Author: Shernide Delva
Depression is a serious medical condition, and the decision to take antidepressants is a personal choice. The stigma behind mental illness often prevents those struggling with mental illness to seek help for their condition. Many people feel they can tackle their depression on their own, without the use of medication. While this may be true for some, for others, medication is a very real option.
If you are unsure whether or not you need medication for your depression, it may be a good idea for you to ask yourself a few questions before going on them. Also, you may want to explore options that do not require medication like seeing a therapist, changing sleeping and exercising habits, socializing and joining groups. All of these options should be a part of your long-term plan to fight depression.
Still, for some people, even after doing all of these things, their depression symptoms seem to linger. It is important to consider and understand what you need to feel better. Here are eight questions you should ask yourself before going on medication:
- Could my depression be the result of a medical condition?
It is important to consult with your doctor so you rule out the possibility that your depression could be due to pre-existing medical conditions. Many health conditions can contribute to feelings of depression. Thyroid conditions and heart disease are some examples of conditions that result in depressive symptoms. Also, get a blood test done to monitor your vitamin levels. Deficiencies in iron, magnesium and B vitamins can make you feel sluggish and down.
- Could my depression be a side effect of another medication?
Depression can be the side effect of prescription medications. If you recently added a new prescription around the time you felt depressed, make sure to talk to a doctor to see if there is a possibility you are affected by your medications.
- Have you suffered a recent loss?
It is normal to feel intense emotions following a death, divorce, relocation, or retirement. Therefore, if you have become depressed following events like this, it is only natural. Learning coping methods through cognitive behavior therapy should be the first step when dealing with situational depression.
“It’s important to remember that antidepressants treat symptoms and not root causes,” says Ramani Durvasula, Ph.D., a licensed clinical psychologist, and author of You Are WHY You Eat.
Ask yourself how long you have been depressed. Depression lasting less than six months may not require medication if treated with therapy and other methods.
- Am I exercising enough?
Exercise boosts serotonin levels in our body which improves our overall mood and energy level. As hard as it is sometimes, it is important to move around. Aerobic exercise can be effective in preventing and treating depression. Aerobic exercise releases feel-good brain chemicals like neurotransmitters and endorphins. Lack of exercise can worsen depression. Try changing your exercise routine to see if you notice a decrease in your symptoms.
- Are you eating a healthy, well-balanced diet?
A sugar-heavy diet can severely affect blood sugar levels which lead to feelings of low energy and depression. Also, issues in the gastrointestinal tract can lead to mood problems, including depression. Complex carbs have been found to boost levels of serotonin in your Try boosting levels of omega-3 fatty acids, as well as vitamin B12. Increasing your intake of nutritionally balanced meals can be the right step to reducing your symptoms.
- Am I socializing on a regular basis?
As tempting as it may be to isolate yourself, being alone does not help with dealing with depression. Try to connect with friends and family. Join a local group in your community. Try joining a support group for depression like the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance. They have support groups throughout the country to help those in need.
- Have you tried changing your behaviors?
The best way to treat depression is to fight against it. When you feel like staying in bed all day, those are the times you need to get busy. When you feel the least social, that is a crucial time to call a friend. Some other positive ways to combat depression is to engage in mindfulness practices such as meditation or yoga. Talk to a therapist to come up with a plan to change your behavior. Take baby steps and try not to do too much at once.
- Are you drinking too much?
Abuse of alcohol has been proven to make depression symptoms worse in various clinical studies. Alcohol can interfere with sleep, and further worsen problems of anxiety and depression. Alcohol also makes people prone to anger, aggression and violence. The occasional drink may be okay for some, but for others drinking is not worth the risk.
If you find you have addressed all of these issues and still struggle with depression, you may want to consider seriously talking to a professional about taking medication. This is especially true if you find depression inhibiting your daily functions.
Taking antidepressants is a very personal decision. It is up to you to decide, and you should not feel shame if you decide to go that route. Many people take medication, and it has helped them tremendously. If you are struggling to handle it all, give us a call. We can help. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135