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Why Does My Antidepressant Medication Not Work Anymore?

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One common complaint among many depressed patients is that their medication no longer works. The majority of individuals notice that the depression just will not go away with the medication that helped them previously. So what gives?

Well, failure of anti depressants to work on long-term basis has been known for decades. The exact number of people affected by this so called “pooping out” effect is not known, but is said to be quite high – at least 20%-40% of individuals.

This phenomenon where anti depressants fail to wok has not been thoroughly studied but there are a few speculations as to why this may happen.

Most psychiatrists feel that depression is a chronic disease that does get worse with age. Why depression worsens with age is not understood but is felt to be due to depletion of certain neurochemicals in the brain. With age, the depressive episodes also are more frequent and more intense. Often the depression is affected by daily stresses in life and is harder to control

In a few individuals, the reason why anti depressants fail to work all of a sudden is presence of another medical disorder. The most common disorder that can worsen depression is hypothyroidism. If you are on an anti depressant and the medication fails to work, go and get your thyroid hormone levels checked out.

Often the failure of medications to work is because of interaction with other medications. Most individuals who are on anti depressants are on a hodge podge of many different medications, including sleeping pills, sedatives and anti anxiety pills. In many cases, the use of the other depressant drugs or even alcohol has been found to be the reason why anti depressants no longer work.

There are rare cases when the there has been a confusion in the diagnosis. Often some individuals are diagnosed with depression when they actual have manic depression, a disorder where depression is a well-known element.

Whenever an anti depressant fail to work, your health care professional will adjust the dose. Sometimes an additional drug may be added or a completely new class of anti depressant drug may be prescribed.

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EmpowHER Guest

This phenomenon where anti depressants fail to wok has not been thoroughly studied but there are a few speculations as to why this may happen.

Fail to WOK?

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April 2, 2012 - 12:18pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

I am going stir crazy.

October 23, 2012 - 2:47pm
EmpowHER Guest

I just found an antidepressant that worked for the first time a few weeks ago. Then yesterday I felt a bout of depression for the first time since (a ghoulish experience, that can't garner sympathy from surrounding people since it's so 'beyond' what most can relate to in terms of mood, and related symptoms). I couldn't believe it. But, if it stays like this, including a mood induced headache that compels you to hide under a blanket to 'shut the world out', it will confirm the thoughts of depression to be 'right' again. Life is negative. Positivity in life is too good to be true etc.
But for the AD to stop working after just a few weeks, no? Perhaps it's possible to feel bouts of deep depression even while on a medication that's effective for you? Well, let's hope, as opposed to this being an all-out 'poop out'. Depression, when it's real, is hell. It ruins everything. regards.

September 28, 2010 - 3:52pm

I suffered from depression for many years, including most of my childhood -- so many years that I can't even begin to count. I was told time and time again that my depression was incurable, and that it would worsen with age. Just like it says in the above article. Well, I beg to differ. Whoever tells a depressed person that depression is incurable is absolutely wrong. And simply feeding the person's depression. When I once listened to a doctor tell me that I was doomed to have depression for the rest of my life, I felt like considering suicide. That was the most irresponsible and cruel thing a doctor could have told me. The fact is, depression is indeed treatable and curable. It's a matter of re-educating your brain. When you get caught in the cyclical hold of depression, and have time after time of depression episodes, your brain gets caught in this pattern. When you're medicated effectively and can avoid depressive episodes for an extensive length of time, you can pull out of the cycle. I was able to move beyond my depression with the help of an awesome psychiatric nurse practitioner, and it took a long time to accomplish it -- to get to a place where I no longer needed to be on an anti-depressant. And where I could not only function where I no longer wanted to crawl into bed and hang out in the fetal position, but actually lead a very happy, fulfilling life. Fortunately, I had the help I needed to become empowHered to conquer my depression. It is possible -- don't allow anyone to tell you otherwise.

