Depressed? Feeling blue or just down right despondent? The good news is that depression, even the most severe cases, is a highly treatable disorder. As with any disease early detection is helpful in increasing the effectiveness of treatment and preventing a recurrence or relapse.

The National Institute of Mental Health recommends, as a first step, seeing a doctor to eliminate the possibility that some medical condition may be causing the symptoms of depression. Once that has been determined either the doctor or the mental health professional you are referred to should conduct an extensive diagnostic including family history of depression, history of symptoms, use of drugs and/or alcohol and thoughts of death or suicide. After all the background has been gathered and a diagnosis has been given it is time to decide on a course of treatment. While several methods are used in treating depression the two most common are medication and psychotherapy.

So which is best? Antidepressants or therapy? Several studies have shed light on this very subject and the results of which you will find below.

Research: Pop a Pill or Talk It Out?

In a study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry a group of individuals suffering from depression was treating with one of the following methods: medication, cognitive therapy or a placebo. Cognitive therapy, as defined by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, isan empirically supported treatment that focuses on patterns of thinking that are maladaptive and the beliefs that underlie such thinking. In plain english that means certain beliefs about oneself such as "I'm worthless" are focused on in an attempt to reprogram that inner message into a more positive one that doesn't deride the patient and drive them into depression. The results of the study showed that 46% of people on medication and 40% of people undergoing cognitive therapy were in remission from their depression. The conclusion drawn by the researches was that cognitive therapy may be as effective as medication in the initial treatment of moderate or severe depression.

It is important to also note that these researchers stress that effectiveness of therapy will depend greatly on a high level of therapist experience or expertise in order to create the parity between treatment and medication. That is to say treatment and its effectiveness will differ greatly across all of the mental health care professional that one might see.

Another study conducted by Consumer Reports, in a survey of its readership who suffer from depression, found similar findings however less clinical in nature.

Specifically the survey showed that:

  • A combination of talk therapy and drugs worked best for treatment of depression and anxiety. But those whose treatment consisted of mostly talk therapy did almost as well if they had 13 or more visits with the therapist.

  • Treatment consisting of mostly drug treatment was also effective for many people. Drugs had a quicker impact on symptoms than talk therapy, but it often took trial and error to find a drug that worked without undesirable side effects.

  • More than 50% of survey respondents who took antidepressants tried two or more drugs; 10% tried five or more.

  • Side effects were much more common than noted on the medications' package information: 40% said they experienced a loss of sexual interest or performance, and almost 20% said they gained weight.

  • Treatment from primary care doctors was effective for people with mild problems, but less so for people with more severe ones. Treatment by mental health specialists yielded significantly better results for people who started out in poor shape.

  • Health insurance plan limits on therapy visits and costs kept some people from getting the best treatment.

  • Consumers who did their own research and monitored their own care reported better results.

  • More than 80% of survey respondents said they found treatment that helped.

Remember, you are the patient and should make an informed decision about all of the benefits and possible side effects of any given course of treatment. Highly effective treatments are available to you and you can begin the process of healing right now. So if you are suffering call your doctor and see what you can do about it