Depression

by Sarah Chana Radcliffe, M.Ed., C.Psych.

“It’s like I just don’t want to get out of bed; I can’t seem to get anything done all day. Everything is just too much.”

“I spend a lot of time crying. I don’t know why.”

“I’m pretty incompetent compared to everyone else. I’m a failure.”

The voices of depression. Gloomy, hurting voices. Hopeless, sad voices. We’ve all had our share of depressed days – maybe it was during the post-partum blues or perhaps after a major disappointment or loss. Maybe it came on for no apparent reason. And then it passed.

Some of us, however, experience the pain of depression for longer periods of time, sometimes for months or years. The pain can be intense, even debilitating. Depression robs people of joy in living, wreaks havoc with family relationships and incapacitates its victims. Deeply depressed people, for example, may find it very difficult or even impossible to carry out their daily responsibilities at home or at work. They may feel constantly “down” and overwhelmed with their lives. What can be done? How does one get cured of depression?

The answer depends on what sort of depression one is suffering from. Those suffering from “clinical depression” (the more intense kind) will benefit from a strategy different from those suffering from more minor or transient depressions. You may have a clinical depression if five of the following symptoms have been consistently present for a two week period:

depression

  1. poor appetite or increased appetite
  2. loss of energy or fatigue daily
  3. insomnia
  4. excessive sleeping
  5. restlessness, agitation or slowing down
  6. reduced feelings of pleasure
  7. feelings of worthlessness/low self-esteem
  8. diminished ability to concentrate
  9. less able to cope with routine responsibilities
  10. depressed mood (sadness) most of the time
  11. thoughts about death

If these symptoms cause significant distress or disruption in your social life (including family life) or in your work life (including household responsibilities) and if they aren’t caused by some clear condition (such as a drug reaction, a medical condition or a death of a loved one), then they can meet the criteria for depression. Such symptoms may last for six months or longer.

Although there is some controversy in the mental health field about the most appropriate treatment for this sort of depression, all professionals agree on one thing: it’s important to get help. Treated depressions heal more quickly and more completely, saving you and your loved ones from unnecessary prolonged anguish.

Not only are there different sorts of treatments for this condition, but there are also different sorts of professionals who may be helpful. Psychiatrists and medical doctors are the only professionals who can prescribe anti-depressant medications. Both may do counselling as well. Psychiatrists have extensive training in psychological disorders as well as in medical disorders, whereas family doctors may have no training in psychology (although some are trained in counselling). Psychologists are exclusively trained in the diagnosis and treatment of psychological conditions. Psychotherapists and counsellors are trained in the treatment of emotional and psychological conditions. Social workers may also have training in counselling. Any of these professionals may treat depression.

Treatments vary according to the training and orientation of individual professionals. Some psychiatrists and doctors tend to treat almost all of their patients with antidepressant drugs whereas others may use a combination of drug therapy and counselling. Drugs may be particularly helpful when a person just isn’t able to fulfil his/her responsibilities, is feeling suicidal or is not benefitting from therapy . Other professionals choose from a wide range of therapeutic approaches in counselling – some very short-term and others more in-depth. They will often vary their treatment for minor depressions as opposed to major depressions. Most work in conjunction with medical practitioners when medication is proscribed.

It’s important to be attracted to the approach being presented to you. If you don’t want to take antidepressant medication, you certainly don’t have to. You may decide you’d like to try counselling first. On the other hand, there are people who are enthusiastic about the prospect of ending their pain fairly quickly and who see medication as the most effective means to that end. If they’ve been diagnosed with a clinical depression, a medical professional will be glad to treat them with antidepressants.

Many people want counselling to be a part of, if not the entire, approach to treatment. Counselling helps to correct the cognitive distortions that can lead to depressed feelings. It may help remove emotional blocks to happiness. It can also help prevent recurrences of depression in the future by treating underlying causes and providing appropriate coping strategies. When choosing a counsellor, look for someone whom you trust and like. The relationship between the mental health professional and the client is paramount in the success of treatment. Shop around until you find someone who you can really relate to.

Depression is a very common condition even in its more severe forms. In fact, some professionals feel it is nothing more than the result of being human. However, it is a condition which is not to be taken lightly. It can be devastating even if it is common. There is no need to suffer with depression. If you think you may be experiencing depression, seek an assessment. Help is on the way!