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How to Know When It’s Time to Start Antidepressants

Mental Health

Approximately 20% of adults in the U.S face mental illness each year, and major depression is one of the most common mental health conditions. Various factors determine if a person might experience depression, including genetics, environmental factors, stress and trauma. 

Some people with depression may not realize they have it if they’re unfamiliar with the symptoms. We’ve created a guide to help you learn about the signs and determine if it’s time to seek treatment and start antidepressants. 

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Early Signs of Depression

You may have started noticing some changes in yourself and your behavior that you’re not used to. Early symptoms of depression might include one or more of the following:

  • Constant fatigue
  • Sleeping more or less than normal
  • Weight gain or loss due to changes in eating habits
  • Restlessness
  • Feelings of guilt or unworthiness 
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • Loss of interest in once enjoyable activities
  • Social isolation or irritability
  • Thoughts of self-harm
  • Suicidal ideation

If you notice these common signs in yourself, you may be fighting depression. The good news is that there are multiple types of depression treatment to help you manage symptoms. 

Types of Depression Treatment

The following are the most common depression treatment options:

Antidepressants

Antidepressants are medications doctors prescribe to help elevate your mood and ease uncomfortable feelings, such as hopelessness or sadness. Antidepressants alter the brain’s chemistry by introducing chemicals to the body that people with depression can’t produce in adequate amounts. These chemicals include serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine. There are multiple types of antidepressants, including:

  • SSRIs: Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are among the most common types of antidepressants and are what doctors usually start with since they have the fewest side effects. SSRIs help increase serotonin in the brain by blocking serotonin reuptake, allowing it to distribute more of the chemical throughout the body.  
  • SNRIs: Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) are another common type of antidepressant. Like SSRIs, SNRIs block the reuptake of serotonin in the brain, but they also block norepinephrine reuptake, which can help improve attentiveness and energy. 
  • MAOIs: Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) are a less common antidepressant, and doctors only tend to prescribe them when other medications or treatments don’t work. MAOIs are known to have severe side effects and require a strict diet to prevent intense interactions with the medicine. Other drugs or herbal supplements can also interact with MAOIs, so it’s important to talk with your doctor before taking them.
  • Tricyclic antidepressants: Like MAOIs, tricyclic antidepressants can cause more side effects than other antidepressants. Tricyclic antidepressants usually aren’t prescribed unless other medications have proven ineffective. 
  • Atypical antidepressants: These medications don’t fit into any of the above categories. Atypical drugs alter the levels of one or more neurotransmitters to help improve the symptoms of depression.

Your doctor might combine different medications to help you see the most improvement in your symptoms. Some people may experience side effects for a while when taking antidepressants. Common side effects include:

  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Nausea
  • Weight gain
  • Dizziness
  • Tremors
  • Sexual problems

If these side effects last longer than a few months or become severe, talk with your doctor about potentially changing your medication type or dosage. Don’t stop taking your medication without consulting your doctor first, as there can be some severe side effects.

Counseling

Counseling is often used in tandem with antidepressants to provide a well-rounded treatment for people with depression. There are various types of counseling, such as:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy: Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of psychotherapy that helps individuals acknowledge their current thoughts and beliefs and recognize how these influence their behavior. People struggling with depression often experience negative thoughts that encourage negative behavior and lead to additional negative thoughts, creating a vicious cycle. The goal of CBT is to alter these negative thought patterns to ultimately change your behavior. 
  • Interpersonal therapy: A lack of social support and personal conflict can contribute to symptoms of depression, such as feelings of hopelessness. Interpersonal therapy asks the individual to examine their current social relationships and find a way to resolve any conflict. During treatment, the counselor might ask you to roleplay various scenarios to teach you how to improve your communication skills. The end goal is to learn how to apply these skills in your personal relationships to create a more robust support network.
  • Problem-solving therapy: Life is full of stressors that could contribute to feelings of depression. Problem-solving therapy helps you hone the skills necessary to cope with and overcome these stressors to improve your mental well-being. Problem-solving therapy uses tools such as mindfulness to help individuals cope with stress and negative emotions. 
  • Family therapy: Depression can often feel like a lonely and isolating mental illness. Family dysfunction can contribute to feelings of depression as it creates additional stress for the struggling individual. Family therapy helps improve interactions and dysfunction among family members to develop a more robust support system for individuals with depression. Family therapy also benefits the entire family unit by providing them with an outlet and support for challenges among family members.

Your doctor will help you determine what type of therapy is right for you, depending on your unique circumstances and what would give you the best chance for improvement. Consistency is vital with counseling to ensure you learn the necessary skills to cope with life stressors and guidance for managing depression-related symptoms.

