Depression Treatment: How to Tell It's Working
Depression is a highly treatable mental health disorder. While there are numerous ways to treat depression, the most frequently used are psychotherapy, antidepressant medications, or both.
If you've recently been diagnosed with depression, you may be wondering how to know if your treatment is working.
Depressed individuals generally experience some, or all, of these symptoms.
- Feelings of emptiness, hopelessness, irritability, anxiousness, or guilt
- Loss of interest in activities
- Difficulty sleeping or concentrating
- Unexplained physical pains or ailments
- Suicidal thoughts
The goal of depression treatment is to put patients in remission so they are free from symptoms. Antidepressants alter chemical processes in your brain that may contribute to depression. If you're taking antidepressants, you should start to see an improvement in symptoms within two to four weeks. By about 12 weeks, you should feel the full effects of the medication.
Psychotherapy, or talk therapy, teaches patients new ways of thinking and behaving, and helps them change behaviors that may be detrimental to their mental health. Talking about your feelings can be healing, and sometimes having a professional, objective perspective can be invaluable. While psychotherapy is effective for many patients, it's not always a direct path to wellness. Therapy provides tools for long-term changes in your life; it may take longer than antidepressants for you to reach full remission.
Regardless of the type of treatment, you should start to notice improvement within a few weeks. You should find yourself increasingly able to accomplish things and enjoy life in a more normal way. You'll notice positive changes in your mood and will feel more connected in your relationships. Depression treatment doesn't mean you'll never feel sad or face difficult emotional experiences. However, you should be able to evaluate periods of sadness more objectively and deal with challenging emotions without feeling overwhelmed.
Helpguide.org suggests asking yourself a few questions to assess the effectiveness of your treatment.
- Is your life changing for the better?
- Are you beginning to understand yourself better?
- Do you feel more confident and empowered?
- Are your relationships improving?
- If you're in therapy, are you meeting the goals you originally set with your therapist?
If you cannot answer yes to these questions, it may be time to find a different therapist or try a new antidepressant. Don't settle for a partial response when full remission is possible. Talk to your physician about other treatment alternatives.
University of Texas Counseling and Mental Health Center. "Considering Medication for Depression?" Web.
National Institute of Mental Health. "Depression." Web. 6 May 2011. http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/depression-easy-to-read/index.shtml
Helpguide.org. "Finding a Therapist Who Can Help you Heal." Web. October 11 2011.
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