Wednesday, January 11 2012

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I’ve had a bit of a break for the holidays, but welcome back to this blog series on Depression! I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season. It is important to remember that, while these times are often full of joy and togetherness, they can also be an especially hard time for anyone experiencing mental illnesses like depression. Unfortunately there isn’t just a switch to get rid of depression – it doesn’t just go away when we want it to. I must admit to experiencing problems with my own depression during the holiday break, but I am lucky enough to have many supportive people in my life, as well as experience with dealing with depressive ‘episodes’.

Anyway, on we go! Last time I wrote, I was talking about getting diagnosed and reaching out. This time is all about treatments. I just want to start by saying that the treatments I list here are definitely not representative of everything that is out there, nor will they necessarily work for you. Different people respond best to different treatments. So please don’t think that if you nothing you read here that sound like it’s going to work for you that there isn’t anything out there to help – it just means that the small selection I put here isn’t what you need. Get out there and find something! :D

There are many different psychological treatments available for people with depression. Each one is referred to as a therapy – the most well-known of these is probably Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, or CBT. I have mentioned this before in my previous blog series on Chronic Fatigue Syndrome – it is a treatment that is effective in many different areas. CBT is based around the recognition that the way people think affects the way they feel and act. So, in the case of people with depression, thoughts are often quite negative, interfering with recovery and making them more vulnerable to continued depressive moods. CBT helps people to recognise their negative thought patterns and replace them with other thoughts – more realistic and positive thoughts. It also helps them to look at their everyday life and recognise how certain behaviours and predispositions are making them more vulnerable to negative thoughts and moods.

Other therapies include:  Interpersonal Therapy (where the individual is taught how to relate to others in a more positive way); Family Therapy (this helps family and friends to learn more about depression and how to support the individual); and Psychodynamic Psychotherapy (where the focus is on the individual’s past and, in particular, their childhood and how these early experiences are affecting their life now). Each of these therapies are available from trained psychologists and psychiatrists. The main difference between these two is that psychologists are not doctors, while psychiatrists are. Psychiatrists also have the ability to prescribe medication if needed.

That brings me to anti-depressants. There is a lot of mixed feelings about this type of medication – there is evidence that if you are placed on them too early in life then you may become unable to stop taking them for the rest of your life. There is that addiction risk. However, they can also serve as the light at the end of the tunnel. It is best to consult with a health professional about going on anti-depressants and also to do some research on them, too. I have been on anti-depressants in the past, and they definitely helped. They helped me get past that initial period of not knowing what to do with myself. Eventually, though, I made the decision to come off of them. If you DO go on anti-depressants, and decide that you want to stop, PLEASE talk to your doctor or psychiatrist first. You need to come off of them in steps because your body needs to become accustomed to their absence.

Alternatively there are some great self help suggestions that do tend to help when it comes to managing depression. These are basic things like getting more exercise, eating better, getting out and being social – that sort of thing. For more info please refer to my first post for this series.

Unfortunately it’s also a habit for people to ‘self-medicate’ to try and treat depression. Consuming alcohol and taking illicit drugs offer little relief in most cases – alcohol is a depressant by nature, and this means that while it may make you feel better initially, it may make you feel worse in the long run. If you feel that you are taking more of these substances in an effort to avoid uncomfortable feelings, please consider talking to someone instead.

I hope that this post has given a little bit of insight into different treatments – I have experienced CBT, anti-depressants, and basic maintenance in my journey to happiness. It can take a lot of strength to keep going with these things sometimes, especially when your mind is fighting against you every step of the way. But you just have to believe that there is something better out there for you – and that there are people in your life that want to see you happy again.

Happy mental health :D

For further information please refer to our managing depression topic page with videos and factsheet or our finding help section.

Check back next for the next installment of Bethwyn’s inspiring story.

A bit abut Bethwyn: My name is Bethwyn, I am 21 years old, currently in my fourth year of study at University.

Check out the rest of this blog series…

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