Is Your Depression Treatment Working?

Major depressive disorder (MDD), also known as clinical depression, major depression, or unipolar depression, is one of the most common mental health disorders in the United States. More than 15.7 million U.S. adults had at least one depressive episode in 2014 — that’s about 6.7 percent of the U.S. population over the age of 18.

A key aspect in evaluating the success of your treatment is measuring how well your symptoms and side effects are being controlled. Sometimes, even if you’re sticking with your treatment plan, you may still experience any number of residual symptoms, including risk of suicidality and functional impairment.

Here are some questions to ask yourself and others to ask your doctor if you have MDD.

Are you seeing the right doctor?

Primary care physicians (PCPs) can diagnose depression and prescribe medications, but there’s wide variability in both the expertise and comfort level among individual PCPs. Seeing a healthcare provider who specializes in treating mental health conditions may be the best option for you. These providers include psychiatrists, psychologists, and other mental health counselors. It’s important to note, all PCPs are licensed to prescribe antidepressants, but most psychologists and counselors are not.

Are you using only one form of treatment?

Most patients will see the most beneficial results when their depression treatment consists of both medication and psychotherapy. If your doctor is using only one type of treatment, and you feel that your condition isn’t being treated thoroughly, ask about adding a second component, which may increase your chances of success and recovery.

Do you have unresolved symptoms?

The goal of treatment for depression isn’t to relieve some symptoms, rather it’s to relieve all symptoms. If you have any lingering symptoms of depression, talk to your doctor about them. They can help you adjust your treatment plan to alleviate them.

Has your sleep pattern changed?

An irregular sleep pattern is one of the first signs that your depression isn’t being treated correctly. For most people with depression, insomnia is the biggest problem. However, some people feel as if they cannot get enough sleep, despite many hours of sleep each day, this is called hypersomnia. If your sleep pattern is changing, or you begin having renewed sleep problems, talk with your doctor about your symptoms and treatment plan.

Have you considered suicide?

More than 90 percent of people who commit suicide are depressed or have another serious mental health disorder. If you have thought about suicide, or a loved one has expressed thoughts of taking their life, get help right away. Contact a healthcare professional, or seek help from a mental health provider.

Are you having complications associated with untreated depression?

If left untreated, depression can have a serious impact on a person and their family. It can lead to other complications, both physical and emotional, including:

  • alcohol abuse
    • substance abuse
    • anxiety disorder
    • family conflicts or relationship problems
    • work- or school-related problems
    • social isolation or difficulty building and maintaining relationships
    • suicide
    • immune disorders

Are you using the correct medication?

Several different types of antidepressants may be used to treat depression. Antidepressants are typically categorized by which chemicals (neurotransmitters) in the brain they affect. Finding the right medication may take some time as you and your doctor work through the various categories of antidepressants, monitoring to see what, if any, side effects you experience.

Talk with your doctor about your medication regimen. Treatment of depression usually requires both medication and psychotherapy in order to be successful.