COMMENTARY Treating depression
Regardless of what you may have heard, depression is not a weakness, a flaw or simply the result of a chemical imbalance in the brain. It is caused by a combination of biological ( including genetics), social and psychological factors. Treatment that focuses on only one of these factors is not likely to be as beneficial as one that addresses all three.
There are many forms of treatment available. The important thing is to find what works best for you. Depression is a complicated disorder. No two individuals are alike so there is no simplistic answer when it comes to depression. However, today the most common approach is a combination of medication and psychotherapy.
A number of different therapy approaches may be utilized depending on the severity of the depressive episode and the resources available within the community. Most psychotherapeutic approaches emphasize the client taking a proactive approach in therapy cognitive- behavioral therapy is the most common approach with extensive, long- term research showing it to be both safe and effective.
It consists of simple techniques which focus on a person’s internal dialogue. It is less concerned with the causes of depression than what a person can do right now to help change the way they are feeling. It targets thoughts and behaviors as the mechanisms of change for unwanted or debilitating emotions.
When a person is so debilitated that they cannot actively participate in therapy, medication and a supportive environment become the treatment of choice until the person regains sufficient energy to participate in treatment. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are the most commonly prescribed medications ( Paxil, Zoloft, Wellbutrin to name a few).
While generally considered safe and effective, there are a few long- term studies. Therefore, care should be utilized when taking these medications for more than a year. Always consult your physician before beginning or stopping a medication. As with all medications, there are side effect.
Electroconvulsive shock therapy is used for depression that is severe and has proven unresponsive to other forms of treatment. While it sounds horrifying, it has been shown to have remarkable therapeutic effect when everything else has failed.
Last, but not least, is self- help, which is too often overlooked by the experts. Support groups may be very effective. Books ( such as “ The Feeling Good Handbook”) are widely available and beneficial to many, especially those whose symptoms are mold to moderate.
Depression is treatable. It need not rob you of your life. Reach out for help if you need it. Help is available.