Can Depression Sometimes Be Helpful?

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Some researchers are arguing that the answer is yes, to a point, and that we may be over-treating depression symptoms with drugs.  Apparently depression focuses a persons attention on what is most pressing in their lives, enabling them to function at a higher level than in a non-depressed state.  These researchers think that depression should only be treated when it goes beyond a certain level and threatens the health and safety of the person affected.  They say that the modern approach that sees any level of depression as bad and prescribes drugs to treat it, may actually be doing a disservice to patients.

Maybe Grandma’s advice to eat well and just focus on what was bothering you, solve the problem, and move on may have been keen insight.  Many of history’s great thinkers, (think of Darwin’s sometimes overwhelming melancholy), would never have accomplished what they did if they had been given an anti-depressant drug.  This research adds more credence to the argument that we are harming patients by prescribing drugs before a period intense counseling and talk therapy.  Researchers say talking out the situation with a professional can work through most people’s concerns and better identify those that really do need, and can benefit from, drug therapy.

Depression is a tough subject, since the result of untreated or incorrectly treated symptoms can have tragic results.  But many now believe that good counseling can help those with “normal” depression understand what they are feeling.  A good counselor can work through the depression with the patient, educating them about the condition and helping them to understand that it is not always a bad state of mind.  But, I think a good counselor also has to be very adept at identifying those people that need more immediate intervention, and perhaps drug therapy to avoid the really bad outcomes.

I have always had an odd condition that makes me think I might have insight into serious depression.  Sometimes when I wake up in the morning, I have a completely overwhelming feeling of melancholy.  Fortunately it always goes away within a minute or two.  But the feeling is such that I KNOW I could not live with it if it continued all day.  So I know the feeling and why many are overcome by it.  I am just lucky that it is always fleeting with me.  My belief is that my symptoms are biochemical in nature and the simple act of waking up and moving out of bed causes them to dissipate.  Lucky me, but I sure do understand the agony of those who are less fortunate.

The last problem with all of this is the insurance companies.  It always comes down to the insurance companies doesn’t it?  They prefer drug treatment because it is cheaper than professional counseling.  Maybe this needs to change?  What do you all think?  Do you have personal experience with this?  Do you even know whether your insurance company would cover anything other than drugs to treat depression?

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Will Sig
1 Sahitivir

Well said. In most cases, psychotherapy can help treat depression. Treating depression with anti-depressant medicines on the frontline is a bad idea. I think many insurance companies do recommend and cover psychotherapy to treat depression.

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2 Dennis the Vizsla

You might be interested in The New Yorker’s lengthy article about depression and other conditions. It’s at http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/atlarge/2010/03/01/100301crat_atlarge_menand.
.-= Dennis the Vizsla´s last blog ..Wordless (Retro) Wednesday: Yuck Doggie Kisses/Booooooring =-.

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3 Anna

Will, I never had to deal with depression, but I knew people with one. It can be scary, but I think drugs are not the answer. I like the grandma’s advice, because good food is also good for the brain, and brain needs to work properly. Some do in fact have chemical imbalance, and for that I don’t know the solution. On the end, we are such a complicated species, and we created too complicated life around us. Anna 🙂
.-= Anna´s last blog ..Who Is The Artist? =-.

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4 Will

Thanks Dennis. Interesting article.
Anna – Yes it is complicated, but like I describe myself when I first wake up, it can be very biological in origin too. I am the same person with the same issues when I first wake up as I am 3 minutes later, but feel totally different.

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5 Jenny

Nice article. I am very pleased to see that people are talking about depression in new ways. I have had a history of depression all of my life, but with counseling have managed to live drug free for over 10 years.
I still battle from time to time, but understand that it’s my thinking that is the problem, and taking a pill might make me feel better but won’t cure me.
I know many people who suffer from depression, including some who have serious chemical imbalances that require drug treatment, but I am dismayed by how many people believe they have a chemical imbalance and have resigned themselves to a life of invasive medications when they could benefit tremendously from therapy. Education is key. Thanks for talking about it.

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6 Keith

As long as the major drug store chains sell antidepressants for $4 per month, insurance companies, privately insured companies and the uninsured will all prefer drug therapy. The eventual outcome is not even a real consideration when faced with the decision between an expensive hourly rate or a bargain drug.

As for myself, I talk with my pastor. That is included in my tithe.

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