Depression: approaches and treatments (in English)

Depression is a mood disorder that presents a variation of symptoms and manifests itself differently from one individual to another. The disorder can affect many aspects in the life of the depressed person, such as personal, social and professional. It can physically affect the individual, changing his/her appetite, sleep and sexual desire, and causing fatigue and anxiety. The disorder can also adversely affect cognitive functions, like thinking, judging, remembering and concentrating, reducing the ability to make decisions and generating insecurity feelings. In addition, depression can affect the behavior: people cry, hurt themselves, abuse drugs or may even attempt suicide. Many people start to use drugs to cope with anxiety or stress caused by depression. It can still affect the emotions, creating or increasing sadness, despair, guilt, worthlessness, and hopelessness feelings. In terms of social relationships, depression can impair one’s ability to relate well with others, that is, the disorder may lead to isolation and separation from the family.

However, there is still much to be clarified about depression, its causes and how to deal with it. There are several theories that attempt to develop more explanation, but there is still much ground to cover. It seems there are two main approaches that stand out on the understanding of depression due to their research basis, advances, diffusion and treatments. One approach, that could be called “psychiatric approach”, considers that depression is a problem of more biological order, caused by malfunction in brain activity. This approach primarily indicates psychopharmacological based treatments. Medications, prescribed by a medical professional specialized in psychiatry, are usually the main form of treatment. The other approach, which could be called “psychological approach”, understands that depression is primarily caused by the consequences of suffering, emotional conflicts, unconscious and conscious traumas, frustration, loss, stress and other sufferings resultant from human and social relations. This approach mainly indicates a psychotherapeutic treatment, which offers support to cope with depression and seeks balance, understanding and stability to improve the individual’s emotional condition.

Regardless of the approach and considering the complexity of the interaction of its causes, the diagnosis of depression is not discovered or concluded easily. Therefore, it should start, as a precaution, with an analysis of the person’s emotional life history. A complete and general medical examination may be also important, since depression can be associated with a prior poor health condition. The diseases associated with depression, if untreated, can hinder the success of any depression treatment. On the contrary, when they are treated, the depression treatment has much greater chances to be sucsessful.

The American Medical Association says there is no standard treatment for depression and it also depends on the severity of each case. According to the association, what happened in the past was that some health professionals used to advocate exclusively psychotherapeutic treatment, understanding depression only as a psychological disorder, while others would prescribe only drug treatment, understanding depression as a purely biological problem. Currently, most of the professionals recognize the validity of both treatments, which can be used separately or together, depending on the severity and the symptoms of each case.

As we have seen, there are several possibilities of intervention and treatment. Decisions and choices must be made and it is best that all involved are aware and well informed, so everybody can have a more active and responsible role. There is not an approach that is more correct than another for understanding and treating depression and, when working with one of the two main approaches, the other should always be taken into account too. Treatment through medication alone may seem tempting because it does not require major changes in the person’s life style, and even alone the symptoms can be lessened. However, the causes of the disorder may remain unchanged, so there are greater chances of future crises. On the other hand, treatment through psychotherapy alone, when there is greater degree of suffering and of behavioral change, may be insufficient because it does not generate short-term relief. Thus, depending on the case, the best strategy may be working with the two approaches combined in a cooperative and complementary way. In general, cooperating is better than competing, but this is especially truth when there are many possible solutions but no guarantee of success.

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3 respostas

  1. 27 de dezembro de 2011 10:16
    This is a nice, general overview that I hope will lead people to consider depression in a multi-faceted way. Depression has many causes, and many treatments can help, but not all treatments are equally effective. Thus, it’s important to be an educated consumer when seeking help.
    Michael D. Yapko, Ph.D.

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