March 12, 2009 - 10:02pm
(reply to Kristin Davis)

Kristin, I am so glad you took the time to tell your story and to tell how you recovered. I agree that being told a depression can never go away is about the worst thing a depressed person could ever hear. That feeling of "I must live with more of the same, until it gets worse" is almost a guarantee against recovery.

Congratulations for finding a psychiatric nurse practitioner who was such a help to you, and I'd encourage you to write a post simply on how you found her or him. I think that many people do not know where to start when they have decided they may need to ask for help.

March 16, 2009 - 9:06am
(reply to Diane Porter)

You're right -- I'll do that. I was extremely fortunate to find a good doctor. So many times women go to their OB/Gyn's or primary care physicians for mental health care, which I feel is a HUGE mistake. Those doctors do not specialize in the brain. How can they possibly know all there is to know about anti-depressants, including the lastest in studies, etc.?? I've been messed up more than once by well-meaning doctors who wrote me prescriptions for what they believed was a good anti-depressant, simply because they'd been educated by the drug rep. visiting their office. But I was too ill at the time to advocate for myself -- I just wanted the "magic pill" -and fast- to make me feel better so I could go about my life and care for my children. When I finally found an awesome psychiatric nurse practitioner, she considered the two of us a team and allowed me to be empowered to become educated in and participate in my care. She taught me that the well-meaning doctors had been a lot more detrimental than helpful in my care by feeding me a variety of anti-depressants and adjusting the doses up and down without knowing how that was affecting the wiring of my brain. I got stuck in a roller coaster of depression that I'm sure many people are caught in simply because they (and their doctors) don't know any better.

March 16, 2009 - 10:10am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Kristin Davis)

This may be a stupid question, but just how do you know when you have a good doctor and are there any self help sites that you used that could be useful to us? I have been suffering with depression most of my life and can tell my anti depressant is not working. While I am not suicidal (only because of my children) I also have no will to live.

July 21, 2009 - 9:38am
(reply to Anonymous)

Hi there! No, that's not a stupid question at all. I think most of us find it easier to just depend on our doctors to provide us with the best care, but unfortunately that's not always the case. We really have to be actively involved as a team member along with our doctors to ensure that we're receiving the care we need. And that's a lot easier said than done when you're ill.

My heart goes out to you, and I can honestly tell you that I've been where you are -- without the will to live, and only my babies keeping me going each long and horribly dark day. I suffered from depression for far too long, and one of the reasons was because I had a doctor telling me that I would always be depressed and would always have to take an anti-depressant. That turned out not to be the case at all. Just based on my own experience, I believe that the way to tell that you have a good doctor is that you start feeling better and you become healthy, with the help of that doctor. It sounds like you're not getting better, and that your medication isn't working. That's a sure sign that you're not receiving the care you need and deserve.

Are you able to search for a new doctor? Do you need help finding one? I'm also wondering if you have someone very supportive in your life who can help you get better care. When you're depressed, it can be impossible to do even the simplest tasks, like making a phone. Believe me, I've been there. It's important to have someone you can depend on who can help be your advocate. If you need help finding someone to help you, please let me know. There is a strong network of volunteers around the country who help women who are experiencing depression, and I'd be happy to reach out to them for you.

July 21, 2009 - 3:12pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Kristin Davis)

I have been suffering with depression for a while - severely for some several years. And no I don't have any support at home. My husband just thinks I have gotten lazy. He spends most of his time at work - "because he can't stand to be around me" - yes that's his exact words and they hurt terribly. I have read and read books. I live in a small town where there is few doctors to choose from. In fact I am driving 100 miles one way once a week for counseling that just does not seem to be helping either. Like you I would like to get well and be able to get off the meds. How can I find out about doctors in my area or within 100 miles anyway? I seriously doubt there are any here. I would rather not put my email in a post. Thanks so much for your help.

July 22, 2009 - 7:01am
(reply to Anonymous)

Hi again! Please feel free to email me directly any time at kdavis@empowher.com. I would love to help you in any way I can.

July 22, 2009 - 10:42am
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