Antidepressants + therapy = better chance of recovery from depression

Antidepressants work better when combined with psychotherapy. (pic: istockphoto.com/jordachelr)

Experts say that antidepressants work better when combined with psychotherapy. (pic: istockphoto.com/jordachelr)

Antidepressants alone are not enough to recover from depression, according to a leading neuroscientist. Medication needs to be combined with counselling or psychotherapy for it to have a beneficial effect, says Professor Eero Castrén at the University of Helsinki.

Antidepressants work by opening neural pathways and restoring ‘plasticity’ in the brain. By reopening this plasticity, false connections in the brain can be addressed through therapy and through the patient’s own observations (much like children learn about the world by absorbing what’s going on around them). However, just taking antidepressants on their own doesn’t help to address any problems, fears or phobias.

Professor Castrén says: “By combining antidepressants and therapy, long-term effects can be achieved. Simply taking drugs is not enough. We must also show the brain what the desired connections should be.”

His findings back his earlier research published in Science that show “antidepressant drugs and psychotherapy combined are more effective in treating mood disorders than either treatment alone”.

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