There are a wide range of treatment options for depression and anxiety, from medication to therapy and this can be overwhelming – especially if you are not familiar with what each option entails. Your doctor will decide what treatment should be best for you. It is important that if you are experiencing any concerns about your mental health, that you see your doctor immediately.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
Cognitive behavioural therapy is a talk therapy that tries to change the negative thoughts and beliefs you subconsciously hold whilst arming you with coping skills. It has a very strong evidence base for treating depression and anxiety. This type of treatment is one-on-one and can be expensive, however, if you are in the UK, you can access free CBT if your doctor believes it will be beneficial, however there can be long waiting lists depending on where you live.An online CBT course called “Beating the Blues” is available quickly, free of charge in the UK, upon doctor’s referral. This course is quite generic, as it is produced to suit a wide variety of issues, but I believe that it contains a lot of useful information and will teach you positive coping strategies. And after all, there is no harm in trying – stick with it and you might see an improvement. You can complete this course in your own time and you don’t have to speak to anyone online or otherwise, so it could be a great option for those with social anxiety. This course is also available to buy for much cheaper than sessions with a therapist. Check out this book which will also teach you all about CBT.
A lot of people may be hesitant to try medication – it does sound extreme and you may worry that you will be reliant on it forever. However, the important thing to keep in mind is that should you experience any side effects or change your mind, after speaking with your doctor, you can cease to take them. What works for someone else might not work for you and it is perfectly normal to adapt dosage regimens and medications to find the optimal treatment. In addition, some medications are for long-term usage, some are for short-term and some are only used occasionally (e.g. high stress situations, like flying).
BENZODIAZEPINES – anxiety
This class of drug is sedating and relieves anxiety. It includes diazepam, alprazolam and oxazepam, which have the brand names, Valium, Xanax and Serax respectively. Due to the addictive nature of these drugs and as they are abused so often, doctors are wary about supplying them. If you are in acute crisis, the doctor may prescribe them but it is unlikely for mild anxiety. They have side effects such as drowsiness (especially if mixed with alcohol) and confusion, and you should not drive whilst taking them. They are prescribed commonly for short-term use and should only be taken when required; many people use these to cope with a fear of flying. They begin to work within fifteen minutes and have an effect for up to six hours, which is useful if you need sudden relief from anxiety.
SELECTIVE SEROTONIN RE-UPTAKE INHIBITORS – depression and anxiety
This type of antidepressant is first-line treatment and drugs under this class are fluoxetine, citalopram and sertaline that are also known by the brand names of Prozac, Celexa and Zoloft. It works by stopping the breakdown of the serotonin that your brain has naturally produced to increase its levels and fix the chemical imbalance. If you do not respond to the initial dose and drug, an increase in dosage or switch to a different drug may be considered.
MONOAMINE-OXIDASE INHIBITORS – depression
This is an uncommon drug as it has a few interactions with food and other drugs, however, it is effective for those who haven’t responded to other treatments. This medication also stops the removal of the natural serotonin in the brain. Drugs in this class include phenelzine, isocarboxaid and tranylcypromine.
TRICYCLIC AND RELATED ANTIDEPRESSANT DRUGS – depression and anxiety
This works by blocking the removal of serotonin and noradrenaline from the brain, to correct the balance. Some drugs in this class can be sedating, which is useful for anxiety, but some are less so. Commonly prescribed drugs in this class are amitriptyline, clomipramine and imipramine. They can also be used to treat bedwetting in children.
BETA BLOCKERS – anxiety
Beta blockers help to alleviate the physical symptoms of anxiety, such as palpitations and sweating by reducing heart rate. They begin to work in a few hours and a common side effect is drowsiness. Unfortunately, beta blockers cannot be used by asthmatics therefore an alternative drug should be prescribed.
When you start your medication, you should be informed of the length of time it will take to work. It takes two weeks to see an effect with most antidepressants and it may take as long as six weeks to see the full result. You should also note down any side effects that you experience and discuss them with your doctor. At the start of your treatment, your doctor may want to see you every two weeks and as you recover the frequency of appointments will reduce. Antidepressant treatment is recommended up to 2 years after remission, depending on your specific circumstances. Stopping medication suddenly can be very dangerous, therefore it is essential that you discuss with your doctor before you come off of any drugs.
Whilst some people swear by herbal remedies, they don’t have a solid evidence base to back up their claims, therefore, the positive outcomes of taking these remedies could be a placebo effect. I, personally, am wary that herbal medicines can exploit the desperation of people seeking cures to their ailments and would not recommend them. But if they work for you, and do not interact with any other medication then it is perfectly safe to continue using them.There are many different treatments available for anxiety and depression and you might need to try a few before you find the right one for you. You can also use some in combination, such as CBT and antidepressants, and lifestyle changes are also very effective. Your mental health is extremely important so you might be apprehensive to try a treatment, but remember there is evidence behind medication and therapy. I hope this helps you to feel more comfortable with the choices you can make as you are more informed.