How to Treat Depression When Antidepressants Don’t Work

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when antidepressants don't work

What To Do When Antidepressants Don’t Work

You had high hopes when you finally addressed your depression and were prescribed antidepressants. But even after the 4-6 week trial period, you didn’t feel any better on the meds. So, how do you treat depression when antidepressants don’t work? Keep reading to find out.

Learn About Major Depressive Disorder

Depression is a very complex and mysterious mental health challenge. Depression is the second leading mental health disorder experienced among American adults. According to the NIMH, about 21 million U.S. adults are afflicted with depression each year.

Each person’s depression can be quite unique, with different combinations of symptoms presenting. The DSM-5 states that out of the list of nine symptoms, only five of them must be present. This can be any combination of the nine symptoms, which means depression can look very different between people.

If you have five symptoms present most of the time for more than two weeks, you likely have depression. The symptoms of depression can include:

  1. Feeling sad or hopeless with persistent low mood.
  2. Loss of interest in things you once enjoyed.
  3. Sleeping too much or having trouble sleeping.
  4. Slowed thinking and movements.
  5. Having trouble paying attention and making decisions.
  6. Change in eating habits; sudden weight gain or loss.
  7. Extreme fatigue.
  8. Feelings of guilt or shame.
  9. Suicidal thoughts.

To date, science has not discovered the cause of depression. However, research has provided insights as to the risk factors that increase the chances of developing depression. These factors include:

  • Imbalance in brain chemistry, or underactive brain cells in the limbic region.
  • Being diagnosed with a life-altering medical condition.
  • Side effects of medication.
  • Genetics, or family history of depression
  • Adverse life events such as the death of a loved one, divorce, past traumas, and job loss.

What is Antidepressant Drug Therapy?

The standard protocol for the treatment of depression relies heavily on antidepressant drug therapy. These are drugs that are made in various formulas and are grouped as SSRI, SNRI, TCA, and MAOI.

A doctor will select what he or she believes is the best fit for your depression symptoms, and then you trial the drug for 4-6 weeks. Very often, the first and sometimes the second drug will not be effective. All told, about 50% of patients benefit from antidepressants.

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In the U.S., the rate of Americans taking antidepressants has nearly doubled since 2000, jumping from 7% of the population to 13% in 2014, the most recent data available. These drugs are typically used as a long-term treatment intervention, with 68% taking them for two years or more, and 25% taking antidepressants for 10 years or longer.

5 Ways to Treat Depression When Antidepressants Don’t Work

When antidepressants fail to relieve depression symptoms it is referred to as a treatment-resistant depression. Most doctors will try a few different drugs before making that diagnosis.

If you are still struggling with depression after giving antidepressants a good run, then there are some other treatment approaches to try. Of course, the most effective way to treat depression is with combination protocols, such as psychotherapy plus holistic plus exercise. It takes a little experimenting, but in the end, you are very likely to find a combo that works for you. Consider these 5 solutions for managing depression:

  1. Psychotherapy. CBT is a short-term therapy that can help you identify current thought distortions or negative self-talk. These are dysfunctional thought patterns that keep you stuck in a negative attitude. CBT guides you toward shifting these thoughts towards more positive self-affirming beliefs that can help manage depression.
  2. TMS. TMS is non-invasive brain stimulation that uses a coil to transmit electromagnetic currents to the limbic region. By stimulating or speeding up the neurons in this area of the brain, it can reduce the symptoms of depression. The outpatient treatments are usually 4-6 weeks in duration.
  3. Holistic methods. Both yoga and mindfulness can provide relief for someone suffering from depression. Yoga is a full-body non-aerobic workout that features slow movements and poses while paying attention to your breathing. Mindfulness helps focus your distressing thoughts back to the experience in the present moment.
  4. Exercise. Getting into a routine of engaging in regular exercise is an excellent depression prevention strategy. The “Exercise Effect” refers to the James Blumenthal study that showed how mood is enhanced by sustained physical activity. The study explains how this effect is caused by the production of neurochemicals when you exercise.
  5. Supplements. Certain supplements are considered safe alternatives to pharmaceutical interventions for treating the symptoms of depression. These include L-theanine, vitamin B5 (folic acid), calcium with magnesium, SAMe, St. John’s Wort, and Omega-3 fish oil. Always ask your doctor before starting a supplement routine.

Best Treatment Programs for Depression

While some may benefit from seeing a therapist on a weekly basis, for others that is just not enough. These folks need a higher level of care than regular outpatient therapy can provide. Some depression treatment program options include:

  • Residential. When a more intensive level of care is needed, a residential program provides an intensive approach. These programs offer tailored and focused treatment, with round-the-clock support and monitoring.
  • Outpatient. Outpatient programs provide different levels of care based on the severity of the depression. While enrolled, you reside at home and then participate in therapy and other programming for a specified number of hours each week.
  • Retreats. Mental health retreats offer an extended weekend of focused therapy and holistic elements. These short-term programs can help you at the moment, as well as learn new ways to manage depression.

If antidepressants haven’t worked for you, don’t give up. Depression can be managed in many different ways. Reach out today for help.

Mental Health Hope Leading Resource for Mental Health Support and Guidance

Mental Health Hope is an online free resource for information and guidance regarding mental health issues. If you want to learn how to treat depression when antidepressants don’t work, we can help. Call us today at (877) 967-9274.

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