A reader asks: I was diagnosed with depression and started medication about six weeks ago. Unfortunately, this medication leaves me exhausted, and I sleep about 10 hours day. My run times have changed, and running seems to be harder and more of a struggle than it used to be. I need my medication, but I am so frustrated that it's slowing me down. It's also taking me longer to recover. Do you have any advice?
I am sorry this is happening to you. Depression is common, and fortunately there are better medications available now than when I started in medicine. I have many patients on depression medications and not every medication reacts the same in every individual. I also have many patients who are exercising and training without the medication side effects you are experiencing.
There are several medication options available to people with depression. Sometimes the solution is the timing of your current medication. If fatigue is a problem, moving the medication to the evening or bedtime will often solve the problem by using the adverse effect to improve another symptom (like difficulty sleeping if that is part of the problem for you). For others, a change of medication within the class or change to another class of medication can solve the problem. Occasionally it takes a few different options or combinations of medication to find the optimum treatment.
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At six weeks into your course of medication, you should be seeing some of the positives of the medication, and the side effects interfering with your training should be decreasing. I would suggest you meet with your physician to discuss how things are going for you and explore the other medication options open to you.
It is great that you have recognized your depression and you are seeking treatment. I appreciate you sharing your story. We lose too many people with undiagnosed depression. Athletes are not immune, and even though exercise can improve depression, it is not a complete treatment plan for most who are affected.
If you are reading this and have any of the following symptoms, you may benefit from meeting with your physician. People with depression may experience:
Mood disturbances: anxiety, apathy, general discontent, guilt, hopelessness, inability to feel pleasure, loss of interest, mood swings, or sadness
Sleep changes: early awakening, excess sleepiness, insomnia, or restless sleep
Whole body symptoms: excessive hunger, fatigue, loss of appetite, or restlessness
Behavioral changes: agitation, excessive crying, irritability, or social isolation
Cognitive issues: lack of concentration, slowness in activity and thought, or thoughts of suicide
Weight changes: weight gain or weight loss
Also common: poor appetite or repeatedly going over thoughts