Seasonal Affective Disorder. This medication is meant for short term use (3-6 months) and once the sun comes back out to play I will stop using it. Let me say that quitting alcohol was the best thing I have ever done for my depression. EVER. Without alcohol, I only need a little help from meds during my most difficult times which I am now able to recognize on my own; I told my doctor when I needed the medication, and I will tell her when I am ready to stop it. Taking control of your own treatment is empowering and I find is more effective because no one knows you better than you. Again – your doctor is your ally; they are not mind readers or miracle workers. You have to do some work too.
I am going to talk about kids and depression tomorrow, but I will just throw this on for today’s post; I do not agree with placing kids on medication for depression. Just as doctors are quick to throw drugs at adults, they are becoming even quicker to put kids on drugs. It is damaging and has lifelong repercussions. Obviously, some kids do need medications, some kids do have serious illnesses that need to be treated. I am not saying all medications for children are wrong – I am just saying that as parents I think you should do everything in your power to help your children with non-medicinal means before you put them on medications that will interfere with their brain and emotional development. Get them into therapy first. Find out the root of their problems. Depression is not a ‘normal’ state, and with most children it is not a chemical imbalance, but a behavioral or environmental factor that leads to sadness. Kids lack control over their own lives, and for some children this lack of control – can lead to serious sadness. A little therapy (not a psychiatrist) with a safe place to talk will have positive behavioral and mental results. Also, as parents of a depressed child; you may have to take a serious look at yourself and your parenting – YOU may be the cause and you need to be able to recognize what you are doing and be willing to change it to help your child. Medication isn’t going to help them if you are beating them for getting a B in school or because they didn’t clean their room.
So here is what I think about treating depression for adults and children:
1. Talk. Seek therapy. Seek counseling.
2. Eliminate substance abuse.
3. Eliminate environmental factors – Are you a Mom in an unhealthy relationship and wonder why your kid is sad and acting out? It isn’t a chemical imbalance, it is an environmental imbalance. Get out of that relationship for yourself and your children – and medication probably won’t be needed for either of you.
4. Research. Take some control over your treatment. Look up different types of medications and talk to your doctor about the different options. Know the side effects. Know your personal habits and how they will interact with medications.
5. Communicate with your health care provider. They can guide you, they can advise you, and they can be your best friend or worst enemy. Information is power, and providing your doctor with as much information (honest information) as possible will help them to help you. If you lie to them – don’t blame them when treatments don’t work.
6. Stay in therapy even if you are on medication and ‘feel better’. That medication can help you get more out of your therapy by clearing some of the fog that stops you from looking at yourself. Help the medication work, and do the work to heal yourself so that medication isn’t your only treatment. Hopefully, one day you will no longer need medication because you will have done the work to understand yourself, your emotions, and your motivations. No medicine in the world can do that for you.
Again, every person is different and depression manifests itself differently in every person who suffers. My views on medications and treatment options are just that – my views. I hope that you will do your own research to caveat what you read here and that these posts offer you a place to start looking and some encouragement to guide you on your personal path to treatment.
RELATED POST: Dealing with Depression Part 1 – My Story
RELATED POST: Dealing with Depression Part 2 – Therapy
If you have thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts or actions and need help RIGHT NOW please call:
1-800-SUICIDE or 1-800-273-TALK