Friday, April 10, 2009

Depression, Recovery, part 5

This is part 5 on my series on depression. Today I want to cover the question How is depression treated?

There are four aspects to the treatment of depression. The first is removing or modifying contributing factors. An example of this would be to stop alcohol use. A second step is cognitive-behavioral therapy which focuses on unhealthy thought patterns that contribute to the depressed state. A third aspect is the use of antidepressant medications. These are not needed in every case of depression but can be very useful, particularly in those forms of more severe depression. Fourthly we need lifestyle maintenance which includes adequate sleep, stress reduction, exercise, good diet, smoking cessation, support group, and spirituality.

What are antidepressant medications and how do they work? Antidepressant medication can be an important part of the treatment of depression just as blood pressure lowering and cholesterol lowering medications are important in the treatment of heart disease. Antidepressants are not "happy pills". They are not addicting. They work by affecting the way brain cells communicate by affecting certain chemical transmitter systems such as serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine which in turn changes the production of various proteins in the emotional regions of the brain. These changes take place over several weeks and usually the depression does not improve until the antidepressant medication has been taken for 2-3 weeks, though some people begin to respond more quickly.

I will finish up this series on depression next week discussing bipolar depression. Please comment if you find these rather didactic posts useful or not so I will know if I should do more in the future. Thanks!

Thought for the day

I really would like your comments.

1 comment:

  1. Dr Seymour,

    Thanks for this series on depression. I have indeed found it helpful and would be very interested in more posts along these lines. Anxiety disorders, PTSD, ADHD come to mind...



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