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Can Antidepressants Work for Me?

A look at the complex mix of factors -- and key questions -- to consider.

A3. Would counseling help your mild depression, either alone or combined with an antidepressant?

Experts say that in cases of mild depression, psychotherapy often works just as effectively as antidepressants.

"I think it's always been appropriate… to try other things like therapy, particularly with mild cases," Payne says. "When you start getting into moderate cases, there really starts to be a big impact on someone's life. But certainly for mild cases of depression, it's totally appropriate to start with therapy."

If people decide to use antidepressants, it's still best to combine drugs with psychotherapy, Payne says. "When someone has had a depression, many parts of their lives are affected--their relationships, the way they think about things. You can have some leftover symptoms because you were thinking so negatively for a year. It's hard to break that thought pattern. It's not just about chemistry. That's where therapy can really help people to rebuild their relationships, rebuild their lives."

Exercise also improves depression, she says. "It's abundantly clear that exercise is very helpful with mood, whether you have mild, moderate, or severe" depression.

Other measures that may help are things that relax you and promote a positive outlook, such as yoga, meditation, and acupuncture, Payne says. "All of those things can be very helpful in moving people away from the more negative thoughts that are associated with depression," she says.

Seeking out pleasurable experiences also improves mood, she says. And it's best to do that daily.

"If they really enjoy taking the dog for a walk, they need to be doing that every day," Payne says. "They need to increase the number of positive experiences that they're having on a daily basis."

A4. Do you have a good working relationship with your doctor?

People often get information about antidepressants online or from TV commercials, Mischoulon says. Educating yourself is good, but it can also be confusing to evaluate all of the treatment options without the help of a mental health professional.

"I think for the layperson, it can be difficult to sort through all of this when they don't have the training to think critically about these different choices that are out there," Mischoulon says. "So the best thing is, sure, be an informed consumer, but work collaboratively with a doctor that you trust because the doctor has the training and expertise to give you the best advice."

Reviewed on February 16, 2012

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