Lifestyle Changes

Many people with depression fall into harmful habits that can worsen depression symptoms, such as social isolation or poor hygiene. Your doctor might recommend specific lifestyle changes to help improve your symptoms, such as:

  • Regular exercise: Exercise has many physical health benefits but can also go a long way in protecting your mental health. When we exercise, the brain releases endorphins, which help improve our mood. Low-intensity exercise can also help nerve cells grow and build new connections, which improves brain function. These new connections and improved brain functioning can help relieve symptoms of depression by elevating your mood.
  • Dietary changes: No single food or nutrient can cure depression, but a well-balanced diet is essential for your mental health. A nutrient-rich diet provides our bodies with the energy needed to survive, including a balanced mood. A diet with plenty of vitamin B, zinc and protein can also help individuals manage their depression.
  • Consistent sleep: Maintaining a consistent sleep schedule is essential for managing your depression. When you don’t get enough sleep at night, your brain chemistry unbalances, and it’s challenging to regulate your emotions or think clearly. Try to get at least eight hours of sleep each night to help improve your mood throughout the day. 
  • Avoiding substances: Alcohol and drugs often worsen depression symptoms since substances can trigger or intensify feelings of sadness, hopelessness and loneliness. Some substances can even cause a person to develop depression or addiction. It’s a good idea to avoid substances if you’re dealing with depression, especially if you’re taking any medications, to avoid unwanted interactions.

For many people, lifestyle changes alone aren’t enough to manage their depression. However, combining these changes with medication or counseling can significantly improve an individual’s mental well-being. 

Alternative Treatments

Alternative treatments for depression aren’t as common as traditional treatments but may help improve symptoms in some people. Examples of alternative therapies include:

  • Electroconvulsive therapy
  • Ketamine for treatment-resistant depression
  • Complementary therapies or medicines
  • Massage therapy, meditation or yoga

When to Talk to a Doctor About Depression

When depression starts to impact your life negatively, it’s likely time to talk to your doctor and find a treatment that works for you. You can look for specific signs that indicate depression is taking control of your life, which include the following:

1. Feelings of Hopelessness, Sadness or Emptiness

When a person struggles with depression, their emotional state changes significantly. They might find it challenging to feel pleasure or happiness, and most of the time, they feel empty, sad or hopeless. Doctors often use these feelings as one of the predominant symptoms to diagnose depression.

However, people with depression can also experience increased anger or irritability. It may cause a person to have a low sense of self-worth, disrupting their self-esteem and creating feelings of guilt. These emotions are consistently present in people with depression, significantly impacting a person’s quality of life. They may socially isolate themselves due to these feelings, which often makes them worse.

2. Loss of Interest in Activities You Once Enjoyed

Feelings of hopelessness or emptiness can also translate into a loss of interest in activities. Before depression set in, you may have enjoyed spending time with friends, cultivating your hobbies or exercising regularly. Once someone becomes depressed, these activities may suddenly have no appeal. The afflicted might spend more time at home. Many people with depression get stuck in a loop where they spend most of their free time sleeping since they no longer enjoy the activities they once did.

This behavioral change is one of the significant indicators of depression. You should talk to a doctor if you notice that you no longer derive pleasure from your favorite hobbies or pastimes. 

3. Inability to Get a Good Nights Sleep

People with depression often experience a disruption in their sleep schedule. Some people might develop insomnia, the inability to fall and stay asleep. Waking up in the middle of the night and finding it challenging to fall back asleep is common. 

Others may experience hypersomnia where they sleep too much, sometimes for most of the day. Too little or too much sleep can displace your brain chemistry, creating numerous problems, including the inability to regulate your emotions. Inadequate rest can worsen existing depression symptoms, so it’s essential to talk with a doctor as soon as possible. 

4. Lack of Energy Most of the Time

Depression can drain your energy quickly, making you feel fatigued most of the time. If you find it challenging to get enough sleep, feelings of fatigue are likely more intense. 

Depression can cause a lack of energy to keep up with responsibilities, whether taking care of children, cleaning around the house, going to work each day or walking the dog. Even the most minor tasks, such as taking a shower or brushing your teeth, can seem impossible.

5. Increase or Decrease in Weight or Appetite

Unless you’re purposefully dieting, a significant change in your weight can signify depression. A fluctuating appetite on most days is one of the most common signs of depression. Some people may lack the energy to eat and take care of themselves, while others may eat more for comfort. Either way, it’s essential to talk with your doctor if you experience weight fluctuations.

