What follows is a plan for the effective treatment of depression that you can follow to ensure depression treatment works for you. It is based on the Roadmap for effective treatment of Treatment Resistant Depression from the 2011 book Treatment Resistant Depression: A Roadmap for Effective Care. The Roadmap is for physicians treating depression. Make Your Plan is written for you, the person being treated for depression. Successful depression treatment requires that the patient become knowledgeable about depression, that the patient becomes an expert (Yes, you can do it!)
1. If you suspect that you have depression or if your doctor diagnoses depression, perhaps the most important think you can do is to learn as much about depression as you can. The more you know about depression, medical treatment and psychotherapy treatment, the more likely you and your doctor will be successful in treating it. A very good website with lots of useful information and tools for you to get started is www.depressiontoolkit.org
2. During your depression treatment you and your doctor need to use formal questionnaires to determine how you are doing. A detailed list of forms (with links) that are useful in monitoring your depression treatment are in my post Monitoring Your Depression Treatment.
3. Be sure and get a complete medical evaluation (medical history, neurological exam, general physical exam, and lab tests) to make sure the depression isn’t being caused by a medical problem like thyroid disease. See my post Medical Causes of Depression for details.
4. Give your depression medicine time to work. We now know that it may take up to eight weeks to see if the medicine will help. If there is little or no improvement by eight weeks, it is probably time to try a different medicine. However, if there is improvement by eight weeks, stick with your medicine because it can take up to twelve weeks to get all the improvement your going to get from your medicine.
5. Don’t take any herbal medicines or over-the-counter medicines without first checking with the doctor because they can interfere with the depression medicine.
6. Participate in a regularly exercise program as that will enhance the effects of your depression medicine.
7. If your first medicine doesn’t help or doesn’t help enough, don’t give up. A different medicine might be what you need. Each person is different and there is no way to tell in advance which medicine work best for a given individual.