Does your antidepressant “kind of” work? If you feel better, but not good or normal, after starting a new antidepressant, you’re probably experiencing what’s known as a “partial response.” This can be very frustrating, and unfortunately many people assume that a partial response is the best they’re going to get, especially if their doctor hasn’t fully explained the possible outcomes of trying a new antidepressant. Also, a doctor that’s rushed or less than thorough may not query the patient in enough detail to realize that the response is only partial.
Fortunately, there are a few options to consider when you get a partial response to an antidepressant. All of these, except perhaps the exercise option, should be undertaken under your doctor’s care.
1. Increase dosage
In many cases, doctors will start a patient off on a low dose of an antidepressant, especially if there’s some concern about how well the patient will tolerate the medication. Most antidepressants have several possible dosage levels. Ask your doctor if it raising yours might give you a better response.
2. Augment your current antidepressant with another medication
Over the past decade or so, doctors have started augmenting antidepressant treatment with another medication. In some cases this medication is an antidepressant, and in other cases doctors will add an anti-seizure or anti-psychotic medication. The possibility of contraindication (a negative outcome when the two medications are combined) exists, so this must always be attempted under a doctor’s care.
Several studies have suggested that exercise can alleviate depression. Exercise not only relieves stress, which is believed to contribute to depression, but also gives you some immediate relief due to the endorphins that exercise produces.
4. Folic Acid
Folic acid is a low-cost way to supplement your antidepressant treatment. First, folic acid appears to enhance the performance of antidepressants. Second, a lack of folic acid is believed to contribute to depression. And third, some antidepressants are believed to deplete folic acid. Please note that no studies have been done on this topic since 1988, so these hypotheses are based mostly on anecdotal evidence.
Talk to your doctor first. You want to ensure that the folic acid will not contraindicate with your antidepressant or other medication you’re taking. It’s unlikely, but better safe than sorry. In addition, your doctor needs to be apprised of anything you’re using to augment your medication treatment.
5. Try a new antidepressant
Although I’ve listed this option last, it’s not necessarily the last thing you should try. The accepted reason for switching an antidepressant is if it does not alleviate the depression at all, but if your response to the antidepressant was minimal, your doctor may feel that switching to another medication altogether is a better course.
It’s very important to remember that you have a right to complete remission from depression on your antidepressant. It’s not asking too much. This is what is supposed to happen. If your doctor makes you feel that you should be satisfied with not being suicidal anymore or with feeling somewhat better, find another doctor.