When to Start Antidepressants 

If you’re considering taking antidepressants or wondering if they’re right for you, there are a few signs to look for. Antidepressants could help with depression if:

  • You have depression symptoms: Depression symptoms can make you feel unlike yourself. If you notice changes in your behavior or mood, you might have depression, and antidepressants can help relieve symptoms. 
  • You’ve tried other treatment methods: Some people try therapy or lifestyle changes to see if their depression improves rather than starting with medications. If you haven’t noticed any improvement with other types of treatment, medication can help you find relief and feel more like yourself. 
  • Depression interferes with your life: Depression can impact your quality of life and make it challenging to keep up with your responsibilities. It can even be challenging to do once-simple tasks and care for your basic needs. If depression starts interfering with your daily life, your doctor might recommend you begin taking antidepressants to help restore balance to your life. 
  • You’ve had previous mental health challenges: If you’ve had experiences with depression in the past, your doctor might recommend you try antidepressants, especially if you’re symptoms are starting to get more severe.
  • You lack enough energy for other treatments: Depression can sap your energy and make it hard to seek other remedies. Counseling requires a time commitment that some people with depression simply don’t have the energy for. Antidepressants can help you stabilize your symptoms so you can start participating in other treatments. 
  • You have anxiety: Many people with depression also have symptoms of anxiety or anxiety disorders. One of the benefits of antidepressant medication is the ability to treat a range of symptoms. Your doctor might prescribe an antidepressant that can alleviate symptoms of both conditions simultaneously.
  • You think antidepressants are the best choice: Some people don’t respond to other treatment types or have a complex chemical imbalance, making depressants the best choice for their treatment. You know your mind and body best — if you feel your depression is getting worse and other treatments aren’t helping enough, it might be time to ask your doctor for a prescription.

The My Psychiatrist Difference

My Psychiatrist is a group of certified mental health professionals and psychiatrists aiming to support individuals facing mental health conditions, including depression. Our psychiatrists can offer you consultations, evaluations and complete treatment for your depression symptoms to help improve your quality of life. 

We’ll start by giving you an assessment to determine your behaviors, abilities and personalities. The evaluation will help our psychiatrists determine what outpatient treatment would be best for your condition. If you start taking antidepressants with us, we’ll help you manage your medication and monitor the side effects in case we need to adjust your dosage or change your medicine.

We offer various mental health services to help you overcome your depression symptoms, whether you’re a teen or an adult. Our outpatient services let you live at home while undergoing treatment and include:

  • Consultation and diagnosis: Before we develop a treatment plan for you, we’ll have a consultation to get a complete history of your mental health. Once we know your history, we’ll explore treatment options with you and create a treatment plan suited to your needs. Your treatment plan will be unique to your situation, ensuring the best care possible.
  • Psychotherapy: Our counseling services help patients identify their current emotional status and learn various skills to improve mental well-being. We’ll teach you how to regulate your emotions and cope with challenging situations. We’ll also focus on your interpersonal relationships, such as those with friends and family, and how you can use your relationships as a support network. There are multiple types of psychotherapy, so we’ll help you find the option right for your circumstances.
  • Medication management: Many people take medication to help with depression symptoms and rebalance brain chemistry. We offer medication management services and monitor your medication and dosage to ensure you get the most effective treatment possible. We’ll help you make the necessary changes if you need to switch to another medication type and provide ongoing consultation so you know what to expect when you start taking the new drug.  
  • Pet therapy: Animal-assisted therapy is proven to reduce mental health symptoms related to depression and anxiety. At My Psychiatrist, we offer pet therapy that allows you to interact with animals according to the personalized treatment plan we create with you. Interacting with animals can help relieve stress and improve your mood. Combined with other medication and counseling, you could significantly improve symptoms.  
  • Transcranial magnetic stimulation: Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a painless, noninvasive procedure that stimulates the brain using magnets to improve depression symptoms. TMS specifically targets regions in the brain associated with depression. This type of treatment is a short procedure with very few side effects. You’ll have no downtime after the process, so you can continue living your life as usual while seeking treatment.
  • Suicide prevention: Suicidal ideation is a common symptom of depression. Our psychiatrists will work with you to monitor and treat these conditions. We’ll get to the root cause of your mental health condition and provide the necessary tools for a healthy and supportive recovery.
  • Psychiatric crisis care: Before we begin treatment, we assess each patient to determine if they need emergency care. By caring for those in crisis, we can address immediate safety concerns and help improve your recovery rate. 

Our goal is to provide you with the treatment and tools to manage your depression and overcome your symptoms. Our services have the flexibility to seek treatment on your schedule. You’ll be able to choose your provider and make your own schedule so you can continue living your life throughout treatment. 

Should You Take an Antidepressant? Let us help.

If you’re facing depression, you’re not alone. Millions of people in the U.S. struggle with their mental health, but the good news is there are treatment options available to help you find relief. My Psychiatrist offers multiple treatment options to help you get your life back on track. Our professional providers will help you create a treatment plan suited to your needs, whether that includes counseling, antidepressants, alternative therapies or a combination of treatments.

Our clinicians provide high-quality care to ensure you get the most out of your treatment. With My Psychiatrist, you’ll choose from a wide selection of psychiatrists to find one with the best treatment to fit your needs. Find a provider today or contact us to learn more about our programs and services. 

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