Medication, Therapy, or Both: What’s the Best Way to Treat My Depression?

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Treating depression sounds like a simple decision — medication, therapy, or both. But depression is complex, and the treatment choices aren’t straightforward. That’s why it’s essential to choose experienced professionals.

Depression makes daily life difficult. Statistics show that 17% of adolescents and 8% of adults have major depression. Though the large numbers of people struggling with depression are staggering, there’s more to the story.

It turns out that 70-75% of depressed adolescents and adults have severe depression. For them, depression substantially limits their ability to function, making it a struggle, if not impossible, to get through the day.

Treatment choices make the difference in pursuing a fulfilling life. Our caring team at Notre Dame Behavioral Health, located in Surprise and Peoria, Arizona, fully understands that treatment decisions are seldom straightforward.

We carefully consider every aspect of your mental and physical health when making decisions about medication, therapy, or both. You can have confidence that our recommendations are always grounded in your unique mental health needs.

Role of medication in depression

Though many variables influence depression, including your genetics and life events, depression arises from imbalances in neurotransmitters. These brain chemicals travel from one neuron to the next, relaying information and activating nerve pathways that regulate your mood.

Neurotransmitter levels decline for several reasons. The nerves may not produce enough, the chemicals could break down, or they may not make it from one neuron to the next because they’re cleared away too rapidly. No matter why neurotransmitter levels fall, the end result is depression.

Antidepressant medications improve depression by restoring neurotransmitters. However, that doesn’t mean medication is always the best choice for every person with depression.

Medication considerations

The decision about when to use medication is based on your medical and mental health history, the severity of your depression symptoms, and your individual needs.

Before starting antidepressants, you also need to understand that this is a long-term process. You won’t immediately feel better because antidepressants need up to six weeks to take effect.

After waiting six weeks, your symptoms may not improve. Then we need to adjust your dose, try a different antidepressant, or possibly add another medication.

This trial-and-error process is natural and expected for several reasons. For starters, the brain chemistry of depression is incredibly complex and involves multiple neurotransmitters.

It also takes time to find the correct medication because there are many antidepressants to choose from, and each one works in a slightly different way. Additionally, each person metabolizes drugs differently, depending on their genetics.

After trying several antidepressants, we may discover that none of them help. While these medications work very well for many people, up to one-third of people don’t improve with medication.

Therapy improves depression

Psychotherapy (talk therapy) can be just as effective as medication for some people. Therapeutic approaches proven to work for depression include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CGT), interpersonal therapy (IPT), and problem-solving therapy, to name a few. Choosing the therapy that’s best for you depends on your unique challenges and depression triggers.

The interesting thing about therapy is that it does more than give you insight and coping skills. Like any type of learning, therapy rewires your brain, improving nerve pathways and boosting communication between neurons.

However, the nature of depression is one of the roadblocks to using therapy. Moderate to severe depression can make it difficult to participate in therapy. That means you need medication to help balance neurotransmitters and lift your mood before therapy will help.

Benefits of combining medication and therapy

If you have moderate to severe depression, chances are you need medication. People with mild depression may only need talk therapy.

In many cases, people don’t respond to just one treatment. They get the best results by combining both therapies. They can restore brain chemicals while also exploring and changing the negative thoughts and life challenges that contribute to depression.

Depression pervades every facet of your life, affecting your mental, emotional, physical, and social health. With so many variables to consider, you need a skilled and experienced mental health professional to guide your depression treatment. That’s the quality of care you get from our team at Notre Dame Behavioral Health.

If you need help with depression, call the office in Surprise or Peoria, Arizona, or book an appointment online today.

Notre Dame Behavioral Health

Surprise Location: 14811 W Bell Road, Suite 100, Surprise, AZ 85374
Peoria Location: 10210 W Happy Valley Road, Suite 145, Peoria, AZ 85383