Symptoms and treatment of depression

Depression is a psychological disease that ranges from the mild to manic and is almost always treated chemically. Conventional treatment consists of drug therapy (tricyclic antidepressants), hospitalisation (if suicidal), and electroconvulsive therapy. There are four sets of symptoms that can be used to diagnose depression; emotional, cognitive, motivational and physical symptoms. “Sadness and dejection are the main emotional symptoms of depression. The individual feels hopeless and unhappy, often has crying spells”3, they may also have repeated thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, a desire to die, and may actually attempt suicide.

Some motivational symptoms of a depressive episode are: loss of interest or pleasure in usual activities or decrease in libido, loss of energy or fatigue. Cognitive symptoms consist of: negative thoughts, feelings of worthlessness, self reproach, or excessive inappropriate guilt. They feel hopeless about the future and doubt that they can change their lives in any way. Depressed patients may also experience insomnia or hypersomnia, psychomotor agitation or retardation, weight loss or weight gain. 50 – 80% of patients who experience a depressive event will have an average of 2-3 recurrent attacks during their lives4.

Cognitive behaviour therapists believe that “thoughts, expectations, and interpretation of events- are important determinants of behaviour”5. In this method of treatment, the therapist attempts to help the patient control disturbing emotional reactions, such as anxiety and depression, by teaching more effective ways of interpreting and thinking about experiences. Psychodynamic therapies use various techniques to discover the client’s problems, one of them being dream analysis. This consists of “talking about the content of ones dreams and then free associating to that content”5.1. Humanistic therapies emphasize the individual’s natural tendency toward growth and self-actualisation. Client-centered therapy developed in the 1940’s, is based on the assumption that “each individual is the best expert on himself or herself and that people are capable of working out solutions to their own problems”5.2 and the purpose of the therapist is merely to facilitate this process.

There are various forms of depression, with the most common form being clinical depression. Another form is when one alternates between two extreme states, where one of the extreme states is depression and the other is mania, and which is classified as bipolar I disorder. “Manic episodes may alternate with periods of deep depression”6. Only about 1 percent of adults are affected by this condition and men and women are affected about equally.

Bipolar II disorder is even less common. The patient alternates between major depressive episodes and hypomania, which is less severe than the phases of mania in bipolar I disorder6. Some authorities have suggested that severe traumatic events during childhood may lead to biological changes in the brain that lead to adulthood depression in those who are prone to it. Less speculatively, there is evidence that stressful life events are more clearly related to the onset of earlier, rather than to later, episodes of depression.

Modern clinical psychology speculates that depression is largely based on a neurotransmitter-receptor mechanism. Figure 1 shows this relationship. Research suggests that mood disorders may result from changes in the sensitivity of the neuronal receptors but the precise nature of these neurotransmitter-receptor mechanisms, and just how they affect mood, is not yet fully understood6. It is also said that bipolar disorder is genetic and people who are closely related to someone who had bipolar disorder are more likely to get it than those who are not. There is an ongoing search for the specific genes which could be involved in the transmission of increased risk for mood disorders6. an increasing amount of money is being spent on research to try and find the cause of depression. However, it seems that we are not getting closer to a solution and people are continuing to suffer from this disorder.

The problem with modern psychology and psychiatry is that they often treat diseases chemically e.g. using tranquillisers or Prozac resulting in side effects such as addiction. If someone is in a state of depression, they follow a certain emotional and behavioural pattern. They experience days where they feel good, but other days when they feel “down” and after some time, they may be stable again. This is the natural cycle for a depression. When a patient is treated with Prozac, Prozac simply ‘hides’ the days where the patient feels low in order to allow the patient to reach a stable state without putting them through the bad days.

Some patients are be able to work through their problem with Prozac and eventually reach a stage where they are able to overcome their problem, but others will just not be able to cope and never break the pattern thus remaining in a vicious circle of illness and drug dependency. This is when addiction to Prozac comes in and so the patient very rarely gets cured. Another downside to antidepressants is that they have many side effects such as dry mouth, blurred vision, constipation, severe drops in blood pressure upon standing up, and changes in heart rate and rhythm. Sometimes an overdose of try cyclic antidepressants can even be fatal.

One other problem with treating a patient with psychotherapy is that it is difficult to assess the effectiveness of psychotherapy. In 1952 British psychologist Hans Eysenck reviewed studies evaluating the effectiveness of psychotherapy and concluded that psychotherapy did not work. People who had received psychotherapy “fared no better than people who were not treated or were placed on the waiting list”8. Also, psychotherapy is long term and expensive, often excluding those very patients who are at the lower end of the socio-economic spectrum and by definition are more likely to have reason to be depressed.

Some conclusions:

As a result, the search for antidepressants that are more effective, have fewer side effects, and act more quickly has increased over the past few years. New drugs appear on the market almost daily and are even advertised on television. However, even these latest and newest drugs have severe side effects such as dizziness, diarrhea, nausea, nervousness and inhibited orgasms8.1. Given the problems mentioned above concerning the chemical treatment of depression and the seeming lack of effectiveness of modern psychotherapy, what other alternatives are there? In my research, on different therapies, I found that one is supported by the National Health Service in Britain which is homeopathy.

As mentioned, there are type I and type II bipolar disorders, with the first type exhibiting both major depressive and major manic episodes, and with the second type exhibiting major depressive and minor manic episodes. There is also, as briefly …

This essay describes depression and the various ways that it has been treated throughout the years. Statistics show that most people who have had severe depression in their life have a 50-80% chance of it returning. The side effects of …

There is a key distinction between major depression (unipolar depression) and manic depression (bipolar depression). According to DSM-IV, major depressive episodes require 5 symptoms to occur nearly every day for a minimum of two weeks. These symptoms include emotional symptoms …

Depression, often referred to as the ‘common cold of mental illness’, is diagnosed through clinical observations of characteristic symptoms present in the individual. Although a mental illness, it is normal behaviour up to a certain point, at which it could …

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