Over the past few weeks I’ve written about the various forms of depression, the symptoms and the real life implications of living with depression. For today’s Mental Illness Monday I’m talking treatments.
I’ve put together three categories of treatment; lifestyle, medication, and talk therapy. I want to preface this by saying that I am not a doctor or a mental health professional. If you feel that you might be suffering from depression, you absolutely need to visit your gp immediately, where you can discuss your options in depth with an experienced professional. But if you’re simply curious about depression and the kinds of treatments that are available, by all means read on!
There are many ways that a person can treat the early stages of depression by making simple but effective lifestyle changes. Taking a good hard look at our lives, there are very few of us who could claim to be living their best life. Cutting out toxic relationships, making time for hobbies and past times, mixing up our routines, examining the foods that we eat, incorporating meditation into our daily lives, and taking a mindfulness course are all great ways to address the early signs of depression. However these changes won’t work for everyone, and are probably best used as a preventative measure to protect ourselves from developing depression in the first place. Thankfully today there are countless resources available to people who are interested in making some lifestyle changes to combat mental illness.
OK so obviously antidepressants are the best known treatment for depression. Unfortunately there is so much stigma around antidepressants that many people refuse to take them. Antidepressants treat the illness by boosting our brains’ serotonin levels. When my gp suggested antidepressants to me, she explained that they are really just the same as taking a Vitamin supplement every day – they treat a serotonin deficiency and there’s nothing shameful in that. I took my antidepressant every day for seven months, and didn’t experience any negative side effects (like all medication, there can be side affects). While I wouldn’t say that my medication made me happy, I found that they protected me against spiralling into suicidal thoughts, and gave my brain enough wiggle room that I could start to deal with my illness head on through therapy. I have no doubt that they played a key role in my recovery, and that they are an incredibly important option.
Usually known as counselling in Ireland, therapy is an invaluable tool in the treatment of depression. Therapy can teach us all about how our brains work, the ways that our thoughts can shape our circumstances, and how we can manage our thoughts in a productive way. My therapist helped me to see the patterns in my thoughts and behaviours that I’d never noticed before. He helped me to develop key skills to start selecting the thoughts that serve me in a positive way, and how to eliminate the ones that don’t. The effectiveness of therapy depends very heavily on the therapist in question. If the therapist and client connect, then the sky is the limit in terms of what benefit the client can get from the experience. But if they don’t connect, it’s best to find a new therapist as soon as possible. This is serious stuff, so there’s no point in wasting your time about it.
I think it’s fair to say that most people who suffer from major depression (see my earlier post on the different forms of depression) require a combination of all three categories of treatment. That was certainly the case for me, but as always I have to emphasis that there are exceptions to the rule and that every case is different. I hope this post is helpful to anyone who’s curious about treating depression. As always, please feel free to get in touch with edit suggestions if you know more on the subject than me.
Thanks for reading x