Those suffering from depression may be dissuaded from seeking medical advice as they are concerned about the possibility of being prescribed antidepressants and enduring their associated side effects.
Firstly, it is important to remember that the side effects as reported by the media are often overblown and are most certainly not suffered by all those who take them. Secondly, an increasing number of medical professionals are using medication as a last resort in the treatment of depression.
Exercise is one of the most effective forms of treatment in cases of mild to moderate depression. The Department of Health in the United Kingdom reported in At least five a week that exercise can be as successful as medication in the treatment of mild depression. Aerobic exercise, such as jogging, walking and swimming, appears to be of the greatest benefit and can offer preventative benefits, reducing the risk of a relapse in future.
The herbal medication, St John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum), is often used to “self-medicate” by sufferers of depression. This medication has been shown, in small studies, to treat depression, but no extensive study has been carried out, so the herb remains unlicensed although still available over the counter in pharmacies and health food shops in many countries.
St John’s Wort, however, does have its own drawbacks. This herb is known to expedite the metabolism of medication through the bloodstream, reducing their effectiveness. This can have serious consequences, particularly for those taking blood thinning medication or the contraceptive pill.
Many cases of depression can be dealt with through talking therapies. Counselling, which can be arranged privately or by a general practitioner, allows the sufferer to discover the root cause of their illness, putting them in a better position to deal with their emotions.
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is another alternative to antidepressant medication. While counselling tends to delve into the past, discussing the background causes of depression, CBT takes a more pro-active approach. It identifies negative and destructive thoughts and behaviours and replaces them with more positive, healthy thoughts, statements and lifestyle changes. Again, treatment can be arranged privately or by a GP, or there is a free internet resource, Living Life to the Full, which aims to teach the principles of CBT to anyone who registers with the site.
While mild to moderate depression is an illness which can be treated very successfully without reference to antidepressant medication, with many alternatives available to sufferers, anyone experiencing depression must seek professional medical advice. Depression can be a very serious illness, particularly if it is not treated properly.
If medication is required, it will likely be in conjunction with exercise, counselling or CBT. Often, medication can provide the boost in mood required to seek out these additional forms of treatment.
Treatment without antidepressants may be possible, but it should not be a subject of shame if they are required. Instead, having had the necessary strength to seek the necessary help should be the overriding emotion.