Treatments for Depression
There are a number of ways to lift a low mood or deal with depression and treatment methods depend on the severity of the symptoms and the length of time a person has been having symptoms. These treatments take a bit of commitment to follow through on but without them usually symptoms of depression can worsen and be harder to treat. Medications for low mood may also be prescribed but less often because low moods generally end in a few days or weeks and require a lower level of treatment. Below we will talk about treatment for depression.
Self-help Activities – There are hundreds of books, audio tapes, and videos designed to help people help themselves. Often self-help is used to alleviate mental health symptoms. Self-help support groups can play a significant role in recovery from mood problems. In a self-help support group people can get informal education about mental health. There is also a sense of shared experiences when you are with others with similar situations. One big problem for people with low mood or depression can be isolation; we just don’t want to be around people sometimes when our mood is low or depressed. At a support group you can find and connect with others who may share symptoms and situations.
Support groups are only one method of self-help. There are hundreds of books designed to help you lift your mood and improve your life in general and you will find books devoted to helping people learn CBT principles. Because it can be expensive to buy self-help books and other materials, try your local library first.
Another form of self-help is to use creativity to help lift mood. Often people find healing and comfort in crafting, creating art, colouring, and journaling. These can all be ways to get our feelings out and to deal with them in a proactive and positive way.
Medications for Depression – There are many different psychiatric medications and possible combinations of medications. People with chronic, diagnosed depression are often given a round of these medications as a first-line treatment. Medications can be combined with other treatments like therapy, diet and exercise. When taking medications, it is very important to take them as prescribed and for as long as prescribed. Often when people start feeling better they stop taking their prescribed medications, it is advised that people seek a doctor’s input before stopping any medications because there are some medications that need a gradual decrease and that should not be abruptly stopped.
Some people find that the first medication they try is not effective and a different medication or combination of medications is then prescribed. The point of medications is to help you feel better so if your symptoms persist even when you take medications, it’s time to see your doctor to let them know.
There can be side effects of medications. It’s not just psychiatric medications that have side effects but many other medications do as well. Often side effects last for a couple weeks while your body is adjusting to the medication, some side effects will last for as long as you take the medication. Some side effects are more troubling than others but common side effects can include dry mouth, upset stomach, restlessness, headaches, and drowsiness.
Some people think that taking psychiatric medications will change their personalities somehow. This is false, you will remain the same person you were before medications, in fact there is a good chance you will feel much better on medications than off because you might get your old energy and enthusiasm back! Medications for depression can be taken for as long as the doctor prescribes.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) – CBT is an evidence-based approach to mood problems and has been proven around the world to be effective in treating depression, anxiety and a host of other mental health challenges. CBT is also used world-wide by people who have no mental health diagnosis but who want to improve their mood, have better relationships and who want to set boundaries in their lives.
CBT helps people look at their thoughts, emotions and behaviours to uncover unhealthy patterns that are getting in the way of mental health. CBT offers tools and skills to improve not only mood but relationships, work situations, and many other personal problems that might crop up.
Often CBT is done in groups so that group members can learn from each other and practice the new skills they are learning. CBT can also be done on a one-on-one basis with a trained counsellor or therapist. It is also possible to find CBT instruction online, please click on our Resources page to learn about some websites that may offer free CBT.
At the MDABC we offer CBT groups with the opportunity to learn from others and to share information about the tools that are working well for you. Our CBT groups are usually either four or eight week programs and are available on a semester basis. Please see the Resources page for more information on how to register for these groups. There is a fee for these CBT groups.
Individual therapy – Individual therapy can be a way to really sort through some problem situations with someone who is trained to help you. Individual therapy can be done in many ways using different methods and one of the best things about individual therapy is that your treatment plan can be tailored to your needs. In individual therapy there is time to talk and delve into areas of your life that you would like to look at with a trained professional to guide you. CBT can also be used in individual therapy with opportunities to practice your skills with your therapist. At the MDABC therapy is usually short term (10 to 12 sessions) with you deciding how often you will go. Individual therapy is not covered by BC MSP so there are fees associated with it.
Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS) – rTMS is a non-invasive treatment for depression and chronic pain. rTMS is for people who have tried other treatments for depression with little success. It can also be used by people who may not want to try medications or who do not tolerate medication side-effects well. rTMS has also been used for chronic pain. rTMS is not covered by BC MSP and there are fees associated with the treatment. For some people who have been struggling for some time with depression rTMS can be a good option and about 50% to 55% of people who get this rTMS treatment can expect a remission of their depression symptoms. This is slightly higher than the success rate with psychiatric medications.
There are only two or three rTMS machines in BC and the MDABC is fortunate to have one of them. At the MDABC rTMS is available with a referral from a physician or a psychiatrist.
Diet – Changing one’s diet can address the root cause of mood problems and have a significant part to play in decreasing the symptoms associated with depression or low mood. There is a comprehensive body of research that indicates that chronic inflammation changes the way your nervous system functions and can contribute to long-term problems like depression and chronic pain. Some factors that contribute to inflammation include excess dietary intake of harmful foods, deficiencies in essential nutrients, obesity and fat tissue, chronic infections, stress, poor sleep, digestive health, and toxins. The standard Western diet is one of the top causes of inflammation and chronic disease and most North Americans are not getting the nutrients, minerals and vitamins needed for optimal brain and nervous system health.
The MDABC has a program called Food as Medicine, a new treatment for depression and chronic pain. This program is suitable for people who want to address the root cause of mood and pain issues. The program uses principles of group work and support as you discuss issues related to inflammation. Participants who are motivated to make changes to their diet and daily habits are suitable candidates for this treatment method.
This treatment option is available with a referral from a physician or psychiatrist and is completely covered by your BC MSP.
Exercise – If there ever were a “silver bullet” to better health it would be physical activity. Countless studies speak to the health benefits of being active. Physical activity decreases depression as effectively as Prozac or behavioral therapy. We are physical beings; being active is essential to our good health and mental well-being. Physical activity is a simple, inexpensive means to bring relief and wellness to people suffering from low mood, anxiety or depression.
How does exercise relieve depression? For many years, experts have known that exercise enhances the action of endorphins, chemicals that circulate throughout the body. Endorphins improve natural immunity and reduce the perception of pain. They may also serve to improve mood. Another theory is that exercise stimulates the neurotransmitter norepinephrine, which may directly improve mood.
Besides lifting your mood, regular exercise offers other health benefits, such as lowering blood pressure, protecting against heart disease and cancer, and boosting self-esteem. How often or intensely you need to exercise to alleviate depression is not clear, but for general health, experts advise getting half an hour to an hour of moderate exercise, such as brisk walking, on all or most days of the week.