To get better, you need to take an active role in your treatment. You're not just a patient. You and your doctor have to work as a team.
Of course, you might not feel up to taking an active role in anything. You might have doubts that treatment will help. But push yourself. Depression can make you feel powerless. Taking charge of your treatment is one way to feel in control again.
Antidepressants, especially when combined with talk therapy, generally help
people recover from depression. Symptoms begin to improve within weeks for the
majority of people taking antidepressants. And people who take antidepressants
long-term -- up to 36 months -- have a relapse rate of only 18% compared to 40%
for those who do not.
But if they work so well, why do so many people stop taking antidepressants
within a few weeks of starting them? Or skip doses when they start to feel
Stick with it. Treatment won't work right away. Antidepressants may not take effect for four to six weeks. In some cases, a medication may not work and you'll need to try another. Therapy can take a while, too. But don't despair. If you give them time, these treatments are very likely to help. When a depressed person gets the right medicine, at the right dose, and takes it long enough, treatment succeeds about 70% of the time. But you and your doctor may need to try quite a few treatments before landing on the right therapy for you.
Take your medicine as prescribed. Get into good habits. Take your medicine at the same time every day. It's easier to remember if you do it along with another activity, like brushing your teeth, eating breakfast, or getting into bed. Get a weekly pillbox, which will make it easy to see if you've missed a dose.
Never stop taking your medicine without your doctor's OK. If you need to stop taking a medicine for some reason, your doctor may reduce your dose gradually. If you stop suddenly, you may have side effects. Stopping medication abruptly may also cause depression to return. Don't assume that you can stop taking your medicine when you feel better. Many people need ongoing treatment even when they're feeling well. This can prevent them from getting depressed again. Remember, if you're feeling well now, it might be because your medicine is working. So why stop?
Make lifestyle changes. There's a lot you can do on your own to supplement your treatment. Eat healthy foods, high in fruits and vegetables and low in sugars and fats. Avoid alcohol and illicit drugs, which can cause or worsen depression. Make sure to get a good night's sleep. Several studies show that physical activity can help with the symptoms of depression. Start slowly. Try taking walks around the neighborhood with a friend. Gradually, work up to exercising on most days of the week.
Reduce stress at home and at work. Ask for help with some of the stressful things in your life. See if your friends or family will take care of some of the daily hassles, like housework. If your job is stressing you out, figure out ways to scale back some of your duties.
Be honest. Opening up to a therapist isn't easy. But if you're not truthful, therapy is less likely to help. If you have doubts about therapy or your therapist's approach, don't hide them. Instead, talk about them openly with your therapist. He or she will be happy to have your feedback. Together, you might be able to work out a new approach that works better.
Be open to new ideas. Your therapist may have suggestions that sound strange. He or she may push you to do things that feel awkward or uncomfortable. But try to stay open. Give new approaches a try. You may find them more helpful than you expected.
Don't give up. You may feel hopeless right now. You may feel like you're never going to get better. But feeling that way is a symptom of your condition. If you give yourself some time and allow your treatment to take effect, you will feel better again.