Depression—How to Treat It

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“MY HUSBAND and I have sought out medical treatment, made lifestyle changes, and worked hard to develop a routine that I can cope with,” says Ruth, who has suffered with depression for many years. “We seem to have found an effective medication, and I am doing better. But during the time when nothing else seemed to work, the constant love of my husband and friends helped me not to give up.”

As Ruth’s experience indicates, patients who suffer from clinical depression need all the support they can get, including whatever medical approach might be advisable. It can be risky to ignore depression because in some cases when left untreated it can be life-threatening. About two thousand years ago, Jesus Christ acknowledged that those with medical experience could provide needed help, when he said that ‘those who are ill need a physician.’ (Mark 2:17) The fact is that physicians can do much to alleviate the suffering of many depressed patients. *

Some Helpful Options

There are a number of treatments for depression, varying according to the symptoms and the severity of the illness. (See the box  “What Kind of Depression?”) Many people may be helped by their family physician, but some need more specialized treatment. The doctor might prescribe antidepressant  medication or recommend some other form of assistance. Some people have experienced good results with herbal medications, dietary adjustments, or a controlled exercise program.

Common Issues

  1. Well-meaning friends with little or no medical training might try to tell you which method of treatment to accept and which to reject. They might also have strong opinions about whether you should take herbal medicine, prescribed medication, or nothing at all.

Consider: Make sure that any advice you accept comes from a reliable source. In the end, you are the one who must make an informed choice.

  1. Discouragement may make patients discontinue their choice of treatment because they do not seem to be getting better or because of unpleasant side effects.

Consider: “There is a frustrating of plans where there is no confidential talk, but in the multitude of counselors there is accomplishment.” (Proverbs 15:22) A program of medical therapy is more likely to succeed if there is good communication between doctor and patient. Frankly explain your concerns or describe your symptoms to your doctor, and ask whether you need to adjust the treatment or simply to persevere before you will begin to experience benefits.

  1. Overconfidence can make patients stop their medical remedy abruptly after a few weeks because they feel better. They may  forget how debilitating their symptoms were before they started their medication.

Consider: Suddenly terminating medical treatment without consulting a doctor can have serious and even life-threatening consequences.

Though the Bible is not a medical textbook, its Author, Jehovah God, is our Creator. The next article will examine the comfort and guidance God’s Word provides both for those who suffer from depression and for their caregivers.

 WHAT KIND OF DEPRESSION?

The effectiveness of any particular medical approach depends on what type of depression a patient has.

Major depression has symptoms that are severe enough to last six months or longer if untreated and that impact on most aspects of a sufferer’s life.

Bipolar disorder is also known as manic depression. Sufferers may experience emotional extremes that careen between prolonged episodes of intense hyperactivity (manias) and devastating lows (depressions).—See the article“Living With a Mood Disorder,” in the January 8, 2004, issue of this magazine.

Dysthymia, although not as disabling as major depression, has depressive symptoms that make it difficult for the patient to function normally. Some may also experience intermittent periods of major depression.

Postpartum depression is a debilitating emotional condition that affects many mothers after they give birth.—See the article “Understanding Postpartum Depression,” in the June 8, 2003, issue of this magazine.

Seasonal affective disorder likely occurs as a result of a lack of sunlight during autumn and winter. It usually clears up during spring and summer.

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