Interventions for depression: finding a treatment that’s right for you
Depression is one of the most common mental health conditions that affects people all over the world. Approximately one in five adults experienced some form of depression during early 2021, which is more than double the rate of depression before the pandemic. Depression ranges from mild to severe, with more severe cases being hugely disruptive to the life of the sufferer. Depression is not simply ‘having a bad day’. The negative impact it can have on a person’s life is significant, leaving many desperately searching for help so that they can feel life is worth living, rather than feeling they are just existing.
So what help is available to someone who is struggling with depression? And what interventions have been proven to work?
The first thought for many people is medication. It is not uncommon to visit a GP with depressive symptoms and to receive a prescription for antidepressants, which aim to relieve symptoms and enable the person with depression to feel more emotionally stable so that they can function normally in their day-to-day lives. People’s experiences of antidepressants vary, with some finding them helpful and others finding that they made no difference at all to their symptoms. Antidepressants may be more effective for people with moderate and severe depression, but less so for people with mild depression. It is not unusual for an individual to try a number of different drugs before they find one that works for them. Like all drugs, antidepressants can lead to side effects. More than half of people who take antidepressant medication have side effects. It is always best to consider whether the benefits of the antidepressants outweigh the potential of side effects. You should discuss any concerns you have about antidepressant medication with your doctor. They will advise on the best medication for you.
Psychological treatments, such as talking therapies, are another intervention often used to help people with depression. These therapies have been shown to be effective for depression. Face-to-face treatments are the traditional form of such therapies, but it has also been shown that internet-based therapies are effective for depression. Internet-based therapy has the benefit of being more accessible for people, especially where depression symptoms themselves can make leaving the home to attend face-to-face appointments difficult. It has been shown that internet-based interventions for depression can reduce symptoms, with the effects being enhanced by the guidance of a therapist. Research has shown patients receiving counselling for depression had substantially better psychological symptom levels after the intervention than patients receiving usual general practitioner care.
Relaxation techniques – an array of therapeutic exercises used to increase feelings of calm and decrease feelings of stress – may be a beneficial intervention for people with depression. It has been found that relaxation techniques were more effective at reducing self-rated depressive symptoms than receiving no or minimal treatment. Relaxation techniques are relatively simple for individuals to implement and so may be a useful first-line treatment for depression. Relaxation techniques are cost-effective, safe and low risk techniques that can be easily taught and used by individuals. It has been shown that relaxation techniques, if practiced regularly daily for more than eight weeks, can have several benefits for people with depressive disorders.
Many research studies have shown exercise to be an effective intervention in the treatment of depression. Exercise may be recommended for people with mild and moderate depression who are motivated and physically well enough to participate in exercise. Exercise is important for people with depression when considering that in general, depressed patients are often physically sedentary. Exercise has been shown to be a feasible intervention to reduce the risk of depression for employees with sedentary jobs, inactive lifestyles and a high risk of depression. Exercise can improve mental health through reducing anxiety, depression and negative mood, and can improve self-esteem and cognitive function. For more information about how exercise can help improve your mental health, click here to see a previous blog I’ve written on the topic.
With depression affecting approximately 121 million people worldwide, understanding interventions that can treat this mental health condition is imperative. The effectiveness of the above interventions is dependent on the individual – what works for one person may not necessarily work for another. Seeking help for depression and not suffering in silence is the first step to treatment. Even though there are things you can do yourself to help relieve symptoms of depression, reaching out for support is important so you do not feel alone or lose momentum in your attempts to overcome life with depression.