Dealing with Depression

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Depression has become one of the leading chronic conditions in the world today. Most people have bad days where depression can play a major part while a growing minority may have days, weeks, or longer stretches of time where they find it hard to function. Unlike in the past, there are now multiple ways to treat chronic depression. Various forms of therapy and medications used separately or in combination can make the depressive episodes easier, and allow patients to cope with them better.

Medicine for depression has come a long way from its beginnings, and includes several classes of drugs: Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs), Benzodiazepines, Tricyclics, and the latest to be approved, Ketamine. All of the above except for Ketamine are taken in a daily pill form. Ketamine is administered as a nasal spray in the doctor’s office. More than one in nine Americans reported having taken medicine for depression for at least a month during the 2011 to 2014 time period, up from one in 50 in the 1980s. All medications may have some sort of side effects, and it is important to talk with a doctor about any drug interactions with other medicines and supplements. It is also important to know when to take them, either with or without food, and if there are foods or drinks to be avoided, how long it will take for the medication to begin working, and how doctor’s visits should be scheduled. Emergency contacts in case of issues with medication should also be discussed.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), helps patients actively pursue changes in their thoughts and behaviors with the help of a professional therapist, and requires the patients practice the learned skills on a daily basis so that they become habits. It has been proven to be highly effective if the patient is committed to getting better by using it. Interpersonal Therapy (IPT) is a shorter term treatment for major depression used for treating the symptoms by reducing or eliminating them. One-on-one or group counseling are more traditional methods, where the patient or patients meet with counselors to talk through their problems. For those who don’t want in person sessions, there are now mobile apps, texting services, and phone services that serve a similar purpose. Medicine for depression can be used in conjunction with any of these, increasing the chances of success in the treatment of long term or severe depression. Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) can be used when medication and counseling don’t work, especially for suicidal individuals, and while methodology has improved, there are still some side effects that make this a last resort treatment.

Friends, family and coworkers of people who have depression, or who they suspect have depression, should be willing to reach out to the person, check up on them, and be there as someone to talk to without judgement and unasked for advice. If need be, they should intervene if they suspect the person may be a danger to themselves. Suicidal warning signs to watch for are changes for the worse in moods, acting out or reckless behaviors and substance abuse, and talk of things like others being better off without them. They should not treat the person as if they are any different from before they have depression, unless suicidal signs are shown. Depression is a disease, not a weakness on the person’s part. It is also not something that they can get over by being told to do so. There should be no stigma involved. It can happen to anyone, at any time.

 

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