I suffered from depression for a number of years. It was most severe from age 18 through until age 22. I had no professional help coping with my problem. I simply accepted that I had depression and tried to deal with it on my own. At age 22, I finally did receive some good counselling. This had a huge impact on my ability to cope with my depression. With the help of my counsellor, I quickly learnt to manage the worst of my symptoms. I have had a couple of episodes of depression in my mid 30s. However, for the rest of my adult life I have not suffered from depression. If we have a tendency to suffer from depression, I think that it is important to be well educated concerning the nature of our condition. It is important to understand the symptoms and the ways in which depression can be treated. In this article I will outline the 9 main features of depression. If you notice that you exhibit some of these features, then these may in fact be early warning signs that there is a potential for you to slip into a depressive episode. In this instance, it may be worth seeking professional support before you become depressed. This may help to avert an episode of depression before it begins.
What are the symptoms of Depression?The DSM (Diagnostic Statistical Manual) is one of the most widely used references for diagnosing depression. The DSM lists 9 symptoms of depression. In order to be diagnosed with depression, a patient must have at least 5 of the symptoms. In order to be diagnosed, the patient must also have one or both of the following:
- Depressed mood
- Loss of pleasure or general interest
- Depressed mood for most of the day
- Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in (almost) all activities for most of the day
- Significant weight loss (assuming no dieting) or weight gain (more than 5% of body weight in a month) or decrease or increase in appetite
- Insomnia or be sleeping excessively
- Physical actions indicating agitation or alternatively display of very few physical movements
- Tiredness or loss of energy
- Feelings of worthlessness or inappropriate guilt
- Reduction in ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness
- Recurrent thoughts of suicide or imagining committing suicide
Treatment for Depression
Myrna Weissman & colleagues are authors of Comprehensive Guide to Interpersonal Psychotherapy(IPT). IPT is a therapy origninally developed as a treatment for Depression. The authors comment on recent advances in treatment methods for depression:
Major advances in the treatment of depression have led to decreased hospitalization, reduced duration of episodes, and strategies to prevent relapse and recurrence. Most treatment for [depression] is now ambulatory [i.e. medication is used].Two forms of medication that can be taken in order to reduce symptoms of depression are Triclictic antidepressants and Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SRIs). Commenting on the effect of these drugs Weissman & colleagues say,Their therapeutic value for both acute and maintenance treatment of depression is indisputable. There is excellent evidence that depressive symptoms can be reduced in two to four weeks of …treatment.However, it has been found that a high number of patients relapse after short-term drug treatment. Therefore prevention strategies are often used alongside medication.
Several therapies have been shown to be effective in reducing recurrence of depression. Cognitive therapy has been found to be a very successful treatment. Other therapies (incuding IPT, see above) have also been found to be very effective.
If you choose to seek out a therapist, I suggest the following. It is worth finding out whether or not research has been conducted examining the effectiveness of the therapy you are considering.
Short-term, time limited therapy, has been shown to be useful in treating patients suffering from depression. Long-term therapy may be useful for treating other problems such as personality disorders and other long-term conditions. However, Weissman & colleagues suggest a potential problem that might arise as a result of receiving long-term therapy for conditions that do not require it. They suggest that there is a possibility that patients may become dependent on their therapists.
Cognitive therapy seeks to help those receiving therapy ‘gain a sense of mastery, combat social isolation, restore a sense of social belonging, and find meaning in [their] lives.’
Strong encouragement for those suffering from DepressionWeissman & her associates offer the following words of encouragement for patients suffering from depression who are beginning a course of therapy that has been shown through research to be highly effective.Even though you are suffering now and feel hopeless, depressions do respond to treatment. The outlook for your recovery is excellent. A variety of treatments are available, and you do not need to feel hopeless if the first approach doesn’t work. Most people with depressions recover promptly with treatment. You will feel better and should return to your normal functioning when the symptoms disappear. Psychotherapy is one of the standard treatments of depression. It has been shown to be effective in a number of research studies. Psychotherapy should help you to understand the problems that led to depression and how to handle these problems in the future. While you are depressed, you may not feel like being sociable or doing the things you usually do. You may need to explain this to your family members. You are going to be actively engaged in treatment, however, and you will be working hard toward recovery. The expectation is that, as you recover, you will resume your normal activities, and should be back to normal if not even better than that. In fact, there is every reason to hope that you will be better than before although it may be hard to believe this when you’re feeling depressed.This is the advice Weissman gives to those who are receiving effective treatment. Ensure that you seek professional help if you are suffering from depression. The consequences of avoiding seeking out professional support could be very severe.
Find out if you have symptoms of depressionIf you wish to find out if you have some of the typical symptoms of depression then you can take this Depression Screening Test. The instructions are as follows:
You can print this scale out or take it online, using it on a weekly basis to track your moods. This scale is not designed to make a diagnosis of depression or take the place of a professional diagnosis. If you suspect that you are depressed, please consult with a mental health professional as soon as possible. Answer each of the 18 questions about how you have felt and behaved during the past week. Be honest for the most accurate result.CLICK HERE to take Goldberg's Depression Test.