There is no way to measure the pain of depression. There are no blood tests, x-rays, or questionnaires to determine beyond a shadow of a doubt whether or not an individual is suffering from depression. There are educated guesses. There are circumstances suggesting the possibility and likelihood of its presence. How much suffering can be endured is relative to the individual in all illnesses, but depression has a way of going unnoticed, of being looked upon as a behavioral or character flaw, not only by outsiders looking in but by the sufferer as well.
Depression is a nebulous disease. It creeps on us going undetected and managed through force of will and determination. Those with long-term depression often have not known anything other than a dark state of mind. They don’t know they’re suffering unless, or until, it becomes too hard to handle or their lives are turned upside down by poor decisions made by a depressed mind. It’s a tragic disease. It’s a disease that significantly alters the course of an individual’s life. And yet, there is no effective diagnosis and no guaranteed treatment or prevention.
Depression is widely treated with medication and therapy. Almost anyone can walk into their doctor’s office, tell their physician they’re feeling blue and can’t seem to snap out of it, and be given a prescription for antidepressants — especially women — especially those over fifty. I have a problem with this. We’re a quick fix society that loves a fast, easy solution to problems. I’m pretty sure there is no such thing when it comes to treating depression. There are too many variables. There are too many physical, emotional and experiential dynamics at play.
Popping a pill doesn’t address unresolved issues. Therapy doesn’t address diet and exercise. Like most things, I’m a fan of addressing the whole person when it comes to most things. We’re way too complex creatures to toss a pill at a problem and call it a day.
TREATMENTS FOR DEPRESSION
- Prescription Drugs – use is on the rise and prices are getting cheaper. Effectiveness is always up for discussion. They work great for some, not so much for others and not at all for a few.
- Therapy – a valuable addition to the arsenal. Finding the right therapist is crucial. I always recommend interviewing potential therapists and choosing one with whom you feel comfortable and understood; someone who speaks the same language. This takes work, but it’s worth the effort and saves time and money in the long run. Researching types of therapy can be an added plus. More on that later.
- Exercise – Research has shown repeatedly that exercise boosts endorphins and energy and effectively fights depression. It also combats stress which also can be a factor in depression.
- Diet – Food allergies and sensitivities can create a physiological environment for depression or worsen an existing depression. Working with someone who understands and knows how the body reacts to a variety foods and circumstances can be very beneficial, a Naturopath for instance. Research has begun to show the ill effects sugar has on our bodies in general and it may in fact, exacerbate depression.
- Body Work – Everything and anything we do to improve our health and well-being can help counteract depression. Massage therapy, chiropractic treatments, sauna, etc.
- Spiritual Practices – Meditation, guided imagery meditation, prayer, mindfulness, reflective reading, etc.
- Education – Learning something new opens the mind to new ways of thinking and re-directs our thoughts along more constructive pathways. Habits of thought are insidious and take a concerted effort to change. Therapy is one avenue, but reading and studying can also be helpful.
- New Experiences – Depression tends to cause us to shut down and close the doors to our lives. A new experience may be like a breath of fresh air that lifts the spirits. This, of course, would depend on the depth and nature of the depression.
SEEK HELP AND SUPPORT FOR DEPRESSION
The bottom line is that if you suffer from depression, chances are good that your quality of life suffers. Seeking treatment and support is absolutely a must. It is not something one can manage on ones’ own. It just isn’t. The sooner this is accepted, the sooner relief can be found. That being said, trusting your instincts and being your own advocate is important. If something feels right or works, do it. If it doesn’t, leave it alone and go on to another option. Do consider a variety of simultaneous treatments. We are, after all, very complex creatures!