Of course it is impossible to predict the treatment course of any particular patient. Nevertheless, I will offer some time frames based on my experience. I begin with psychopharmacological treatment of a patient with the typical symptoms of mood disorder: anxiety, OCD, insomnia, moodiness, depression, highs or feeling wired, irritability and poor concentration.
I take symptom reduction by a factor of, at least two-thirds, as the marker for treatment outcome. Treatment with a mood stabilizer (Depakote or Lithium) averages 2-4 weeks. This is usually followed by the addition of a serotonin agent, which adds another 2 weeks. Lastly, the majority of my patients have ADD/ADHD. Treatment with a stimulant takes a few additional weeks. This means that, lacking significant drug sensitivities, patients can be stabilized, often to a degree not experienced for a long time, within 6-10 weeks.
Crucial to psychiatric treatment success is total abstinence from drugs or alcohol. Although full medication compliance is expected, I do not expect a patient to take any drug that causes significant side-effects, including flatness of emotions. After successful symptom-alleviation, many patients choose to engage in intensive weekly psychotherapy. Here patients explore issues like their sense of identity, their ability to function in rewarding work, social and family relationships and perhaps to ask questions about the meaning of their life. Psychotherapy averages between 6-18 months or longer.
photo credit: Peter Weemeeuw