If your doctor suggests that a course of antidepressants may be beneficial for you, it stands to reason you’ll want the best. For most people, this means medication that offers the quickest, most effective and least troubling side effects. Let’s explore these in turn.
Speed of effect
There are many different types of antidepressant, of course, but in terms of the differences when it comes to speed of effectiveness, there is not much to choose between them. For a first time prescription, you should look forward to a minimum of six months of treatment. If you’ve experienced depression before, two years or longer may be suggested.
It can take weeks before any therapeutic effect is felt and in cases of mild-to-moderate depression, the evidence suggests antidepressants may be ineffective. The latest information from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) all but dismisses the notion of antidepressants. NICE points to self-help programs, computerized cognitive therapy, and physical activity as first-line interventions.
Effectiveness of antidepressants
The overall goal of antidepressants is to alleviate the symptoms of depression. To this end, a number of trials point to the fact that various antidepressants are similarly effective. The starting point for an antidepressant is usually based on how well it might be tolerated and whether the patient is being prescribed any other medication.
All antidepressants have side effects, but where one person might tolerate them, another might struggle. The Institute of Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG) points out that side effects can become the determining factor when settling on an antidepressant. Are you keener to avoid digestion problems than, say, dizziness? Or decreased sex drive?
Antidepressants aren’t the only answer
All evidence points to the fact that antidepressants appear most beneficial in cases of major depression. Even so, most medical professionals suggest activities that are within our own power to control. Combination therapies aren’t necessarily complex, and they include such things as:
- Learning relaxation techniques
- Reducing stress
- Eating a balanced diet
- Stopping smoking
- Sleeping well
- Combating isolation and loneliness
In the end, the best antidepressant is the one that works for you. This may take a little trial and error. Ultimately, you are the only person who can decide whether the price for feeling happier rests with antidepressants. There is no universally agreed-upon “best” treatment for depression. Every therapeutic approach has its own merits. Nevertheless, if and when you find a combination of therapies that suits you, the results can be dramatic.
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Dr. Jerry Kennard is a Chartered Psychologist and Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society. Jerry’s clinical background is in mental health and, most recently, higher education. He is the author of various self-help books and is co-founder of positivityguides.net.
Jerry Kennard, Ph.D., is a chartered psychologist and associate fellow of the British Psychological Society. Jerry’s clinical background is in mental health and, most recently, higher education. He is the author of various self-help books and is co-founder of positivityguides.net.