How to win back your life? According to Beyond Blue, Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide. In any one year, more than 1 million Australian adults suffer from a depressive disorder, and over 2 million suffer from an anxiety disorder. Counselling is the treatment of choice, medication is only required in some instances and not successful enough on its own.
Don’t be fooled when people say “Depression is the “common cold” of mental illness”. It may be common, but it is not harmless. It does not go away by just waiting a couple of days. Depression has many faces and is a complex issue that can include a wide range of emotions and perceptions. It is much more than feeling down and sad. In fact, over 200 symptom combinations can qualify as depression. Symptoms can have disease quality, and may include loss of work productivity, severe unhappiness and suicidality; people can feel extremely worthless and can have a strong desire to take their lives. It is tragic to see that in 2015 Australia has had the highest suicide rate in 13 years. Addressing symptoms as early as possible is important. Depressed people often need support in asking for and accepting help.
Our practitioners have specialised training in treating depression. Our approach has a clear direction and is focused on your circumstances and your individual case. Depression, like other mental health presentations, requires an individual understanding and approach. This is paramount. What works for one person, can make things worse for another. One example is anti-depressant medication. For some, anti-depressants are a blessing, others however feel number than ever or have negative side-effects that outweigh the benefits by far.
Therapy helps you to understand the relevant factors and to develop skills. Therapy can help you overcome a difficult past, if that is indicated. Working collaboratively with you and your doctor should help you gain momentum to move forward in life. Each psychologist at New Paths is trained and experienced to assess and treat depression, based on a customised case formulation.
A comment on antidepressant medication: medication alone should not be the first treatment of choice. Only for severe presentations of depression medication is indicated, however, mild and moderate severity is better treated psychologically. If medication is taken, a combined treatment is the treatment of choice.
Scientific research is not very supportive of the use of antidepressants. On average, they are only marginally more effective than placebos, i.e. medication without any active agent. They may be helpful for some people, for instance those who experience a more severe form of depression. However, by and large, it is safe to say that antidepressants are prescribed too quickly to too many people with Australia being the second largest prescriber of antidepressants world-wide (behind the U.S.A). Another study has shown, that 80% of people who would benefit from therapy, never see a psychologist. This is consistent with the fact, that only 7% of GP patients with mental health issues are referred to a psychologist.
Depression, by and large, is not genetically transmitted or a biologically predestined disease. While the bodily and brain chemistry is temporarily out of balance, there is little evidence that depression is caused by neurobiology. It is more a correlation than like a high white blood cell count can indicate inflammation but is not the cause.
The internationally respected depression researcher Dr Michael D. Yapko writes in his recent newsletter (April 2017):
“Medicalizing depression has done a great disservice to people by misleading them into thinking the problem is in their neurochemistry rather than their circumstances and their depressing perspectives about their circumstances. The scientific evidence has grown exponentially in recent years that makes it clear we need to do much more to help people than drug them with medications of questionable safety and efficacy.”
Depressive patterns such as pessimism, low frustration tolerance, perfectionism, black-and-white thinking are learned rather than passed on by genes. Therefore, therapy aims at unlearning existing patterns and developing new skills that make the difference. Medication, in contrast, does not teach you any skills and it may not be surprising to hear that it has the highest relapse rate of any form of treatment.
The treatment often includes a number of goals, some of which are very specific to the person, others are a bit more general, however still essential to good functioning.
The depressed brain is a stressed brain. Ways out of the stress are different in nature. Learning to relax, learning to complete activities that are satisfying in themselves, being able to express what is burdening your mind or your heart can be stepping stones. The list of Skill building measures is sheer endless but can include making smarter decisions, improve sleep, learn to systematically become a better problem-solver, learn to express your needs more clearly and more assertively, understand the nature of relationship difficulties and learn to ease conflicts in relationships or at work.
Reach out if you feel depressed. We are here to assist you.
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