Depression is a type of Mood Disorder. It’s one of the most frustrating disorders to fight against simply because the very mechanisms we would normally recruit for the effort are what depression steals away from its victims. The lack of motivation, the feeling of being trapped and an inability to take action – all these and more make battling depression difficult for those who suffer from it. But this also tips us off to a way out: Don’t do it alone, get help.
Experts point out that the fight against depression is a fight against anxiety. This is most obvious when we realize that worry, a common enough feeling, is a mix of anxiety and depression. We worry about what we are anxious about and when we can’t change it, depression emerges. Worse, the cycle can feed upon itself so that the worry is about the depression and whether we will ever get any better.
So how do we fight against depression and the vicious cycle? One answer is to prevent it from ever starting. If you know you are prone to depressive episodes, you will find that anxiety usually precedes the onset of depression. This is an opportunity to intervene before the full blown episode. Intervening at this point can break the downward spiral before it gets out of hand.
There are two main approaches to fighting depression, and they may be combined. The first is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) which treats anxiety and depression as the result of normal behavior patterns that are misapplied or extended beyond their usefulness. In other words, two people may be anxious and worry about the same life event, but only one goes on to become depressed. Both people experience the anxiety, but one extends it too far. The person prone to depression may also be more sensitive emotionally and episodes can then be triggered by relatively minor life events.
The second major approach is drug therapy. These medications alter neurotransmitters in the brain that have been shown to be linked to depression. Either method has shown about an equivalent effect in the fight against depression, and both work best to prevent, rather than cure the disorder.
One advantage CBT has over medications is that patients can feel as though the techniques are “helping them help themselves” and it can restore a sense of control. An advantage of drugs over CBT is convenience and, when they help, an almost miraculous turnaround. CBT is a type of training and real results take four or five months to achieve. With medications, relief can be seen in as little as a few weeks, although patients will continue with a prescription for years.
One behavioral change that helps across all categories is improving nutritional status, diet and exercise. For this reason, regular exercise should be added to any therapeutic regimen.
This story was originally published on PsyWeb.