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When Antidepressants Are Necessary continued...

The good news is that there are many antidepressants for your doctor to choose from today. If one doesn’t work, he can adjust the dose, switch to another, or even add a second medication to the mix.

“The choice is often based upon which symptoms are most prominent and what kind of side effects might occur,” says Bryan Bruno, MD. He is the acting chairman of psychiatry at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. For example, some antidepressants may cause “sedation” and this can sometimes be useful for people who are depressed and having trouble sleeping.

“It is important that you stay in close contact with your doctor if you take medication to treat your depression -- especially when you are starting new medication or making any changes,” he says. This will allow your doctor to monitor any side effects, should they occur.

Managing Depression with Lifestyle Changes

Lifestyle changes including getting regular exercise, eating a healthy diet, and getting plugged back into life also make a difference, especially when paired with medication and therapy.

Making these changes may be easier said than done if you are depressed, but it’s possible, says John L. Beyer, MD. He is an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke University Medical Center and director of the Duke Mood and Anxiety Disorder Clinic in Durham, N.C. “Act as if you are not depressed in anticipation of feeling much better,” he says.

“Make a schedule for when you should shower, eat, exercise, go to sleep, and wake up, and stick to it.” The rest will follow. “After a while, it becomes much less difficult and things will begin to become enjoyable,” he says.

These healthful habits can also help prevent recurrences of depression. For people who are prone to depression, life stressors can propel them back to that dark place.

“We can’t change genetics, but we can change our environment to protect against relapses,” he says. The best way to do this is to bolster your personal resilience factor. “Difficult things can occur, but part of being well and being human is to develop social ties and networks,” he says.

Don’t let yourself become isolated. “This will build resilience that prevents depression from getting a grip on you in the future.”