The word “depression” is used to describe many different but related experiences. To many people feeling depressed means feeling sad, “blue”, down or disappointed. These feelings are generally brief and have only minimal effects on everyday functioning. “Clinical” or Major Depression is a combination of emotional, physical and cognitive (thinking) states which are more intense and long-lasting, and which have more negative effects on a person’s day-to-day functioning.
The person who is feeling depressed can’t just “snap out of it”, as much as they’d like to. Psychological treatment for depression not only provides a supportive environment for the depressed person to share and work through their difficulties, it can also teach skills and strategies to change thinking patterns and behaviours which may have contributed to depression or impeding recovery. Research has shown that regular exercise is one of the best anti-depressants you can get. Improving nutrition by eating a healthy diet based on real food and taking micronutrients, i.e. vitamins and minerals, when indicated has also been shown to improve depressive symptoms. Getting adequate sleep is also critical. There is a circular relationship between Sleep and Depression. Too little sleep over time can increase the risk for developing a depressive mood disorder, and people who have depressed mood often can’t sleep properly.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) has been the standard psychological treatment for depression but there is now a new kid on the block, Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT/Tapping). EFT/Tapping (a.k.a. psychological acupuncture) has been shown in brain imaging studies to reduce activity in an area of the brain called the Amygdala. This area acts like the smoke-alarm for stress and when EFT is applied, the smoke alarm can be quickly turned off. Dr. Peta Stapleton from Bond University describes what the science shows us about EFT for depression in her Research Spotlight series.
Psychological treatment is also very useful for Bipolar Mood Disorders. This condition, formerly known as manic depression, causes the person to experience abnormal or exaggerated mood swings which can last for days or weeks. The moods can swing from being very elevated “high”, euphoric, manic, or even very irritable, to severely depressed where the person is unable to do anything because they feel so low and lacking in energy.