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Depression

 

Winston Churchill called it his ¨Black Dog”, and suffered greatly through bouts of depression for most of his life. 

It is a very common condition, and generally it involves  a feeling of persistent sadness and  feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. It involves not only mood but also feelings of being physically ill and of not being able to think clearly.  It can lead to self harm and suicide 

Depression is one of the most common conditions in the West, affecting at least 20% of people during their lifetime. It is also one of the most misunderstood. Often, people who suffer from depression are afraid to seek help, partly because of the stigma attached to it in the minds of some.   Depression is an illness just the same as a broken leg is an illness, and there´s no shame in having a broken leg, is there?  Depression totally destroys the quality of our lives, especially if it is left untreated.  Appropriate treatment often leads to full recovery 

Successful treatment can involve a variety of different approaches, including self-help, psychotherapy and/or medication.  Depression is not simply ´feeling low´.  We all feel down from time to time, but usually, these feelings pass after a couple of weeks, and we´re back to our usual selves.   When someone suffers from depression, these feelings just do not go away, and are often accompanied by some of the following symptoms:

  • Mood changes during the day. It's often worse in the morning, improving as the day goes on - but the pattern can be the other way around.
  • Poor sleep, usually waking early, feeling afraid and being unable to get back to sleep
  • Feelings of anxiety or guilt
  • Poor appetite
  • Tearfulness for no reason
  • The future often looks bleak
  • Tiredness, and an inability to enjoy things that used to be fun
  • Withdrawal from friends and society.
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There are many more symptoms, some physical, and it´s important to realize that depression is experienced differently by different people.  As we have said, depression can lead to suicidal thoughts.   Life can seem so bad that it seems the only way out of the prison of depression.   If you feel that you are suffering from depression and have thoughts of suicide please see your doctor. Now. Don´t wait.

For those of you who have loved ones struggling with this problem, just telling them to “Buck Up” is a waste of time.  They need your support, even if you don´t understand what they are going through.   

First of all, no-one really knows just why depression happens.  The current thinking is that the commonest form of depression is a reaction to loss, and that can be a loss of any kind – a loved one, a job, a lifestyle or even one´s own self esteem.   It is clear, however, that depression is accompanied by chemical changes in the brain.  Some of the chemical messengers that make up our neural networks become disrupted.   

Taken together, these suggest a clear route to the treatment of depression.  Firstly, the chemical imbalances in the brain can be corrected using prescription drugs, which have evolved considerably over the last few years.   I´m sure we have all read horror stories about the results of taking Prozac or its clones, but quite frankly, these do little justice to the immense help that similar compounds have given to millions of people.  

Since Prozac, anti depressants of the SSRI (serotonin specific reuptake inhibitor) type continue to improve.  Many people react with distaste if it is suggested to them that they might consult their doctor and take anti depressant medication if it is offered, but really, it is no different to a diabetic taking insulin – the medication simply controls a chemical imbalance in the body.  It usually takes a couple of weeks before the benefits of anti-depressants are felt, and it is important to understand that these medications treat only the symptoms, not the cause of depression.   

Recent research – and this is confirmed by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence in the UK – has concluded that the best approach to treating depression is to combine psychotherapy with anti depressant medication.   There appears to be a synergistic effect takes place when the two are combined, making for a rapid improvement in the condition, much more so than when either approach is used on its own.  It has been proven too that the most effective psychotherapy available is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, which is a means by which people learn to re-evaluate their perceptions of the world around them, and how they react to what happens in their daily life.    Very often, in depression, our perceptions are distorted or over-generalised, contributing to a worsening of the depressive state.  

If you suffer from depression, you don´t have to ´live with it´ or ´just get on with it´ 

Depression is treatable, and can be cured.  It is true that depression can re-occur later, but again, it can be treated.   We would strongly advise those of you who believe you are suffering from depression to talk to your GP about it, and to seek help along the lines we have suggested.  We have been able to help hundreds of clients to deal with their depression - and we can probably help you.

 

 

 

   
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