by Pat Kaier, RN
Bryn Mawr Hospital Psychiatric Unit
Depression has a profound negative impact on the health of the individual who suffers from it and on those they live with. Research indicates that people who are depressed are more likely to develop Type II Diabetes. During times of stress our bodies release cortisol which raises blood sugar. (Check out www.diabetes.org/food-nutrition-lifestyle/lifestyle-prevention/risk-test.jsp which will tell you your odds of diabetes and more). Fortunately, depression is a highly treatable illness and newer treatment methods are emerging continually.
Fifty percent of depression goes undetected. After one episode of depression there is a 50% chance of a repeat. After a second episode the risk increases to 70%, and 90% after three episodes. Starting and stopping antidepressants can make you resistant to treatment. Having a family member under age 31 who suffers from depression doubles your risk of depression.With a depressed relative under age 13, your risk rises six times.
Antidepressants, coupled with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), are powerful. Nearly 85% see significant improvement or complete recovery in just 12 weeks. Usually 16 to 20 sessions are enough to produce the improvement. Medications work on the subcorticol region where emotions are processed while therapy changes the prefrontal cortex where the brain processes information. This provides two ways to recover at once. CBT helps people unlearn negative thinking. This includes worst case scenarios and catastrophic predictions which are hugely distorted and unflattering, and replaces them with a more realistic, objective and empowering thought process which more closely aligns with reality.
Laughter decreases stress and boosts calorie burning by 20%. Allow yourself to relax on days off. Stress damages hormones, nerves and the immune system. An optimistic outlook leads to a longer life with a decreased risk of dementia. To unlearn catastrophic thinking, try exaggerating the scenario to a comic level that makes you smile. Optimism leads to better problem solving and a higher salary. When introverts were asked to act like an extrovert for 15 minutes, the most energetic participants felt the happiest. Faking it while you are learning is productive.
Meditation can decrease blood pressure, pain, anxiety, depression, blood sugar, insulin and binge eating while it increases alertness, attention and happiness. To meditate sit calmly for 20 minutes and try to be only in the present. Focus on your breathing or watch events around you without thinking about them. Allow thoughts to float in and out without evaluating them. Pay full attention to what you are doing while folding laundry, weeding, or taking a walk. Most people find their minds are busy at first, but with practice their state becomes more peaceful. You may not realize how relaxed you have become until your blood pressure is checked.
Studies are being done with an injection of Ketamine, an anesthetic. It’s showing substantial depression relief in two hours. Seventy-one percent of subjects felt their mood lighten in a day and the improvement lasted a week. There are many effective treatments and promising studies in progress.
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