Antidepressant medication is one of the most common interventions taken to beat depression. Most people who have struggled with chronic depression or episodic depression will undertake one or possibly several courses of antidepressant medications in their lifetime.
When depression is severe medication can be useful and sometimes even life-saving. For people with bipolar, a regime of mood stabilising medications is often used to manage the condition successfully. Antidepressant medications are the second leading class of drugs, after cholesterol-lowering drugs.
One of the most common combinations is the coupling of anti-depressants and talking therapies, which has statically been proven effective against clinical depression. The mitigation of strong symptoms through medication coupled with the ability to explore issues with a therapist is an effective force against depression.
The best way to approach a course of antidepressant medication is to combine it with other aspects of recovery. This includes support groups, therapists, making an effort to improve oneself, journalling and taking ownership of recovery. Perception about what antidepressants should do often dictates whether or not people are satisfied with its efficacy.
At How I Beat Depression we do not want to focus extensively on antidepressant medication. We will mention it when it is incidental to a personal recovery. Antidepressant medication is a very contentious topic, our stance is neither for or against but rather how it helps recovery alongside many other interventions as part of a holistic and balanced approach to recovery.
How antidepressant medication works
This is a complex process to describe. Antidepressant medication addresses a chemical imbalance in the brain by increasing three important chemicals in the brain: norepinephrine, serotonin and dopamine. These chemicals have a strong effect on moods and emotions. Antidepressant medication manipulates the way the brain communicates with nerve cells and increases a depleted amount of the chemicals. This manipulation can also interfere with other systems along the neural pathways, so side effects like increased appetite, sleep, thirst and decreased sexual function can occur.
Antidepressant medications do not get to the root cause or eliminate depression
Antidepressant medication is designed for symptom reduction to enable people to do more and not be overcome by symptoms which restrict day-to-day functioning. Antidepressant Medication can help people get back on track so more activities can be included into recovery.
Put simply: there is a reason behind the brain being chemically imbalanced. What underlies this imbalance is the driving force behind depression. The mechanism behind the brain instigating a chemical imbalance is the real culprit. Powerful unconscious emotions like fear, anger and loss lie at the heart of these chemical changes within the brain. This is why psychotherapy is such an effective ally with antidepressant medication, as the purpose of psychotherapy is to make the unconscious conscious.
Let’s be clear that the use of antidepressant medication regime should supervised by a mental health professional with realistic expectations about their place in recovery.
Treatment for depression is not a short-term process but a long-term project with specific goals of remission and maintenance. Multiple approaches of medication, psychotherapy and patient education are most effective in the treatment of MDD. Close consultation with a physician and/or psychiatrist can provide the best treatment options.*
We hope this article has given a balanced approach to what antidepressant medication is. We highly encourage you to read further to expand your knowledge about the purpose and function of antidepressant medication.
References and further reading
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