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New Antidepressant Guidelines

Depression – how can your GP help?

The pandemic has seen depression rates almost double from 2019 to 2021, with 1 in 8 adults experiencing severe depressive symptoms.[1]

According to the NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA), between the months of October and December 2020, 20 million antidepressants were prescribed, a 6% increase compared to the same months in 2019.[2]

We all experience days when we feel more on top of things and days when we feel lower. When we face feelings of low mood, many of us have resources to help. These might include taking part in exercise, talking to a friend or family member, or taking time out to do something we enjoy. However, if low mood persists, is concerning you or you are struggling to function in your day-to-day life, you may want to seek advice and support from a professional source. 

Some people assume that their GP has only one tool to offer, antidepressants. If you’re worried about taking medication or don’t think it’s right for you, this might be a barrier to seeking support from your doctor. In reality, if you choose to talk to your GP, they might offer online resources, a limited period of talking therapy or antidepressants. However, the range of options your GP can offer is likely to change in the future.

A wider choice of options from your GP

New National Institute of Health Care and Excellence (NICE) guidelines, scheduled for publication in May this year, may mean that soon our GPs will offer a wider range of options, such as therapy, exercise, mindfulness or meditation, before offering antidepressants.

“Not every treatment will suit every person,” states Nav Kapur, Professor of Psychiatry and Population Health at the University of Manchester and Chair of the guideline committee.[3] With these new guidelines, patients will be involved in picking what treatment may be best suited to them. 

So, if you are suffering with milder symptoms, you could be offered CBT as a first treatment, helping to learn coping skills by focusing on thoughts, beliefs and attitudes. Behavioural activation is another form of treatment that might be available, which recognises how our behaviour impacts our mood. Patients who might tend to focus on behaviours that drive negative thoughts and feelings would be encouraged to increase their engagement in positive behaviours.[4]

If you are moderately or severely depressed, antidepressants could still be offered. They work by helping to boost chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters, which can help to regulate your mood and may make things seem more manageable.

What’s the right support for you?

While the GP’s menu of treatments might expand, there will still be the option for you to consider whether you want support from independent practitioners. Particularly if you were suffering with more severe symptoms, you may wish to see a counsellor alongside taking medication. You may want a different kind of therapy than that offered by your GP, or you may want a more open-ended period of support. 

The sequence in which you might seek different kinds of support will also vary from one person to the next. There’s no rule. You might start off seeking help through talking to a counsellor and explore in your counselling the possibility of seeking your GPs advice. Conversely, a course of antidepressant medication might help you become emotionally stable enough to find therapy helpful and be able to engage in the process more fully. In this situation, therapy may help you explore and address the underlying issues and reduce the frequency or impact of future bouts of depression.

The therapists at Bramham Therapy will be able to help you discuss your situation. However mild or severe your feelings of depression are and whether or not you’ve spoken to your GP about your situation, we can help you explore the right options for you.

Read more about our view on antidepressants here

Read more about how you can protect your mental health during the pandemic here Protect Your Mental Health during Covid-19 – Bramham Therapy


[1] Coronavirus and depression in adults, Great Britain – Office for National Statistics (ons.gov.uk)

[2] Antidepressant prescribing up 6% in last three months of 2020 – The Pharmaceutical Journal (pharmaceutical-journal.com)

[3] NICE creates new menu of treatment options for those suffering from depression | News and features | News | NICE

[4] Behavioural Activation: Behavioural Therapy For Depression Treatment (positivepsychology.com)

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