Depression: Out of the Shadows

I caught a bit of this documentary this afternoon on our local PBS station. Not enough to write a review on the News and Reviews site, but enough to have picked up a couple of interesting tidbits.

One was a discussion with a doctor about how each case of depression is different, and has to be treated differently. He talked about how the task of finding the correct treatment, at least in terms of anti-depressants, is a bit of trial and error. There was one teen girl who went through 7 different medications before finding the one that helped her.

The other was someone from the National Institute for Mental Health, I think, who mentioned that compared to other diseases, depression takes a long time to see results. She said we feel good about something that begins to show some promise in healing the pain and anguish of depression in 6 weeks, whereas other painful ailments can be eased within minutes.

Both of these comments struck me because I’ve talked to many people who have tried to get help and gave up. Either they didn’t like the first therapist, or the first drug they tried didn’t work very well, or it had side effects, etc. Remember though, all treatment for depression is hit and miss. What worked for the last patient may not work for you, whether it was a certain drug, a certain therapist, etc. This isn’t a cold, you don’t just grab the over the counter cold remedy and get better a day or two later. Depression is a very complicated disease of a very complicated organ, and there are many, many different types of depression. Finding the right “thing” that will help you takes time, takes effort and takes constant, close monitoring. You have to be willing to do that, but the results of that work make it all worthwhile, there’s no debate about that!

If you’re interested in viewing the show, you can on-line, and if you beat me to watching the whole thing and want to post a review, let me know!

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  1. Your observations are right on. Overcoming depression takes work. Seeing a therapist is good. But therapy doesn’t just happen for that 50 minutes a week or however long a person sees a therapist. It’s what the person does in between sessions that are suggested or discussed as the road out of that deep pit of sadness. Meds are tricky. Having the attitude that “one of the antidepressants will work for me” is a good way to go into that world. When an antidepressant works, it can literally change the person’s world with clarity and a new perspective on life.

    I’d like to add that the antidepressant Cymbalta seems to work well for those who also suffer from PTSD or panic attacks. It works on both the sadness and the fear. If there is no underlying fear element, it has been the experience of my clients that it worsened rather than helped symptoms. Depression many times can be helped by having an arsenal of coping skills that can be drawn from when first signs of depression are noticed. It’s a learning process but one that can be readily learned. As a therapist, I can say that those who did the work gained life long skills to aid in controlling depression. Clients who only thought about depression during sessions and never made headway toward making necessary changes in lifestyle did not fare nearly as well.

    Your comment about being dedicated to the process of healing is true. Work is involved. Work that is well worth the effort.

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