Depression: Medication or Therapy?

This is often  one of the first questions that people ask themselves when they feel it is time to look for help. I’ve linked to a nice article by PsychCentral founder and CEO Dr. John Grohol that explains and lists the overall findings in scientific research on the topic. Talk therapy can work by itself. Medication can work by itself (although rarely in the long term unless combined with other treatment). But overall the studies agree (and there are a LOT of studies) that people suffering from depression get better, faster on a combination of treatment than on either treatment by itself.

Despite being a therapist and not working with medication, my advice is don’t be afraid of it. Sometimes medication is unnecessary or of no help.  But sometimes it can be life saving. Often it is the boost needed to get yourself into a position where other treatment, such as talking to a professional, is possible. Depression can overwhelm, and medication can be exactly what is needed to begin the healing process.

The stigma in Ireland around taking medication is a massive problem, and that in itself is massively detrimental to people seeking help.  There are so many new alternative therapies being touted every day, that often our friends and family, with the best of intentions, try to steer us away from medication out of fear of the unknown.  Because mental health isn’t spoken about as much as it should be, or in the way it should be, it is still very hard for people to understand it.  The brain is a hugely complex system and to medicate can be daunting.  Invisible illnesses have this extra problem. Mental illness can be demonised by the media, and we’re often terrified that taking a tablet means we’re “crazy”.  But the fact remains that with a physical illness, the first place we would go is to the doctor. Mental health is real health, and needs to be treated as such.  These aren’t just “negative” thoughts we need to get a grip on.  This is not our mind playing tricks on us.  With depression there is something wrong and it is utterly out of our hands. Our brain has experienced a change and it needs help.

Nobody can stop themselves from being unwell. We all get sick from time to time, and can’t don’t choose which illness we get. If you think you are depressed, find a psychiatrist or GP that is good on mental health and find a therapist you feel comfortable with.  Whether you reach for medication, therapy, or both, what is most important is that you reach out.  It can take some trial and error to find what works best for you, but taking the first step is key.

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