Sunday, February 10, 2013

Effective Depression Treatment

If I told you within this paper you would find the cure to a common and troubling illness, would you continue to read the whole paper through? According to the National Institute of Mental Health, of the estimated 18.8 million Americans who are affected by some form of depression, 9.5 million have major or clinical depression. Sadly, only 20 percent of these people are currently receiving treatment. Last year, two surveys indicated that 75 percent of depressed patients that seek treatment will receive an anti-depressant. About half of those taking an antidepressant will feel a positive effect from those medications. Less than half of the patients who receive antidepressants will receive psychotherapy treatment for their depression. Possibly, the most effective treatment for depression is treating the source of the depression in conjunction with a life style change. Medication should only be used to treat symptoms, while receiving psychotherapy with an ultimate goal of being medication free. For more than half my life I suffered with crippling depression that ruled my every action.  While receiving psychotherapy weekly and medication daily; I also researched mental illness and treatments thoroughly. I now feel cured and no longer receive medications or psychotherapy for depression and anxiety. Only after successfully treating my depression was I able to see clearly the only effective treatment for depression is a targeted and individualized therapy plan.

Most recent studies indicate a strong link between childhood trauma and adult symptoms of mental illness, including depression. The effect of childhood trauma on the developing brain can include increased levels of stress hormones, altered gene regulation, physical changes in hippocampus volume, and cortisol regulation malfunction. Trauma does not need to be life threating, like physical or sexual abuse for it to be life altering. Some of the other childhood traumas that result in adult depression can be unobvious ones. For example, emotional abuse, instilling fear in a child, repetitive and unwanted criticism are all examples of unobvious trauma. A child can also be traumatized by the unintentional neglect of two working parents, or rather the events that take place while the two parents are working. Another example of childhood trauma is prolonged parental separation of any kind. Adoption is result of abandonment or separation; even if the child grows up in a happier home, they often still feel very abandoned or alone. Violence in the family, neighborhood or TV can cause equal psychological damage, as exposure to constant fighting or yelling within the home. Possibly the most common childhood traumas today that cause adult depression are divorce, family addiction, racism and poverty, yet this is often not taken into account. Many are aware of the underlying emotional issues that result from these experiences, but how many know these experiences actually shape our brains to be predisposed to depression and mental illness? Experiencing trauma in early life, changes our brain first physically, and then chemically; equally and as a result of our perception of reality and our perspective on life also changes.  With all these chemical changes within the brain, I can understand why so many seek to remedy the problem chemically with medication.

However, I am not convinced that a chemical or drug is an effective long term treatment solution for depression. I have actually tried Paxil, Zoloft, Prozac, Abilify, Celexa, Lexapro, Effexor, Cymbalta, Welbutrin, Lithium, Depakote, Seroquel, and Lamitical, with no success at treating my depression. In fact, living with the side effects was often worse than the depression.  While attempting to treat my depression with medication, I gained 80 lbs and was diagnosis with Fibromyalgia. At age 26, I felt as though I was left with a depressed mind and a broken body. After many doctors and therapists, after countless failed attempts to get the “right” combination of medication, after a million tears, I stopped leaving it up to the doctors and started researching on my own. When I started reading the facts about depression medications, I was startled to find out the long list of lasting side effects these medications can leave you with. For example, Tardive Dyskinesia is a facial tic that can be a devastating side effect of some of these medications. Besides the fact, these medications have serious side effects there is also little evidence to support their effectiveness. It made me crazy to read, the pharmaceutical companies sponsored researchers are finding there is little difference between the placebo and the pill. Some studies also indicate no significant advantage to taking higher doses of these medications, as it is suggested by many doctors. Modern research suggests these drugs even target the wrong neurochemicals and the real problem is structural. So many fail to recognize, even effective medications are only treating the symptoms of depression, they do not actually treat the cause of the depression. Ultimately medication is a Band-Aid and underneath the problem is still unchecked. With an average of only 30% of these patients feeling relief from their depression when treated chemically, isn’t it time we tried another method?

The road to recovery from depression is a long, rocky and uncertain climb. Many will never see actual recovery from depression, some will see remission of their depression symptoms, and most will see a re-occurrence of their symptoms within their lifetime. However, there is hope for those willing to explore the path less traveled, often called psychotherapy. Psychotherapy is less frequently received than medication, yet it yields higher recovery rates and lower relapse rates. Recovery from depression requires treating the underlying relationship causes to depression with psychotherapy, creating a safe environment for the patient to grow in, meeting relationship needs that were not met in childhood, and giving the patient the tools to identify and combat any negative emotional, relationship, cognitive or neuromuscular patterns. Utilizing such tools as, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Repatterning Movements (RPMs), and even hypnosis you can safely address the faulty thought processes that keep the mind depressed. Evidence suggests that psychotherapy can induce positive neuro-biological and structural changes within the brain. Meditation, yoga, art and movement therapies can be quite soothing and help significantly with the many symptoms of depression. In addition to psychotherapy, maintaining a healthy lifestyle is critical to the success of any depressed patient. One important step to depression recovery that is often left out is exercise. Exercise not only helps with the physical body, it also releases endorphins and affects self-image too. In addition, a patient must change their physical environment and surroundings to reflect their change of mindset. There will be little success for any patient who remains in an unhealthy or re-traumatizing environment. Since the source of one’s depression is individual and unique to them, I do not believe in a universal answer to depression. I see a combination and individualized approach as the solution and possible cure for depression.

During the last few paragraphs we have discussed depression facts; we have mapped the possible sources, exposed startling facts about depression medication and even directed the way to recovery.  With almost 19 million Americans suffering chances are that you know and love someone with depression. I want you know there is hope for your loved one. Hope for the depressed lies within successfully treating the source of their depression with psychotherapy, not in successfully managing their symptoms with medication. Although treatment of depression symptoms is a critical first step to successfully treating the depression it is not the last, but rather the first of many steps. I can’t stress enough how important psychotherapy is to healing and how fundamentally important processing childhood trauma is to developing a healthy adult mind. I know there is truth in what I say because I did not just write this paper, I have lived it.  Although this paper was supported with detailed research, it was written and inspired by the real experiences of depressed patient and her struggle to find a cure. The answer wasn't always as clear as I wrote it for you today. It took countless hours of reading, over a thousand heartbreaking therapy sessions, ten years of independent research, hard work, and even some trial and error to come to this one conclusion. Only after successfully treating my own depression was I able to see clearly the only effective treatment for depression is a targeted and individualized therapy plan.