Q: I told a friend I was taking anti-depressants, and she was shocked. She said she'd pray I'd have "the strength to leave off taking drugs." She also told me I should eat better, get more exercise and pray. I'm discouraged, as I've tried these things and felt no better. At least with medication, I can face life. I have hope that some day I may cope without the pills, but for now I need them. What's your opinion?
A: You are doing the responsible thing at this time. I’m confident your doctor wouldn’t have suggested them if he or she didn’t think you showed symptoms of a depressive episode. Better eating, more exercise and prayer—all excellent practices—will not of themselves cure a major depressive episode.
Depression is a serious problem: one in four women and one in six men will suffer from clinical depression at some time. In the next 20 years, depression is predicted to become the second greatest cause of death and disability in the world, second only to heart disease.
If you suffered from diabetes or hypertension and your doctor prescribed medication, it would be considered irresponsible if you ignored the advice. In the same way, the prescription of anti-depressants is not something to ignore.
Taking antidepressants doesn’t mean you shouldn’t look after yourself in other ways. Getting daily exercise and eating a balanced diet is essential for all of us, and especially those who are battling with their physical or emotional health. Similarly, having a trusting relationship with God can only be to our benefit. The problem with depression is that the depressed person often doesn’t have the energy to do these things. Here’s where the antidepressants give a nudge in the right direction, giving energy that can be used to improve the condition of life.
Remember, you should talk to your doctor before reducing the dosage of your antidepressants or before you decide to leave off the medication. The reason is that a sudden reduction or withdrawal of the antidepressants will leave you feeling very low and distressed.
Your health is your responsibility. When other people make comments or offer suggestions, consider them thoughtfully, thank them for their concern, but do not let others decide what is best for you.