Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue

Treatment for Depression: Some Facts

I just shared my belief that depression is conquerable. But how? Here are some treatment facts, according to “The Johns Hopkins White Papers 2007: Depression and Anxiety” by Karen L. Swartz, one of the physicians who evaluated me in Spring 2006. (I must assign a lot of power to her because I dreamed last night she was Vice President of the United States. I assisted with her campaign.):

“These days, medications are the most common form of therapy for depression. Any given antidepressant has up to a 70 percent chance of working in a particular person. Psychotherapy alone can work as well as antidepressant medications with fewer side effects but requires more time.


“Severe cases are depression are best treated with medication. (That statement is important. Those contemplating suicide are suffering from severe depression.) In the most extreme cases, electroconvulsive therapy may be recommended. Up to 90 percent of extremely depressed people improve with electroconvulsive therapy when it is used as a first-line treatment. However, the therapy is usually used only after other therapies have failed. When used as a last resort, the response rate drops to 50-60 percent.

“Combination therapy (medication plus psychotherapy) has been shown in some research studies to be more effective than either therapy alone for mild to moderate depression. Recent research suggests that combination therapy may prevent or delay relapses and recurrences of depression.


“By themselves antidepressant drugs usually produce a significant improvement by four to six weeks, although it may take up to 12 weeks on a therapeutic dose to see the full benefit. If a person’s depression responds fully to medication after this period, treatment moves on to the continuation phase, which lasts for six months to one year at the same dosage level. Those who have improved somewhat but still have a few symptoms after six weeks should be reassessed six weeks later. At the reassessment, the physician may adjust the dosage to improve response.

“When a drug does not work, a doctor may prescribe an antidepressant from a different class of medications, because drugs in the same class tend to work similarly. When a drug from one class is producing good results but causes unacceptable side effects, switching to a different medication within the same class can often help. In 20-50 percent of patients, adding the drug lithium can help boost the action of an antidepressant.”

Read on for new studies into treatment-resistant depression.

  • Kevin Keough

    It takes a good while for us to accept new things. We like the familiar. Despite solid research that light therapy works faster than, just as well as, and with few side effects as compared to antidepressants (for mild to moderately depressed people) published in flagship medical and psychiatric journals, it just doesn’t register with people yet.I laughed when a psychiatrist gave me a light box 15 years ago; I didn’t plug it in. However, after 5-6 years of personal and professional use…..I don’t believe in them. We wouldn’t ask a family doctor if he believed in anti biotics.I am very pro medicine. I am still inclined to get people ‘loaded for bear’….medicine, lights, therapy, and the dozens of things Therese has listed here in previous posts.However, I have seen the lights work wonders….even miracles. So, I feel impelled to mention lights when I come across an opportunity.That said, I must emphasize that Therese has done a very valuable public service by discussing the benefits of her ‘happylite’. One can’t cover everything in one post…acupuncture, exercise, pets, and on and on and on. More than that Therese is emerging as one of the most informed and articulate person around re mood disorders. We will get to say “we knew her when”. Therese, you rule ! No joke, you just keep getting better and better. You already know more than 95 % of psychologists in the country. A national treasure, you are….all the agony has lead to this. Cheers !!!

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