Depression

I would love a dollar for every time someone has said to me that her/his depression has been caused by a “chemical imbalance in the brain,” as if this explained everything, including the necessary treatment (corrective chemicals in the form of antidepressants).

I have long been troubled by the ways we sometimes talk about depression—particularly when we describe it as a “disease,” as if it were as clearly identifiable and discrete a condition as chicken pox, or diabetes.

Everywhere I look lately, the world seems to be crying out about the issue of sleep.  It started a few weeks ago when someone sent me an academic article that examined the relationship between suicidal ideation and sleep deprivation––it concluded that insomnia increased suicide risk because it induced symptoms of depression, as well as being responsible for a heightened sense of “burdensomeness”.

“I don’t want to waste another year!” a client said to me recently.  When we explored what this meant, it seemed she felt that being depressed – which she had been for the better part of a year – was not something that competent people did with their lives.

The Medical Journal of Australia recently published an article that confirms something those of us who work in the mental health profession already know from our daily practice––that antidepressant medication is less effective than it was once believed to be.

As I sit at my desk and look out at the scudding clouds of a Melbourne winter, I can only wonder how people in deeper latitudes ever get anything done once summer has passed.  We still technically have about nine and a half hours of daylight here even on our shortest day, but I’m sure I’m not alone in having difficulty getting out of bed, off the couch, or away from the heater.  Of course there is the now widely-accepted phenomenon of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), sufferers of which become noticeably depressed, sluggish and inclined to put on weight in the winter months.  But this is generally only diagnosed in dwellers of latitudes over about 60 degrees—compared with them we really have little to complain of in the cold/dark stakes. So how to keep motivated and moving when it’s grey and chilly out?

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