Depression is a common mental health condition in the United States. According to recent data from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), about 7.1 percent of adults experience a depressive episode within a given year. Despite the high prevalence of depression, slightly over one-third of people with the condition do not receive treatment.
Part of the reluctance to receive depression treatment is associated with stigma. Research has shown that stigma toward mental illness is linked with negative attitudes toward seeking treatment. Furthermore, people who hold a stigmatized view of mental illness have been found to be more likely to attempt to manage mental health symptoms on their own. In the case of depression, patients may avoid treatment, including the use of medications, if they feel there is stigma associated with getting help.
The Effects of Stigma Regarding Medication Use
People may hold especially negative views of antidepressant medication, as data from the NIMH indicates that just 6 percent of those with depression receive treatment via medication alone. An additional 44 percent take medication and receive additional treatment from a health professional.
Research on stigma related to antidepressant use has found that people may have some misconceptions about antidepressants, which can lead to negative attitudes toward these medications. Some personal reasons for not taking antidepressant drugs, which can be related to misconceptions about these drugs, are as follows:
- The belief that antidepressant use is indicative of weakness: Some people may hold the belief that if an antidepressant medication is needed, it is because of an emotional weakness. People may feel compelled to attempt to manage depression symptoms on their own, because they do not want to feel as if they are too weak to cope with their emotions.
- Perception that antidepressants do not work: In some instances, people may believe that antidepressants do not work, so instead of seeking medication, they may try to manage symptoms on their own.
- Concerns over side effects: Individuals with depression may also worry that antidepressant drugs will come with side effects that change them for the worse. For instance, they may be concerned that the medications will lead to personality changes or mood swings, and that they’d be better off feeling depressed.
The above misconceptions and concerns can make people feel badly about considering antidepressants. Instead of taking medications that could relieve symptoms, they may avoid treatment altogether and accept depression as just being a part of life.
The Truth About Antidepressants
Individuals who live with depression may have some concerns about taking antidepressants, which is not entirely problematic. It is important to make informed decisions and to explore potential drawbacks before taking a new medication or agreeing to participate in a specific form of treatment.
While it is normal and even healthy to explore treatment options and to critically evaluate the pros and cons of each option, misconceptions about antidepressants can deter people from using these drugs in cases when they could be beneficial. Uncovering the truth about antidepressant drugs can alleviate some of the concerns that people have regarding these medications and help them to make better decisions about their treatment.
First, it is critical to debunk the myth that antidepressant use is somehow indicative of emotional weakness. In reality, just as things can go wrong with the heart or the lungs, requiring a person to take medication, people may also encounter problems with brain functioning, which can lead to mental health symptoms like depression. For people with depression, antidepressant medications can improve the way that the brain uses chemicals that control mood and stress, according to the NIMH. That being said, antidepressant use does not indicate a weakness; it simply confirms that there is a physiological problem in the body that can be corrected with medication, just as a condition like diabetes requires insulin to correct abnormalities with blood sugar regulation.
While it is true that antidepressants may come with side effects, there are a variety of medications on the market, and a doctor can work with you to determine the best medication for your needs. You may have to explore various medications to find the one that offers the greatest benefit with the fewest side effects. Ultimately, the relief that a person finds with antidepressant use often outweighs the side effects of these drugs.
Finally, it is important to address the fact that antidepressants have been found to be effective. In general, the combination of therapy and antidepressant medications is the most effective approach for treating depression. One study found that therapy combined with medication was more effective than medication alone, especially for patients with severe depression. When used alongside therapy, antidepressants can help to correct chemical and mood imbalances so that a person can work with a therapist to address any underlying issues that contributed to depressive symptoms. While not a magic pill for depression, these medications can play a role in helping people to alleviate symptoms.
TMS Services for Depression
The combination of therapy and antidepressants is effective in many cases, but some people may have treatment-resistant depression, meaning that they do not respond to this usual method of treatment. Fortunately, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) can be effective in the case of treatment-resistant depression. TMS is non-invasive and involves activating areas of the brain that play a role in mood through the use of pulses generated via electromagnetic coils.
For those in the Los Angeles area, Pulse TMS offers TMS services at conveniently scheduled times. Patients can expect to participate in 18 minute daily sessions, after which they are free to drive home or return to work. Oftentimes, patients will continue to work with other providers, such as a psychologist or psychiatrist, to continue to receive therapy and/or medications while undergoing TMS. Remember that reaching out for help is not a sign of weakness, but rather an indication that you are willing to take charge of your mental health. Contact us today to learn more.