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Depression Health Center

Living With Depression

Living with depression can be hard. You may already feel the benefits of treating your depression:

  • Increased energy
  • Feeling hopeful
  • Finding more joy in life

Even if you're feeling better, you may still have occasional concerns that you aren't sure how to address. In this step-by-step guide you'll find answers to your questions, including:

  • Why doesn't my medication work better?
  • How can I minimize antidepressant side
    effects?
  • What else can I do to get well?
  • What if my depression comes back?

Recovering from depression takes time and effort. It's important to keep working closely with your doctor and therapist. You need to keep taking your medicine as prescribed, finding ways to manage stress, and avoiding triggers that may have contributed to your depression before.

At the end of this article you will find a list of more in-depth articles on many of the topics discussed here.

Common Concerns

Now that you're getting help for your depression, you may be wondering:

How long will I need medication? Many people take medicines for several months, get better, and may never need treatment again. Others need longer or ongoing treatment in order to stay well. Stick with your treatment and work with your doctor to find what's right for you.

If I'm feeling better, can I stop my treatment? Always talk to your doctor first. It could be the medicine or therapy that's helping you feel better. Giving it up too soon could tip you back into depression.

Treatment is helping, but I still have some symptoms. Discuss troubling symptoms with your doctor. It's possible that adjusting your medicine or trying a specific type of therapy, could help.

Nothing is helping -- will I ever get better? Yes. Finding the right treatment can take time. But if you stick with it, you can find an approach that works for you. Don't give up!

Your Treatment Options

You may be satisfied with your treatment. But if you still have symptoms or side effects, the good news is that there are more treatments for depression than ever before.

  • Antidepressants: Along with therapy, this is often the first treatment your doctor will give you. Consider possible side effects when deciding which medication is right for you. Sometimes you may have to try more than one before finding which works best for you.
  • Psychotherapy: There are many types of therapy that help treat depression. And studies have found that for many people, combining therapy with medication can work better than medication alone.
  • Exercise: Stay active! Research shows that regular aerobic exercise boosts mood and relieves stress.
  • Healthy Habits: Reducing stress and getting enough sleep have been shown to fight depression or help existing treatment work better.

Finding the Right Medication for You

Your doctor may have prescribed an antidepressant to treat your depression. Here's what you should know:

What to expect: Antidepressants work, but you may need to try more than one to find what works for you. Some commonly prescribed medications are Celexa, Cymbalta, Effexor, Lexapro, Paxil, Pristiq, Prozac, Remeron, Wellbutrin, or Zoloft. If your depression is hard to treat, your doctor may combine other medications with antidepressants.

How long before it works?: Be patient. It can take 6 weeks or more to get full symptom relief. There are many options with different benefits and side effects. Finding the right drug and the right dose can take some time and trial and error.

What About Side Effects?

Most people don't have any problem taking an antidepressant. Like any drug, they can have side effects. Depending on the medication, antidepressants may cause increased appetite and weight gain, low sex drive, insomnia, jittery feelings, dry mouth, blurred vision, and fatigue and drowsiness.

Coping with side effects: Many of these side effects may get better after a few weeks. But if not, ask your doctor about changing your dose or trying another drug.

Staying with it: Don't stop taking your antidepressant on your own. Doing so may cause withdrawal symptoms -- and you run the risk of your depression coming back, too.

Counseling and Therapy

Therapy is a key part of depression treatment. While it might not work as quickly as medication alone, some studies show that certain types of psychotherapy may help your medication work faster and have more lasting benefits.

How it works: You may need to talk to several therapists until you find the perfect fit for you. You can take part in therapy either one-on-one, with your spouse or family, or in a group. Your therapist will help you determine what is right for you.

Types of therapy: Several types of therapy may help with depression. Among them are:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Psychodynamic therapy
  • Interpersonal therapy

Types of Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) works on the assumption that negative thinking affects your mood. It helps you see how your own thought patterns can contribute to your depression and teaches you practical ways to change them.

Psychodynamic therapy helps you understand and cope better with problems by identifying and talking about unresolved conflicts that may be contributing to your depression.

Interpersonal therapy focuses on helping you improve communication with family and friends and increase your self-esteem so you can interact with them in a healthy way.

Exercise Can Help

When you're depressed, just getting out of bed can seem hard enough. The idea of starting the day with a walk or jog might seem impossible.

But exercise releases chemicals in the brain called endorphins, which boost your mood. Studies have shown that regular exercise – even just walking -- can make you happier, build your stamina, and boost your self-esteem.

Getting Started: Start with something simple, like a 10-minute walk around your neighborhood every morning. It's much easier to work your way up from there instead of setting goals that seem impossible to reach.

Tips for Success: To help you stick to your goals, exercise with someone else. Meet a friend at the gym a few times a week or take after-dinner walks with a neighbor.

"Natural" Treatments for Depression

You may have heard that some herbs and supplements can be used for depression. But do they work? Some studies have found that these supplements may help some people with mild depression. The strongest evidence is for:

  • SAMe
  • St. John's wort

Supplements, like any drug, have side effects. And some can interact with medicines your doctor may prescribe, too. It's best to talk to your doctor about how to treat depression. The risks of depression are just too serious.