Antidepressants form the foundation of depression treatment, along with talk therapy. However, how well do they work and how does your doctor determine which antidepressant is right for you? Antidepressants represent, along with talk therapy, one of the two main approaches to treatment and pathways to recovery from depression. If you are diagnosed with moderate or severe depression, you will likely be offered both. How effective are these drugs, however? How do antidepressants compare to talk therapy? Which Antidepressant Is Right For You? How does your doctor determine it?
How effective are antidepressants?
While research suggests that antidepressants don’t make much of a difference in people with mild depression, who may instead benefit from lifestyle changes and therapy, they play an incredibly important role in treating people with depression moderate, severe and prolonged. The data shows, for example, that:
20 to 40 percent of people with moderate to severe depression who took a placebo instead of an antidepressant saw an improvement in symptoms within six to eight weeks. 40 to 60 percent of people with moderate to severe depression who started an antidepressant enjoyed symptom relief in that same period of time.
This means that, overall, 20 percent of people who do not get better without antidepressants will progress toward recovery if they start taking antidepressants. While that may sound like a low number, it means that two out of 10 people who would otherwise still be as depressed as before would feel better when offered antidepressants.
Not all antidepressants will be equally effective for everyone, of course. Research shows that you will have a 50 percent chance of “responding” to any particular antidepressant, which means that it does something to reduce your symptoms. If the prescribed antidepressant is not doing its job, another antidepressant or a combination of several will be tried.
It is also important to note that a reduction in the severity of your symptoms does not mean that you are not depressed now – that may take a little longer. Some people, however, notice an improvement within a few weeks and continue to feel progressively better thereafter.
How do antidepressants compare to talk therapy?
To begin with, receiving therapy or antidepressants is, the research makes it perfectly clear, much more useful than a placebo. From that, you can conclude that it is also better than no treatment at all.
Multiple studies have found that talk therapy, particularly cognitive behavioral therapy, is as effective as antidepressants in treating moderate depression. However, in people with severe symptoms, it appears that starting antidepressants is the most likely approach to alleviating depression.
These patients will still benefit from therapy when their antidepressants kick in.
Interestingly, it appears that antidepressants and therapy equally address the physical and cognitive or emotional symptoms of depression; It’s not that you need antidepressants to deal with fatigue, insomnia, appetite swings, and other changes your body undergoes when you’re depressed, while therapy helps. You come to a healthier state of mind. Both treatment approaches can help you with both physical and mental symptoms.
While antidepressants or therapy will be helpful for people with moderate rather than severe depression, the best approach will be to combine the two for many patients.
There are many options when it comes to antidepressants today. This is good news, because it means that if an antidepressant doesn’t help or causes unbearable side effects, your doctor can consider many other options. Apart from the most widely used classes of antidepressants: tricyclic antidepressants, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and selective serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), there are also monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAO), selective inhibitors of norepinephrine reuptake, alpha-2 blockers, and some other classes.