"Depression is a biochemical problem and should be treated with medication only," a local physician once told me rather dogmatically. I thought he was right in one sense but wrong in another.
He was right in that all our emotions, desires, thoughts and memories are biologically caused and that medications are effective in treating depression. He was wrong to preclude psychotherapy as an effective treatment for depression also.
Depression is a treatable condition. Eighty percent of patients who seek treatment find relief with either medication, psychotherapy or a combination of both.
As a non-medical therapist, I approach the treatment of depression from several levels:
- Emotional. On an emotional level, strange as this may sound, I'd encourage you to take time to feel your depression as fully as you can. Find out what is making you sad and what you may need to change in life. Have a good cry and later you may feel better.
- Behavioral. My advice on the behavioral level is just the opposite of the advice I give on the emotional level. Instead of giving into your depression all the time, fight the symptoms of fatigue and social withdrawal. Force yourself to exercise, go for a walk, visit a friend or finish those chores. You can't be too depressed and busy at the same time. Also, having some fun things to do will buffer you against depression.
- Attitudinal. Negative, sad, pessimistic thoughts contribute to depression so whatever you can do to challenge such thoughts and use more positive affirmations may relieve your depressed mood. Also, low self-esteem is correlated with depression so improving your self-image should help to lift your mood.
- Interpersonal. There's plenty of research which shows that having a strong social support system is good for our mental health. If you're depressed, reach out to others for support. Have a number of people - friends, family, clergy, a therapist, a support group - with whom you can share your pain and know you will be heard.
Other research finds a strong correlation between depression and marital problems so working on you marriage may relieve your depression. A good marriage can be one of the best anti-depressants available.
- Childhood. It may help to look more closely at your childhood experiences to determine how they may contribute to your present depression. What did you learn about yourself, life and relationships as a child which might have been sad? What losses may you have to grieve?
- Spiritual. The psychoanalyst, Carl Jung, thought the problems of all his patients over thirty five were spiritual in nature. When things are going well for us, we may not have as strong a need for faith as when we are hurting. Your depression could force you to focus more on your spiritual life and develop a closer relationship with your God.
To seek professional treatment for your depression, call a qualified mental health professional. Asking your physician to recommend one is a good first step.
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