The World Health Organization has identified depression as the leading cause of ill health and disability worldwide. The prevalence of depression has increased by 18% since 2015, yet we know that fewer than half of people with depression seek and receive treatment. In recent decades, much research has focused on determining which treatments are most effective, and particularly on the differences between talk therapies such as cognitive therapy and antidepressant medications.
Here are some of the most intriguing findings:
- Cognitive therapy has been shown to be just as effective as medication in treating severe depression, in most cases.
- A number of studies suggest that the risk of relapse is lower following a course of cognitive therapy as opposed to antidepressant medication. This is likely because the goal of cognitive therapy is to teach individuals to recognize and restructure the negative thought patterns that drive depression, and this learning is protective against future episodes of depression.
- Antidepressants are among the most-prescribed prescription drugs worldwide. While they are necessary in some cases, most users will experience at least some of their adverse side effects such as nausea, fatigue, insomnia, constipation, weight gain, and sexual problems including loss of desire and erectile dysfunction.
- New research using MRI brain scans is providing us with more information about how depression affects neural connectivity in the brain, and early findings suggest that how our brains function can be key to determining which treatment will be most effective. Those who showed more connectivity between the brain’s emotional processing centers and other areas of the brain, for example, were more likely to be successful with talk therapy than with medication.
There is no one-size-fits-all treatment for depression, which is influenced by an individual’s unique genetic makeup, personal history, lifestyle, personality, and experience of their symptoms. If you are coping with depression, your physician and qualified therapist can work collaboratively to assist you to determine whether cognitive therapy, medication, or a combined approach is your best option for treatment.
By: Zoë Laksman, Psy.D, C.Psych and Laura Clarridge, Ph.D.
Zoë Laksman has practiced as a Registered Clinical Psychologist at The Clinic on Dupont since 2007. Laura Clarridge is a certified executive coach who helps her clients find fulfilling educational and career pathways. Their backgrounds and training have shaped their interest in promoting improved psychological health, interpersonal functioning and wellness. They work together as a clinical team and as the developers of The Clinic on Dupont’s online presence.