Antidepressants and psychotherapy

Research that confirms that antidepressants work is very welcome, but there is nothing new in this to people who take them, or to psychotherapists like myself who meet and work with people who take them.

Hopefully the published research will help reduce some of the stigma around taking antidepressants.

I meet and work with people who have been taking antidepressants sometimes intermittently, sometimes for long periods.  In these cases it is clear that they have long known that their medication lifts their mood and helps them live and enjoy life, work and relationships in ways that they otherwise would not.

In my practice I frequently meet people who use antidepressants and who find them very helpful.

For some people medication might be a temporary measure for others it may be more prolonged.

There are clearly situations where people might use antidepressants as a temporary measure to help them deal with a particular spike in low mood.

It is not uncommon that someone will refer themselves to me privately and explain how they are struggling with low mood.  The mood they describe isn’t something they can simply be talked out of. They may describe the kind of low feelings that make it difficult:

  • to get out of bed
  • to go to work
  • to develop relationships
  • to engage with people

The low mood may be driving them into themselves, away from people and into increased withdrawal and isolation. In such case I think it can be right to use antidepressants.

How antidepressants work

The drugs in the published research are known as SSRIs.  These are thought to work by increasing levels of a chemical called serotonin in the brain.

When we talk about how antidepressants work we often hear people describe how the medication reduces extremes of mood. They reduce the extent the high and lows go to meaning that the feelings that can plague a life become less extreme and less pronounced.

If you have had experience of very low or high moods you will know that anything that helps reduce the extremes and stabilize the mood is welcome.

This isn’t bad science; this can be very helpful medication

If you feel that your life is spoiled by a dominating low mood or surges in anger then it would be right to discuss this with your GP.  You may need access to greater support and your GP can be your gateway to that.

Will I be taking them for life?

There can be a worry that if you start to take antidepressants you will come to rely on them and never be able to give them up.  This doesn’t have to be the case, but it is understandable that people become worried about using them.

Hopefully the published research will help people to feel less threatened about taking antidepressants. It may be that the worry about becoming addicted is part of the worries that you are currently in the grip of.  Your GP will talk to you about how you would plan to regulate your prescription and come off the antidepressants in time.

Monitoring the effects of your antidepressants

The thing to remember is that you will be able to monitor the effect of the antidepressants, your GP will arrange to discuss your experience of them.  Plus if you are in psychotherapy you will be able to talk about your experience there and monitor any changes in your mood.

  • Often, people find that they use them for a limited period of time to help them out of particular states.
  • Others will stay on them for longer.

If you find they help then why not take them?  In my experience they can profitably be used in combination with psychotherapy.

The combination of antidepressants and talking therapy can work very well

If there are things available that you can use to help with difficult low mood, then I think that you should give yourself the chance to use them.  There may be no benefit in suffering unnecessarily.

The articles in The Times (3/3/18) illustrate the benefit of antidepressants. In one case helping a woman with profound low mood, in another, helping a man out of sad and angry moods.

It may be that taking medication helps to balance your mood, and that psychotherapy helps you develop greater confidence in your ability to live well.

Contact me

I have a depth of experience of working with people suffering from low moods and depression, and in speaking with them about how they can balance the use of medication as part of a treatment plan.

Contact me to arrange a free telephone consultation to discuss how my work might help you.