Depression is one of the most commonly diagnosed disorders in the United States. According to the CDC, 11% of adults in the US are taking antidepressant medication. Of those, 60% of them have been doing so for at least two years and 14% for at least 10 years.
In the majority of cases, the most successful approach to treating depression is a combination of antidepressant and behavioral therapy. Often, however, the medication alone is solely relied on, and it eventually stops working.
In some cases, and for unknown reasons, the drugs lose their initial effect. Tolerance is expected to occur when any substance is taken consistently over a long period of time. If the antidepressants stop working, it could also be a sign of something else that may require a medical evaluation.
Finding a Reason Why Your Antidepressants are Ineffective
In the event that the medication stops working there are several factors that need to be considered. Worsening depression, a new medication, a new medical condition, undiagnosed bipolar disorder, stress, age and substance abuse can all change an antidepressant’s effectiveness.
Any new medication has the potential to affect the efficacy of existing medications. The balancing act of psychopharmaceuticals and any other medication is a difficult task. Everyone’s sensitivity level and reactions are different and it may require some tweaking by your doctor.
Before you start any new medicine, it would be wise to consult with your doctor to rule out any other possible health problems that could be contributing to the ineffectiveness of your present prescription.
Substance Abuse Disorder is another mental disorder to consider. Over half of the people with depression have a substance abuse problem. Alcohol, for instance, is well-known to increase symptoms of depression and to also decrease the effectiveness of medications used to treat it. Abstaining from alcohol is strongly advised for anyone who taking antidepressants or who is experiencing symptoms of depression.
Another consideration is an undiagnosed bipolar disorder or an increase in the original depression. There are treatment options such as changing drugs or increasing your dose, all of which should be discussed with the prescribing doctor in order to determine what is the best course of action.
Alternative Treatments for Depression
In some cases, there is no other explanation except that the drug simply stopped having the same effect it did at the beginning. This developed tolerance to antidepressant is known as tachyphylaxis.
If tolerance occurs, it may be necessary to increase the dosage or try a new medication. There are many different types of antidepressants, and if one stops working it may be beneficial to switch or add a new one.
For people with treatment resistant depression, talk therapy or psychotherapy is the first thing often recommended. Research has shown the Cognitive Behavioral therapy can reduce symptoms by 50% in tough to treat patients. There are other forms of individual therapy as well as group therapy and support groups.
In rare cases doctors may choose to try neural stimulation. There are several different approaches such as electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and vagus nerve stimulation (VNS). Each of these are a different way of energizing specific regions of the brain and have proven to help successfully treat stubborn depression. There are also more experimental treatments under study.
Everyone who is struggling with depression is encouraged to participate in things that help boost mood naturally.
Exercise, yoga and meditation are excellent ways to naturally boost serotonin and dopamine, which create a pleasure and a sense of well-being. Also, getting connected in a supportive and rewarding group such as group therapy, volunteering, or any other group activity could also help greatly reduce symptoms.
It can be frightening when antidepressants stop working. Don’t panic – there are many of different other options available.