Counselling Advice FAQ: Depression

By EssentialsMAG mental health & well-being contributor KIM PATEL


My doctor has diagnosed me with depression and wants to start me on anti-depressants, but I’m not sure whether I want to take tablets. Please can you help?


Scientists are not entirely sure on the causes of depression. Some believe that brain chemical imbalances lead to depression. We also know that experiences can contribute to the likelihood of a person developing depression, such as adverse childhood experiences, bullying, stress and anxiety, or as a reaction to a long-term health problem.

Whether you choose to take anti-depressant medication, or not, is entirely your choice. Most GPs would agree that taking anti-depressant medication would be treating the symptoms and not getting to the cause of the depression/low mood. Best practice therefore is to recommend talking therapy as a stand-alone treatment or in combination with medication.

It is not uncommon to experience a wide range of side-effects when you start taking anti-depressants as it takes time for the drug to reach a therapeutic level in your blood. You may be on them for six months (as a minimum), and anti-depressants should not be suddenly stopped due to potential side-effects. Indeed, with your GP reducing your dose over time you are also likely to experience side-effects. Always talk to your doctor before stopping your medication, and about any side-effects you are experiencing.

Side-effects may include loss of libido (sex drive), suicidal thoughts, panic and anxiety, insomnia, dry mouth or constipation. Side-effects which are common to your antidepressant will be listed in the patient information leaflet with your medication. Since alcohol is a depressant substance, drinking alcohol whilst taking anti-depressants is not advised due to a worsening of the depression and increasing some side-effects.

Just as there are several types of antidepressant, there are different types of counselling/talking therapy. One type of talking therapy is not superior to another. Just as you may need to try several anti-depressants to find a good fit, you may need to meet several counsellors.

Talking therapy helps you learn how to manage your symptoms, prevent relapse and understand your condition more fully. Mindfulness has a growing evidence base for preventing relapse in depression.

You are not alone, and there are many lifestyle measures (e.g. exercise) that can make a significant everyday difference guiding you towards recovery.

EssentialsMAG mental health & well-being contributor is Kim Patel from Ebb & Flow Counselling Tel: 07530 553 983

Victoria Lee