Depression is a very common condition affecting individuals of both sexes and from every walk of life. It is a condition that should be taken very seriously as it causes a high level of distress and disability. In some cases, if left untreated, it can lead to suicide. Being depressed is not the same as feeling unhappy. Depression refers to a specific cluster of symptoms including persistent low mood, lack of energy and drive, being unable to enjoy anything and changes in appetite, sleep and memory. When these symptoms are present, there is good evidence that treatment with an anti-depressant is likely to be effective. The majority of depressed people who see a Consultant Psychiatrist will be advised to take an anti-depressant drug. The Psychiatrist will be able to advise on the type of anti-depressant and the dosage needed as everyone responds differently to these medications. The treatment needs to be tailored to the individual. In more severe cases of depression, additional drug treatments may be needed such as mood stabilisers.
It is normal to be concerned about taking medication and about potential side effects. Some patients will tell me that; “I don’t think tablets are the answer, I think I need therapy”. I always listen carefully to and respect the opinions of my patients. Only they know how they really feel. I am happy to work with people who don’t want to take medication and the majority of patients with depression will need more than medication, they will need various forms of therapy too.
Perhaps this analogy will make a little sense. Many depressed people feel as though they are drowning in a deep, dark well. Any means of escape seems out of reach. I can help patients to see that there is a ladder there on the side of the well; they may not have noticed this before. Medication can help them to get a firm foothold on the first rung of the ladder. Imagine how that would feel! This is just the first step. There are many more steps to be taken but eventually, with the right support, they will see daylight.
© Janet Meehan and Partners 2020
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