Understanding Depression

Diagnostic Studies And Procedures

Diagnosis is based on symptoms and a medical history. If a doctor suspects clinical depression, she will probably refer the patient to a psychiatrist or clinical psychologist for testing.

Medical Treatments

Depression responds to medical treatment better than many other mental disorders. Approaches fall into three categories medication, psychological therapy, and electro convulsive therapy.


These “talking” treatments focus on helping patients resolve emotional problems by gaining insight into their own psychological makeup. Traditional psychotherapy looks for a childhood source of the problem, while other approaches address current conflicts and interpersonal problems. Behavioral and cognitive forms of psychotherapy teach patients new ways to view the world. Depressed people tend to expect failure and often make false assumptions about the behavior and motives of others. Cognitive therapists strive to help these patients correct their negative beliefs. Interpersonal therapy is based on the concept that depression occurs when personal relationships are disturbed, and that these relationships perpetuate symptoms, which worsen the interper sonal problems; the end result is a dysfunctional cycle. By focusing on issues, interpersonal therapists help patients understand their illness and feelings, and find ways to improve relationships.

Electroconvulsive Therapy

Although this method, often referred to as ECT or shock treatment, is not used as often as in the past, it is still highly effective in treating suicidal patients. The patient is given a general anesthetic, eliminating pain and memory of the procedure. Electrodes are placed on one or both sides of the scalp and a mild electric shock is administered to the brain, resulting in a minor seizure. There is temporary loss of memory for events of the past 6 to 12 months.

Alternative Therapies

Major or recurrent depression requires medical treatment. Alternative therapies are useful adjuncts that may be adequate for overcoming the milder forms.


This ancient method of healing from India promotes emotional and physical well being with a regimen of diet, exercise, and herbal remedies designed to correct individual imbalances.

Creative Therapies

Art, music, dance, and other forms of artistic expression are especially beneficial during recovery from depression, because they help a patient to build self steem.

Light Therapy

People who repeatedly suffer depression only during the winter have seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, associated with insufficient exposure to daylight. Typical treatment involves sitting under special lights for several hours a day .

Naturopathy and Nutrition Therapy

Diet plays a major role in brain function, but there is considerable disagreement over nutritional treatment of any mental disorder. Many nutrition therapists advise a sugar free, low fat diet that is high in complex carbohydrates and protein. Some also recommend supplements of B complex vitamins.

Self Treatment

Exercise can work as well as antide pressant drugs for mild depression or dysthemia. Aerobic exercise is especially effective, because it stimulates a release of endorphins, the body’s own pain relieving and mood lifting chemicals. It’s best to stick to normal routines, particularly if you are experiencing reactive depression. Daily chores anchor you in reality; they may also prevent deeper depression. Never overlook the power of laughter. A funny movie or an amusing book can often improve your mood.

Other Causes of Depression

Chronic fatigue syndrome has many of the hallmarks of depression. Among the elderly, symptoms of depression are often confused with dementia. An underactive thyroid can cause symptoms similar to those of depression, as can many serious illnesses; for example, depression is common following a heart attack. Medications, such as those used to lower blood pressure, frequently cause transient depression.