Our guest writer Dee and I discussed writing our posts in an "interview" style instead of an article style. this way we can make sure that he focuses on the sort of information that a lot of us are looking for! If you have ANY questions on depression or any kind of mental health feel free to post it in a comment and we will answer it soon in this blog!
How can someone know if they are just having seasonal depression or a phase or depression or if it is something they need to get help with?
I think we should back up just a little bit and get clear about what depression means first. What we mean when we say someone is "depressed" in everyday talk may differ quite a bit from what a psychologist or a counselor calls "depression." In everyday language, depression usually refers to a state of feeling sad, down, "blue," or ho-hum, which is usually brought on through everyday hassles, stressful situations, or problematic relationships. Feelings like these are rather common and natural; we all become saddened at some point or another, and we usually snap out of it. People facing depression aren't as quick to shake it off and may find themselves acting out in ways that aren't typical of how they have behaved in the past. For example, a generally upbeat and optimistic person who enjoys being around his friends may find himself alone on the weekends, choosing to ignore phone calls and sleeping frequently. Or, someone who is really good at keeping a busy schedule and being on time for appointments and meetings may start missing days of work without a reasonable explanation. In any case, when these feelings of sadness and despair become so strong that they start getting in the way of how we interact with people, or how we perform in work or in school that people may need to seek some help. Some people dealing with depression recognize that they are out of sorts and refer themselves to professional care, while other people are so bogged down mentally and emotionally that a trusted friend or loved one will have to make the call for them.
What are some things that people can do to help get through depression on their own?
First things first. I think people have to recognize that if depressive symptoms are really severe that they can't fight them on their own. So I think that we need to be clear that, whatever someone is going through, whether it's just a minor setback that can go away with a bit of effort or if it's more serious than that.
For now, let's just assume that we are dealing with some minor stuff. I recommend doing a couple of things. Whenever I'm working with a client, I want to help that person get to the root of the problem. Whatever the situation, it is good to explore what's going on and see what's going on that may "trigger" these negative feelings. Another good thing to hunt down are "patterns" of the problem. For instance, if someone reports that they feel used all the time, I would ask about the people that tend to take advantage of the client and how they go about doing that. When clients start digging a little bit and making connections, then we can work together to build up some solutions. So, after exploring feeling used and abused, I learn that a client feels like she can't say no when asked to do a favor because she wants to be a good person. Quite simply, we would practice saying "no" and rehearsing situations in which it's okay to say no, and we would correct the mistaken idea that people can only be good to one another if they overcommit themselves. Therefore, the everyday troubles that we all go through can be worked on if we step back a little bit and try to figure them out in greater detail, looking out for patterns, and then working on solutions to correct those problematic patterns.
Some people don't believe in taking medications for mental disorders. What are the pros and cons of taking them? How do doctors decide who needs to be on medication for it and who may just need a little bit of therapy/counseling?
The simple answer is that talk therapy can do quite a bit of good so long as the client is into it, and the professional does therapy with care and in the best interests of the client. However, some professionals recognize that talk therapy has limits. For the really deep, serious problems, therapy might not deliver solid outcomes, and it's at that point the professional offers a referral. I think it's difficult to answer how doctors choose medication versus therapy because, really, it largely depends on how they're trained. Some doctors think medication can solve everything. Others politely disagree, and still others take a middle-road approach. Rather than take a stand on either-or, I honestly believe that a good intake session and early therapy work needs to get a complete a picture of what's going for the client, and that that picture will guide accordingly.
As with any medication, people need to know how to use the medication properly and to be aware of any side effects. Common side effects of anti-depressant medication include headache, dry mouth, restlessness, changes in sleep patterns, and sexual side effects (e.g. lack of arousal, lack of libido, decreased performance). Within the past couple of years, medications advertised on television warn clients to discontinue medication if they experience thoughts about committing suicide. There's a really great article on Wisegeek.com that describes symptoms associated with different types of medications like SSRIs and tricyclic medications. The pro- of taking medication, of course, is that, if taken correctly, they are helpful in alleviating symptoms. Clients should expect a period of trial and adjustment to medication. It will take some time for it to work, and in the early stages, the attending psychiatrist may change dosages or medications in order to get at the right dose. Some symptoms may feel uncomfortable. Clients should be warned about what to expect, urged to pay particularly close attention to how they feel on medication, and to report it during the course of therapy.
Do you think it would be better to fight depression with medication AND therapy both? Or could one or the other help on its own?
Personally, I don't think it's an either-or question. I think good counseling considers the advantages of both medication and talk-therapy as well as the client's needs. Depression situations differ greatly from case to case, and getting the full picture of what's going on with the client can really help solve the dispute.
Do you think the amount of people afflicted with depression has increased with how the economy is this year?
Excellent question. I'm not sure, actually. I suppose I say this because people can cope with being broke and struggling to find gainful employment, and that depression is as much a situation problem as it is the biochemical and physical goings-on in our bodies. That said, I would not be surprised if being broke is that proverbial straw that breaks a camel's back.
In any event, I wanted to wrap up with one thing. We have been talking about depression and treatment options today, and one thing I hope is that people do not feel ashamed about seeking professional help for problems. I think there is still a troublesome stigma about mental health treatment: that the only people that get help are truly "crazy," that people should be able to fix their own problems without needing help from other people, and that if you do seek help you're weak or helpless or incapable of handling your life. The truth is, people pick up and learn different coping mechanisms to adjust to the difficulties of life. Some things work; others don't. When you run out of options, you can look up self-help literature, or talk with friends and family. What's the difference between that and counseling? Ultimately, at the end of the day, people are making informed, conscious decisions to do better for themselves, and as long as you get something beneficial from it, then there's nothing wrong with it.
Don't forget, Dee has his own blog called Brainspitter! Be sure to check it out and show him some support and appreciation for his valuable information!