Depression – What is it? What are the main treatment options?

Depression is recognized as a mental health disorder. It is not merely sadness. Sadness is an emotion that everyone can experience at times, whereas depression involves experiencing hopelessness in relation to oneself, the world and the future. Oftentimes those who suffer with depression describe feeling unrelenting melancholia and/or a sense of emptiness. Depression is often accompanied by low self-esteem, low levels of motivation to engage in activities, and deriving little enjoyment from activities that would usually be pleasurable. Oftentimes depression leads to changes in sleeping; those who develop depression often find they sleep more, less, or experience disrupted sleep.

Life events can precipitate depression, including the loss of a loved one, loss of a job or financial security, childbirth, and menopause. Furthermore, certain medications have been linked to the onset of depression. Depression can be a component of other mental health disorders (for example, bipolar, borderline personality disorder, seasonal affective disorder, PTSD). For this reason it is important to see a professional (for example, a psychologist) who can provide a diagnosis, and determine the severity, so as relevant treatment can be provided.

It is estimated that approximately 10% of those who attend a psychologist have depression solely caused by faulty biological mechanisms in the brain. The majority of depressions develop from a combination of biological, social, psychological and environmental factors. These factors affect the balance of various chemicals within our brain. It is for that reason that medication can alleviate the experience of depression. However, it should be noted that prescription medication for depression does not necessarily provide long-term alleviation. Antidepressants will only alleviate the symptoms of the depression for as long as the individual takes them, unless other changes are made. This is why seeing a counsellor or psychologist can be beneficial for those wishing to receive treatment for depression. A counsellor or psychologist provides psychological treatment, which encourages changes to the chemical balance within the brain, in a way that can lead to alleviation of depression in the longer term.

It is recommended that anyone who suspects they are experiencing depression consults a professional about treatment options. In some circumstances medication is more appropriate, with counselling/ psychological treatment used as an adjunct. Your GP and/or psychologist can assist by assessing for depression information about treatment options.