Dear Dr. Yael,
I am struggling with depression and anxiety. I am currently seeing a therapist, but I am still having a hard time. I do not know what to do. I am reluctant to take medication because I am against medication in general and I also feel like I should be able to work hard enough to overcome my struggles without medication. On the other hand, I want to get better and be a better wife, mother, etc. What is your opinion on medication for depression and anxiety?
I am so sorry that you are suffering. Depression and anxiety are real diseases that can affect us greatly, sometimes beyond our control. Therapy, by itself, can help many people overcome their depression, anxiety and other emotional hurdles. Therapy can provide a safe, supportive environment to work through people’s thoughts, feelings and experiences, all of which can be overwhelming. Through this process, many people feel they are empowered to overcome some of their struggles and they learn techniques to help them calm themselves and improve their mood. It is also important to work on building your self esteem as this will help you feel stronger and more able to conquer your emotional difficulties. However, although it can be transformative, sometimes therapy on its own isn’t enough.
In answer to your question, I feel that some people need an adjunct to therapy that can help them develop more stability in how they experience and deal with life. Medication designed to help with these issues can aid in making therapy more effective from the provider’s perspective and more productive for the client, including with day-to-day living in between sessions. It could also, on its own, address and treat certain issues in ways that may lie outside the scope of therapy.
Medication has nothing to do with “how strong you are” or how hard you work. No one should ever feel inferior because they needed to use medication to help them overcome their depression, anxiety, or any other emotional difficulties. If you were diagnosed with a medical condition, would you feel bad that you have to take the prescribed medication? Would you ever say to yourself that you should be strong enough to overcome strep or another bacterial infection on your own? Emotional conditions are no different than medical conditions and should be thought of and treated the same way!
While psychotherapists generally do not prescribe medication, they can often identify the potential need and recommend that a client go to a psychiatrist for evaluation. Seeing a therapist can help with this as well, as the experience of receiving treatment from a psychiatrist, feeling its negative associations in society, and embarking on a medication regimen can seem daunting.
Once it’s started, however, and with the close involvement of the psychiatrist and therapist, medication can prove successful in helping people break through barriers they face in seeking contentment and satisfaction in their personal, home and work lives as well as in relating to themselves. Medication can help augment therapy and help people feel well enough to do the hard work you described. Finding the right combination of medication is imperative, so please do not give up if you do not feel relief right away. Unfortunately, psychiatric medication is not as exact of a science as other medication and may need more trial and error and tweaking.
Please seek the help you need in order to make your therapy more effective. Your bravery to reach out to me for help and to get the therapeutic help you need is admirable! Hatzlocha with finding the right tools to help you be a better you!