I receive many questions about medication, oftentimes from individuals who, like you, have tried almost every antidepressant and still feel that their condition has barely or not at all improved. It could be that depression medication acts as a numbing agent and in some cases, may not be a very effective treatment for depression.
Some people say that the medication helped them to feel less depressed but they also report, as did you, that it made them unable to experience any emotions. It might also be that the medication not only numbed your emotional pain but taking the medication may have prolonged your depression recovery.
It is plausible that the medication may falsely give the impression that an individual’s emotional situation has improved but in reality, no real improvement has taken place. If medication serves as a temporary “band-aid,” numbing emotional pain, an individual may incorrectly believe that he or she has “treated” their depression. If the depression was never treated or it was simply “covered up” or “blocked” by the medication, then the real source of the depression may remain untreated. The harm in this approach is wasted time. That is, time not spent trying to understand or treat the real source of the depression. If the source of the depression remains, in this way, the medication may prolong or inhibit the improvement process.
Please do not misunderstand my message. Medications can work to help decrease depression but they typically need to be used in conjunction with some form of psychotherapy. Used alone, medicine for depression seems to offer, for many, only very limited relief.
A few months ago, there was a psychiatric pharmaceutical company running an ad on television that stated that studies showed that more than 70 percent of individuals who took antidepressant drugs still experienced depression. The ad also stated that individuals who took antidepressant drugs were encouraged to seek other forms of treatment such as psychotherapy. I mention this because it was interesting to hear a drug company that was marketing an antidepressant medication admit in a television advertisement that a majority of antidepressant users found medication to be largely ineffectual. It seems that even the manufacturers of antidepressants suggest that medication only is not a very effective form of treatment for depression. Effectively treating depression takes more than medication alone. It often takes psychotherapy in addition to or in place of medicine.
You lived through several traumatic experiences. You felt depression, sadness and probably many other feelings regarding the unfortunate situations that have occurred in your life. The feelings that you experienced, regarding these issues, probably were part of a normal reaction to those life events. While those experiences where extremely painful, it might have been more beneficial for you to have felt those unpleasant emotions and learned how to manage them. It may have been helpful for you to have learned these life skills.
I do not know if you should increase your medication or try another but if you have never tried psychotherapy, you should consider it. Maybe then you can learn how to “feel” again, deal with your past issues and finally find a way to decrease or eliminate your depression.
This article has been updated from the original version, which was originally published here on August 11, 2008.