Seven Essential Depression Treatments

There are severe short comings in restricting depression treatment to anti depressants and psychological counselling. Whilst these approaches are appropriate for some people, to assume these are the only strategies that someone should follow is extremely problematic.

One of the big issues is that the term “depression” covers a myriad of conditions. For example, reactive depression comes after a person goes through an adverse experience, whereas melancholic depression seems to come from nowhere and appears to be biological in nature. Thought leading psychiatrists will often treat these two types of depression in a different way. Because depression is a complex illness with often many contributing factors, it is best to consider not just those things that improve one’s mood from suicidal to struggling, but also to consider the things that are capable of leading to a more fulfilling life after recovery.

In research done for my first book, and separately by the Black Dog Institute (one of the world’s foremost mood disorder research units) sufferers were asked which depression treatments work best. From this direct dialogue, a much more holistic picture emergences regarding the most effective strategies. From this research and from interviewing thousands of people who suffer from depression and their loved ones, we have formed a list of 7 essential depression treatments which are in order: exercise, support of family and friends, psychological counselling, fulfilling work, meditation/relaxation, nutrition, and medication.

1. Exercise

Both research studies showed that exercise is the most effective depression treatment and there are only positive side effects not just for mental health but also physical health. Exercise is free which is probably why relatively little research funding has been directed towards evaluating it’s effectiveness for treating depression (compared to medication). Dr Andrea Dunn from the US has studied the amount of exercise necessary to have an impact on depression, and found that the equivalent of 30 minutes brisk walk 6 days a week is as effective as or better than all medications.

2. Support of family and friends

Those with depression will tell you how important the support of loved ones are for overcoming depression which is ironical as it is the family and friends who often report that they feel pushed away during this trying period. When interviewing both parties who had been living with the problem for a while, they recommended the following approach: learn about the different types of depression and most effective treatment strategies, improve communication, find the right mental health help for the depression sufferer, help build a support network for them, and find help and support for the caregiver.

3. Psychological Counselling

The psychological depression treatments shown to be most effective are Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), Interpersonal Therapy (IT), and Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT). CBT shows the client how to challenge unhelpful thinking through writing down some of these negative thoughts and then disputing them. IT shows people how to be more assertive in their relationships as it has been shown that those with depression are often quite passive in establishing their wants and needs. MBCT combines the mindfulness meditation techniques with the principles of CBT.

4. Fulfilling Work

It has been well documented how important fulfilling work (whether paid or voluntary) is to one’s mental health. It was quite surprising however, that those with depression rated it above medication for example. I know from interviewing over 6000 people during my 12 years working in recruitment that a huge percentage of people (some studies show up to 60 percent) aren’t engaged in their work and don’t really enjoy it. Retrenchments and the longer hours brought on to those remaining in the workplace, only exacerbate the problem. The key is to identify work which allows you to utilize skills that you enjoy using and are also good at.

5. Relaxation/Meditation

The ability to sit with yourself without interruption is one of the losses in today’s 24/7 life. Being able to experience peace is an essential skill in this world of constant stimulation and distraction. For some people that may be meditation, for others it might be listening to music, playing with a pet, gardening, sewing or pursuing other hobbies. Many people report this is a very difficult thing to do when you are very busy, but with practice it rewards those that persist. It is also important to have enough sleep each night to feel replenished. Whilst many people with depression find this particularly difficult, there are proven methods to make our sleep more restful.

6. Nutrition

Whilst much has been made of the necessity of eating well for good physical health it is interesting to see how highly the right nutrition rates for mental health. There are many websites and books on this topic but they basically come down to eating a diet high in fresh fruits and vegetables with some lean protein. Drinking plenty of water, eating fish (or taking Omega 3 supplements) and getting vitamin D through exposure to sunlight have also been shown to be very helpful. Only moderate levels of alcohol should be consumed.

7. Medication

Whilst for some people medication can be a godsend for improving their mood, for others it can be an extremely frustrating path which seems to be explored by trial and error. What makes it very difficult, is that whilst one drug can work wonders for one person, the same drug can be ineffective and cause distressing side effects in another. The most important factor here is to be assessed by a highly competent psychiatrist and receive an accurate diagnosis. Often the correct diagnosis is the key to prescribing the right drug/s.

The lifestyle strategies recommended above should be the first line of attack. If your depression symptoms have not improved significantly after 2 weeks you should discuss medication with your doctor. It is strange that people have no hesitation taking pharmaceutical products for diabetes and high cholesterol for example, yet feel it is a personal weakness to take anti depressants. It is equally foolish to expect a drug to be a silver bullet without considering the lifestyle depression treatments highlighted above.

This brief overview of the 7 essential strategies for overcoming depression as quickly as possible is just meant to be an introduction. We recommend that they are all pursued not just to overcome depression but also to prevent relapse. If these approaches are regularly followed you just may emerge from your depression with a more fulfilling life than before.

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