For many people who are affected by depression, antidepressant medications play a pivotal role in providing the kind of symptom relief that allows them to resume a healthy, productive, and enjoyable life. But sometimes, antidepressant medications stop working as well as they used to — or don’t ever seem to work very well at all.
It can be frustrating and discouraging when antidepressants don’t deliver much-needed relief. Unfortunately, it’s also common: As many as one in three people who take antidepressants to treat a major depressive disorder don’t attain sufficient relief from symptoms, or experience breakthrough symptoms after a period of short-term relief.
Read on as our seasoned mental health experts at EXIS Recovery Inc. in West Los Angeles discuss the trial-and-error process of finding the right treatment for depression, explain what it means to have treatment-resistant or breakthrough depression, and offer concrete advice for next steps should it happen to you.
A comprehensive treatment plan for depression requires a multifaceted approach involving a variety of evidence-based practices, ranging from individual psychotherapy, small group counseling, and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) to mind-body techniques and treatment of co-occurring disorders like substance abuse.
For many people, antidepressants are a central component of their carel: When medication reduces or alleviates depressive symptoms, it becomes that much easier to participate — and make gains — in other treatment areas, like therapy.
Finding the right antidepressant, however, can be a lengthy trial-and-error process. The same antidepressant may work well for one person, not at all for another, or cause bothersome side effects for someone else. Experts have no way to predict how someone will react to a specific medication.
For this reason, it’s not unusual for people to try more than one antidepressant before they find one that provides sufficient symptom relief.
It can mean many things to say that an antidepressant “doesn’t work” or “isn’t enough.” For one person, it may mean the first medication they’ve tried isn’t effective, and it’s time to try something else; for another, it may mean a medication that was effective for a long time no longer provides adequate symptom relief.
Breakthrough depression refers to depressive symptoms that reemerge while you’re taking an antidepressant that has effectively controlled these symptoms in the past. Many factors can influence the way your body responds to an antidepressant, including:
In most cases, however, antidepressants stop working for no apparent reason. In the past, researchers often surmised that it could be a question of the brain and body building tolerance to a specific medication; today, many experts are taking a closer look at constantly changing stressors and individual factors in the brain.
These may be the mechanisms at work in cases of treatment-resistant depression (TRD), which is described as depressive symptoms that persist despite trying at least two different types of antidepressants at adequate dosage levels and for a sufficient length of time.
Fortunately, it’s not all bad news. Even if no one can predict how well a specific antidepressant will work for an individual, depression treatment options are more responsive and multifaceted than ever before. If one or two approaches don’t work, or if a treatment that worked before is no longer helpful, you still have options.
Depending on your treatment history, antidepressant optimization — either taking a larger dose or simply giving the medication a little more time to work — may be helpful. Switching to a different class of antidepressants or augmenting with your therapy with medications that are proven to help with TRD are other possible strategies.
Remember, medication therapy is just one of several elements of a successful treatment plan for depression. When you work with our team at EXIS Recovery Inc., we combine our vast collective experience and evidence-based practices with the most recent innovations in TRD treatment to bring you the relief you’ve been waiting for.
Call 424-244-3513 to reach our West Los Angeles office today, or use the easy online booking feature to schedule a visit with one of our compassionate mental health specialists any time.