If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with depression, you likely followed a similar care pathway to millions of other Americans. You were likely first diagnosed with depression at your primary care provider, an urgent care facility or, for women, possibly at their OB/GYN office, particularly for cases of postpartum depression.
After speaking with your provider, you were likely issued a prescription for an antidepressant. And that antidepressant likely didn’t work. In fact, for the majority of patients, the first antidepressant they try does not provide adequate relief. (Source)
You returned to your care provider, confused and frustrated because the antidepressant didn’t work. Your provider then issued a prescription for a different antidepressant. It’s quite likely that one didn’t work either.
Or maybe the antidepressant helped somewhat, but didn’t fully alleviate the depression. Or maybe it helped for a while, but then stopped working as well. “What now?” you think.
If this sounds familiar, you are not alone. Millions of Americans with depression have experienced the same frustrating care journey. This is not to say that antidepressants are a poor choice for treatment. Quite the opposite. Antidepressants are a first-line treatment for depression for good reason: they are convenient, easy to manage, and provide adequate relief for a significant number of patients. They just don’t provide relief for all patients.
Unfortunately, it’s often left up to the patient to decide whether to continue trying additional antidepressants in search of the right one or whether to try another course of treatment. Here are some signs it’s time to move on and consider other treatment options:
5 Signs It’s Time to Move Past Antidepressants
If you’re wondering whether to keep trying different antidepressant medications or to try a different depression treatment, here are some signs it’s time to move past antidepressants.
1. You have tried two different antidepressant medications without success
Patients who have tried two antidepressant medications without successful relief of depression symptoms are classified as having treatment-resistant depression. Antidepressants are much less likely to work on patients with treatment-resistant depression, no matter how many antidepressants they try. If you have tried at least two antidepressants without success, it’s probably time to move past antidepressants and seek other treatment options. (Source)
2. Your symptoms get worse and increasing the dosage didn’t help
Antidepressants can become less effective over time, meaning the symptoms will get worse. Increasing the dosage compensates for the lowered effectiveness, hopefully maintaining the same level of relief as before. If you do not experience the same level of relief, or if you are already at the maximum dosage for your medication, it may be time to consider treatments other than antidepressants.
3. Medication side effects are impacting your quality of life
While antidepressants have helped many people overcome depression, antidepressant use is often accompanied by unpleasant side effects. The side effects and severity of the side effects varies from person to person, but typical side effects from antidepressants include: (Source)
- Weight gain
- Fatigue and drowsiness
- Dry mouth
- Agitation, restlessness, anxiety
- Heart-related issues
- Sexual dysfunction
When taking antidepressants, it is extremely important to communicate with your healthcare provider about any side effects you are experiencing. And realize that if you are experiencing negative side effects, this is not one of those situations where you need to just grit your teeth and bear it. Instead, it may be a sign it’s time to move past antidepressants on to other treatment options better suited for you.
4. You’ve tried medication and therapy without success
For many patients, the combination of antidepressant medication and therapy proves to be the winning formula for depression relief. But for many patients, the opposite is true: antidepressants and therapy failed to provide adequate relief. For these patients, seeking other treatment options is their best course of action.
5. You’ve started to lose hope
The journey to find full relief from depression can be a frustrating one. After trying so many different medications, attending so many therapy sessions, visiting provider after provider looking for the right solution, many patients begin to lose hope. Stuck in a rut of trying one drug after another, patients eventually grow weary from the lack of results. If you are starting to feel like you’ve “tried everything” without success, that can be a clear signal it’s time to look for treatments other than antidepressants and therapy.
What Other Options Are Available?
One of the biggest reasons patients don’t look for other treatment options when antidepressants aren’t working is that they simply don’t know what else is available. They may believe that antidepressants are the only viable treatment and it’s simply a matter of finding the right one for them. Nothing could be further from the truth. There are several other treatment options available which have success rates equal to or better than antidepressants in treating depression
Ketamine for Depression
Ketamine provides fast-acting relief from depression. For patients used to waiting weeks to see if an antidepressant will work for them, ketamine works astonishingly fast. Most patients begin to feel some relief within hours of first treatment, with the full impact felt within a matter of days. Ketamine is administered at your mental health care provider’s office, such as at your psychiatrist’s office. Ketamine is a fast-acting but short-lived treatment, with depression relief lasting between two to four months after treatment. This makes ketamine an ideal preparatory treatment for longer-lasting treatments, such as TMS.
TMS for Depression
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) is a non-pharmaceutical depression treatment that has revolutionized depression care over the past ten years. TMS uses a sophisticated TMS machine to deliver magnetic pulses to the brain, inciting a response mechanism in the brain that heals depressive areas. TMS is administered in a psychiatrist’s office and treatment extends over the span of seven weeks, with most patients reporting significant results around three or four weeks of treatment. Where ketamine is fast-acting but short-lived, TMS requires longer to take effect but lasts much longer, with long-term studies demonstrating continued effectiveness 12 months after treatment. (Source)
Both ketamine and TMS are available at Ampelis Health in Utah, with offices in Highland (Utah County) and South Ogden. New patients are encouraged to call Ampelis Health at 435-776-5909 to see if now is the right time to move beyond antidepressants for depression treatment.