It is absolutely essential to reiterate that depression is a very serious illness with crippling side effects and a real potential for fatality. Its symptoms should not be ignored and if you or someone you know is suffering, the time to get help is now. As evidenced by my reflection in the mirror, we are not getting any younger. Life is a gift, there is no time to waste being unhappy. It is also imperative to add that there are different degrees of depression and therefore, different methods of treating it. Those who have severe depression, will most likely need a combination of several treatment strategies while for those who have mild depression, a daily dose of the gym might be enough.
Treatment for Depression
1. Medication – We have been called the Prozac generation and rightfully so. According to USA Today, the number of people taking antidepressants doubled from about 13 million in 1996 to about 27 million in 2005. This is due to several factors. More people seem to be suffering from depression, the medications are better and safer so doctors feel more comfortable prescribing them, and their popularity has reduced some of the associated stigma, so that patients are more comfortable taking them. There are several different types of medications that all essentially affect the neurotransmitters in the brain. The most common type being used today are called SSRIs or Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors. They work very well for many people and have relatively few side effects, the most annoying and counter-intuitive one being loss of libido and difficulty achieving an orgasm. SSRIs include most of the meds you are familiar with; such as Prozac, Paxil, Lexapro, Celexa and Zoloft. For brevity’s sake, I won’t discuss the other classes and most likely, if you and your doctor decide that you would benefit from an antidepressant, you will be started on one of these. Taking an antidepressant is a commitment in many ways. You have to be willing to give it some time to work, give it some time for the side effects to diminish and also, to be willing to adjust the dose several times before getting it right. Antidepressants are not without their share of problems, but for many people, they are life-saving.
2. Psychotherapy – Sometimes I think that it would be so nice to have someone to talk to that I wasn’t going to see at a party. Then, I worry that if I start talking, I won’t be able to stop. For many people, talking to a therapist is all they need to feel better. For others, a combination of therapy and medication is the right choice. Therapists are like boyfriends. There have different styles and different approaches. You may have to try a few on before you find one that fits.
3. Elecrtoconvulsive therapy – I know that this brings back images from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, but as medieval as it may seem, it really does work (not sure exactly why) in people who have severe depression or who are at imminent risk of suicide.
4. Education – Sometimes just becoming well-versed in depression can take the edge off of your symptoms. Acknowledging that many symptoms and complaints can be attributed to depression can help you face the real problem head on.
5. Lifestyle changes – Daily exercise, good nutrition, making time for yourself, companionship, avoidance of drugs and alcohol and healthy sleep habits can all have a huge, positive impact on depression. Understanding what triggers your depression and avoiding it (or him) will allow you to take control of your illness. If eating a box of chocolate chip cookies after a visit to McDonald’s makes you feel bad about yourself, don’t do it. If you have an acquaintance who has a way of making you feel lousy, sever those ties if you can – weed the garden of your life. Try as best as you can to remove those things that affect you in a bad way. Make room for the flowers. The groundhog predicted an early spring yesterday.
Just as you can’t wish away heart disease, you can’t snap out of depression. The first step is to accept that you may have to alter your life, talk to a professional or take medication to feel more like living. Gray is a nice color for a sweater but a lousy color for life. Don’t be afraid of acquiring and using the tools you need to color your world. I have bins of broken crayons and with a little peeling back of the wrapper, they work just as well as the new ones.