When Antidepressants Aren’t Enough
People who suffer from depression are prescribed antidepressants because there is a place for them in managing this condition. However, for some people they may not be enough; for them, a combination of medication and psychotherapy yields better results. Here’s why.
The causes of depression
On a biological level, depression is caused by a chemical imbalance. While this is true, it isn’t the whole picture. We cannot forget the human factors that affect people at a psychological and emotional level, and these also contribute to the experience of depression.
Further, merely taking antidepressants doesn’t address the context of the depression nor the intensive support sometimes needed to recover from depression. Many people need something that takes into account their individual situation and how they got here in the first place. For many people, even the act of talking to an independent professional can be enormously effective.
The essential role of psychotherapy
Dr Nancy McWilliams, a noted psychiatrist, puts it well:
“People who are on medication for psychological problems with known neurochemical mechanisms still need psychotherapy. They need it in order to feel attached enough to someone who cares about them to have the motivation to keep taking their pills (Frank, Kupfer, & Siegel, 1995). They needed to handle their lives more effectively now that their psychopathology is under better control. They needed to talk about their feelings of being exposed as defective because of their dependency on prescribed drugs. They needed to address the issues that pushed them over some edge that activated their constitutional vulnerability. Sometimes, they need it because they have been told they have a ‘chemical imbalance’ and they wonder why, once the imbalance rectified, they still suffer so much.” (McWilliams, N. ‘Psychoanalytic Case Formulation’ 1999 The Guilford Press, New York p. 109).
Working towards a better outcome
Psychotherapy works well with antidepressants. The combination of the two is likely to be able to help you through the process better than antidepressants alone. It may also lead to a quicker and more sustainable outcome. It does this through a real person working with you to understand your history, your experiences and your needs. These are relevant factors that medication cannot treat on its own.
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– Tim Hill