Posted by: jedwardswright | July 20, 2011

Do I Need to Be On Antidepressants Forever? Part 1

As I researched this topic, I was amazed at how difficult it was to find a straight answer to this question. Doctors are reluctant to give a one-size-fits-all reply, because, I finally concluded, the answer is: it depends.[i]

It depends on a number of factors, including:

  • your diagnosis
  • your medical history
  • the severity of your symptoms
  • the effectiveness of antidepressants for you

Your Diagnosis

Whether you have dysthymia, which is a milder form of depression, or major depressive disorder, or bipolar disorder is obviously going to affect which medications you might be prescribed, and what long-term treatment will be recommended. Your response to non-medical approaches involving lifestyle changes, psychotherapy, or other alternative treatments such as acupuncture, in addition to medication, may also influence your prognosis.

If your condition has been aggravated by stressful circumstances, such as the loss of a loved one or a temporary health condition, this could also factor into whether you need to continue taking antidepressants if and when your situation changes.

Your Medical History

If you have had multiple episodes of depression, you are at greater risk of a reoccurrence, and your doctor may be more inclined to advise, long-term medication.[ii] Please don’t let this possibility discourage you, because most people with depression experience relief from their deep sadness when they take the medication that is appropriate for them.  It may take some trial and error to ascertain which antidepressant works for you.

Let’s not forget, folks, that depression can be a fatal disease.  If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, it is riskier not to try medication. If you are responding well to a particular antidepressant, discontinuing it and risking a relapse could also have tragic consequences. Most doctors are of the opinion that if an antidepressant is relieving your depression, it is wisest to continue taking it.[1]

The Severity of Your Symptoms

Like most medical conditions, depression varies somewhat among individuals. Someone with dysthymia may respond better to non-medical treatment than someone with major depressive disorder, for instance. Depression may co-exist alongside other conditions such as anxiety or obsessive compulsive disorder, so treatment will likely to be tailored differently for people dealing with more than one diagnosis. For women, hormonal influences can come into play, as in the case of post-partum depression or menopause.

You may find that at times you are in the pit of despair, and then you recover somewhat for a while, so that may or may not affect your need for medication.  If your moods vary among three stages though – depression, stable, and manic or irritable — bipolar disorder should be considered a possibility, so please report any major mood swings to your doctor.[iii]

Part 2 of Do I Need to Take Antidepressants Forever? will continue with the next section, “The Effectiveness of Antidepressants For You.” 

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