I realized when I got up this morning that I had failed to write my Friday depression post, so here it is. . . .a day late.
Last week, I said I was going to try to answer the question, “If depression can be treated without medication, then why take the pills? Wouldn’t it be better to get to the root of the problem instead of just masking it?” And then I brought you into my office and set the scene for this question to be asked. So now that you’ve told me your basic story, I’m going to ask you some questions a “depression screen,” to help me know whether or not we’re dealing with depression. Here they are:
Do you feel sad at least half the time? Hopeless? Tearful and/or angry more than is normal for you? Are you isolating from friends and family? Spending a lot of time alone? Do you find you’re having trouble sleeping, or do you want to sleep all the time but never really feel rested? Have you gained or lost a significant (20 lb., + or -) without trying to do so? Are you having trouble with short term memory, focus, and concentration? Have you lost interest in things you’ve always enjoyed doing? Do you have unexplained body aches and pains that are new to you? Are you experiencing a lack of energy, motivation, and initiative? Is it a struggle just to go about your daily routine? Have you lost interest in grooming? Have you ever thought about dying? Do you have a plan for how you would take your own life?
Very few people will answer “yes” to every question. If you have answered yes to five or more, you could be experiencing clinical depression, In any case, something is wrong, and you should probably start by seeing your primary physician–who has sent you to me, and I believe you have clinical depression. I tell you that you can be treated with several different approaches. Because I work in a Christian counseling office, I’m going to include and emphasize the importance of God’s Word, church, Christian friends and fellowship, prayer. I will probably recommend that you get a great book called Telling Yourself the Truth, by Backus and Chapian. I use it a lot in working with my depressed clients. I will explain Cognitive Behavorial Therapy, which is based on the idea that what you think about controls how you feel and what you say and do. I will talk about the importance of nutrition and exercise. Then I will introduce the option of medications, and you’re going to ask me that question about the real necessity of using medication.
Here’s the simple answer: Clinical depression is clearly linked to a reduction or absence of certain brain chemicals that we refer to as “the feel-good chemicals.” The result is a brain fog like you’ve never experienced. Your emotions are now in control; you feel oppressed, hopeless, and lost. Will all that go away if we don’t use medication? Possibly, but it will be a long. slow process because you’re having so much trouble even thinking clearly about what I’m saying; the chances are pretty good that you won’t remember much of it once you get home. You may think, “Well, therapy sure isn’t going to help,” and I may never see you again. I want you to know that I will worry about you.
Taking an antidepressant will increase your ability to process information; to understand why this has happened to you; and to focus on taking care of yourself. Untreated depression can clear up in six months to two years or longer. Treated, the process is much faster and a lot less painful to you and your loved ones. Most medications, by the way, take six to eight weeks to reach what we call therapeutic level, but you’ll start feeling better with the first couple of weeks.
Do I recommend meds for every client? No. Sometimes, it’s clear that the depression is situational. With good, clear thinking, the depression will lift without the help of medication. However, sometimes the situation isn’t going to go away, yet you still need to work, care for your family, take care of yourself. Medication can help you calm down enough to deal better with the realities of your life. For one thing, it helps you sleep better, and that’s invaluable.
Next time, I’m going to talk about why depression even happens. What causes it? Why is it so overwhelming? Why do some people struggle with it often, and others never do?
In the meantime, I value your responses and questions.