By Dr. Evian Gordon, MD, PhD on Tue, Apr 24, 2018
One of the most invincible looking people in Hollywood, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, recently stepped into the spotlight to share his story of contending with depression.
Depression is arguably the foremost mental health issue of the 21st century. An estimated 350,000,000 people worldwide experience this medical illness. In 2016, an estimated 16.2 million U.S. adults experienced at least one major (or clinical) depressive episode. Major depression, the more serious form of depression, is characterized by prolonged feelings of sadness, emptiness, hopelessness, irritability, frustration or anger. Symptoms range, and may include loss of feeling pleasure, early morning waking, extreme negativity, relentless anxiety and frustration, tiredness, and/or reduced appetite, among others.
The encouraging news is that for many people, major depression will diminish or disappear with the right effective pharmacological treatment. However a groundbreaking New York Times article emerged in early April of 2018, eschewing their long-term use. Despite the fact that millions of doctors are prescribing one of over twenty antidepressants such as Prozac and Paxil for durations beyond two years and the long-term effects have not been studied extensively. People are experiencing addiction on an unimagined scale as a direct result of these treatments, and it can take years for people to wean themselves off the drugs. And weening off can be hugely challenging because of the nausea, irritability, cognitive and sleep disturbances due to withdrawal.
Another school of thought promotes psychological interventions for depression. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) focuses on identifying beliefs, feelings and thought patterns that contribute to certain ingrained “thinking traps” such as catastrophizing (magnifying threat) and giving the thoughts better context. Often times, it is merely a perception that dictates how someone chooses to behave. For example, a person may assume that ‘things will not change’ and therefore, may not even try. Recognizing and modifying internal beliefs can change the potential outcome of a situation.
However, barriers to CBT treatment include cost, time of multiple sessions, supply of qualified practitioners, and geographical accessibility. And, of course, some people who experience depression, just don’t want to leave the house and expose their raw psychic pain in person.
The age of technology has heralded many advancements, including the ability to improve outcomes for mood disorders from the comfort of one’s home.
Here are four ways to address depression:
- Online Cognitive Behavioral Training: A 2017 meta-analysis found that online cognitive behavioral therapy was equivalent to face-to-face CBT in improving depressive symptoms, in mild and moderate cases. Online programs aim to help users replace negative thinking and behavioral patterns with constructive and realistic ones that help people respond to the situation at hand. Remember, as you delve deeply into your own mind, don’t judge yourself and know that no one is judging you.
- Meditation: Use meditation exercises to help you cultivate in the momentinternal stillness and practice no judgement of negative thoughts or yourself. Start out with a five minute session and increase the duration of your sessions as you become more comfortable. You can choose between different types of meditation such as expanding awareness, focused attention and positive thoughts. Numerous studies show that online mindfulness meditation training can effectively improve mood and reduce depression.
- Positivity Training: Nudge yourself to experience a joyous moment by engaging in positivity training, such as apps that encourage you to select positive rather than negative faces . Like other online interventions, positivity training may help with mild forms of depression. Looking at the sunny side gives you that much more of an opportunity to potentially see past the clouds and into the sunshine! Continuous, unwarranted negative thoughts can lead to unwanted mental health consequences. Negativity is contagious. And so is positivity. So try it out! See if positivity training is part of the right treatment strategy for you. Exercises like Positive Affirmations and Emotion Booster can help you to make the most out of your day.
- Service: When you are preoccupied by your own negativity, focus on helping someone else in need. Cultivate an attitude of service. Thinking ‘what can I do for others’ or getting involved in a bigger cause can shift the whole focus of one’s life and take one out of the rut of ‘what about me.’
By proactively engaging in treatment, you reduce the cycle of decline that can occur with depression, including your job performance or the quality of your personal relationships. Seeking assistance is a source of strength and not weakness, as ultimately it will improve your well-being.