Therapy is hard work. Even getting in the door that first time can take considerable effort. I am well aware that talking to someone you do not know can be difficult. Especially when you have experienced early or repeated trauma, have trouble feeling safe or knowing how or whom to trust. It takes time and a great deal of emotional investment to do the work of trauma recovery, or any kind of deep healing work. And let’s be frank, sometimes you may feel worse before you feel better. Or at least you may feel worse during some parts of the process.
For this and many other reasons, you may be tempted to give up before you’ve done the work you set out to do. Or maybe you feel somewhat better and decide that’s enough for now. A recent research study I came across via ScienceDaily reminded me of how often depressed clients give up on treatment, perhaps before it has a chance to be effective.
Psychiatrists typically recommend that depressed clients continue with antidepressant medications for at least 6 months and often up to a year after symptoms have subsided. It can take time to see any effect, and sometimes stopping prematurely may make matters worse.
A study conducted by Catalan researchers found that only one in five people completed treatment for depression. 56% of those treated with antidepressants stopped taking their medication during the first four months, and less than 25% continued their treatment for more than 11 months. Drop out occurred most in the very beginning of treatment. Men were even more likely to stop treatment early: 50% of men gave up their medication after two months, while 50% of women gave it up after three months.
The study also investigated the reasons why clients terminated treatment early, but alas this information is not included in the ScienceDaily summary. I know side effects and lack of quick enough results can be common reasons for discontinuing medication. In addition, the very nature of depression itself makes it challenging to do even the things that are likely to help!
Of course talk therapy differs in many ways from medication management. Still, it may be important for therapists and clients both to be aware of factors that can lead to giving up on treatment. Hopefully you can bring your questions and concerns about medication or talk therapy to your provider! Talking about your reasons for wanting to end treatment may actually be a valuable part of the therapy process; you may learn more about yourself and/or your relationship patterns!
I would like to encourage you to give yourself the time you need to fully heal, in whatever way you define that. If you are depressed, if you struggle with unresolved trauma or pain from your childhood please invest in yourself and your healing. Healing is in fact possible. Work towards seeing your providers as your partners in this endeavor: let them know what’s working and what is not. You do not have to do the hard work of therapy alone.
M. Catalina Serna, Inés Cruz, Jordi Real, Eduardo Gascó, Leonardo Galván. Duration and adherence of anti-depressant treatment (2003 to 2007) based on prescription data base. European Psychiatry, 25 (2010) 206-213
FECYT – Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology (2010, November 22). More than half of depression patients give up their treatment. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 27, 2010, from http://www.sciencedaily.com /releases/2010/11/101122111510.htm