Treatment Options for Depression
Seeking treatment for depression is just as important as getting help for one’s MS. Depression rarely improves on its own and without treatment, it often gets worse.
Fortunately, depression is one of the most treatable of all MS symptoms, although specific treatment therapies are not the same for everyone. Individuals may need to try a few different approaches before finding a treatment plan that works best for them.
Taking a prescribed medication along with participating in psychological counseling appears to be the most effective treatment plan to alleviate depression. Treating depression with medication alone is generally not as effective as working in conjunction with a qualified professional therapist.
Many advances have been made with the drugs used to treat depression. The most frequently recommended medications for depression come from a class of drugs known as “selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors” (SSRIs). These antidepressant medications inhibit the reuptake of serotonin (a chemical produced within the body which is known to elevate mood), allowing it to remain in the body’s system longer.
Some of the more commonly prescribed SSRIs include Celexa®, Lexapro®, Paxil®, Prozac®, and Zoloft®. Unfortunately, some patients report experiencing side effects when taking these medications. Common side effects may include headache, nausea, sleeplessness, anxiety, drowsiness, and sexual dysfunction. These side effects may subside with time, or one’s doctor may adjust the prescription or dosage. Newer antidepressants include “serotonin
and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors” (SNRIs), such as Cymbalta® and Effexor®, with side effects that are similar to the SSRIs.
Other drugs which are not SSRIs (belonging to other drug classes), such as Desyrel®, Remeron®, Serzone®, and Wellbutrin®, are options which may result in fewer side effects. Numerous other drugs are also FDA-approved for the treatment of depression, many of which either augment another antidepressant, or are used to treat specific behaviors found in various types of depression – including anxiety, mood swings, manic episodes, insomnia, and excessive eating (among others). The key is to work closely with your treating physician and therapist to determine the correct drug and dosage that will work best for you.
When starting a prescribed treatment for depression, understanding that many of these drugs can take up to six weeks before reaching maximum effectiveness is important. If after six weeks you are not seeing any improvement in your symptoms, again consult with your doctor about adjusting your dose or switching to another medication.
Some patients find that monitoring their treatment progress by keeping a log of their symptoms is helpful. Since improvements may be gradual, this can be an effective way of documenting any changes you see in your mood. Suggestions include noting changes in appetite, energy, interest in activities, increases in socialization, increased sexual desire, as well as feelings of hope and optimism.
One note of caution, however, concerns the fact that patients often want to stop treatment once they start feeling better. Medications for depression usually need to be continued for at least four-to-nine months to prevent depression from quickly returning. For those with severe depression, medication may need to be continued indefinitely. Patients are advised not to alter the dose, stop taking medications, or combine a prescription with other medications, without first consulting their doctor. Of course, if a patient is experiencing an adverse reaction to the drug, a medical professional should be contacted immediately.
Some individuals may decide to try dietary supplements as a way to help improve their symptoms of depression. Examples of popular supplements which are promoted for depression include St. John’s wort and ginkgo biloba. Anyone considering any type of supplement should first consult his or her physician, as these can cause serious side effects and/or interactions with other medications. Additionally, many supplements have not undergone the same rigorous studies as FDA-approved medications, which means that both safety and effectiveness may not be fully established.