Depression does not have a uniform face. In fact, it overlaps with other conditions. Depression has similar indications to a “normal” reaction of grief. However, there are some indications that distinguish depression from a grief reaction:

  • Unfounded grief
  • Loss of pleasure and listlessness
  • Lasting longer than three months
  • Impaired concentration and eating and sleeping disorders
  • Anxiety

Only a doctor can determine whether symptoms of this type can be attributed to depression.

Depression generally cannot be traced back to a single cause. Usually many different factors are at play in causing depression. Put simply, one can say that there are both internal and external circumstances that can lead to depression.

During depression a metabolic disturbance occurs in the brain. Consequently the ability to feel pleasure or happiness diminishes; negative feelings become overwhelming. This metabolic disturbance is often triggered by a drastic life event, such as the loss of a partner, the death of a family member or constant overload or underload at work. What initially manifests itself as a depressive mood often culminates in depression that should be treated by a professional.

Depression can be treated successfully. For mild forms of depression, medication and certain forms of psychotherapy are, according to the current state of knowledge, equally valid forms of treatment. For serious depression, therapy with medications that influence metabolism in the central nervous system is recommended. If this therapy is not successful, then it can be accompanied by psychotherapy with a psychiatrist, neurologist or psychologist.

When you have a health problem, your first port of call should be your GP, since your own GP is generally most familiar with your state of health and your personal environment. Your GP can ensure that there are no other illnesses.

Should the mood swings fail to regulate after two to three months, they can in certain circumstances evolve into a serious form of depression. In this case, your GP will probably refer you to a specialist – in most cases to a specialist for psychiatry and psychotherapy.

Particularly with depression it can be helpful to be treated by a psychotherapist parallel to treatment with medication.

If you suffer from depression, your doctor will prescribe antidepressants. These are medications that influence the metabolism in the central nervous system. They are able to normalise the amount of neurotransmitters and thus either allow the patient to recover or create the conditions that enable psychotherapy. Antidepressants are not mood enhancers that can be used to cover over existing problems. They normalise the metabolism in the brain that has drifted out of balance, without causing addiction. Sometimes benzodiazepines or other medications that reduce anxiety are used to ease the anxiety that often accompanies depression.

Family and friends of a sufferer often face a difficult situation, since the symptoms of a psychiatric illness are unfamiliar to most people and may evoke uncertainty or even rejection. Get involved in learning about the illness and sharing knowledge of it, speak to friends about the topic of depression. Show understanding for the sufferer’s situation. Don’t try to convince the person concerned that their life isn’t so bad or that there are others who have it worse. Attempts to argue like this simply increase the sufferer’s sense of having failed and being unable to take control of their life.

Many sufferers of depression develop a feeling of being worthless and useless. They see no purpose in their life anymore and often wish that they simply didn’t exist anymore – death often seems to be the only way out for them. The risk of suicide is high for the patient. Often they will signal their intention of committing suicide beforehand. Take any suggestion of intent to commit suicide seriously. Don’t try to talk the person out of committing suicide. Immediately contact the doctor treating them – as far as the person is already seeing someone.

Delayed onset of action
Antidepressants don’t begin to act immediately. Generally it takes two to three weeks for their effect to unfold. Anyone taking antidepressants needs to know this so that they are not disappointed by the apparent lack of effect in the early stages and don’t stop taking the medication after just a few days. After this period of time, however, an improvement in mood should occur. If this does not occur, the treating doctor should be informed.

Side effects:
Like all medications, antidepressants can cause side effects. Some occur often at the beginning of treatment and recede or even disappear in the course of the therapy. It is important that the patient does not take it upon themselves to stop taking the medication or reduce the dosage, but rather speaks to the treating doctor about the side effects. If the side effects don’t disappear of their own accord, there is the option of reducing them by changing the dose. By the same token, the doctor can, under certain circumstances, prescribe a different medication that has the same effect in combating the depression without these side effects.

Length of treatment:
Taking the medication regularly is a basic prerequisite for recovery. Even after the symptoms have improved, it is necessary to maintain treatment to avoid a relapse. Normally, an antidepressant will be regularly taken over a period of at least six months. Maintenance therapy is also recommended if it is the first time that the depression has occurred. If depressive or manic-depressive phases are recurrent, then it is necessary to continue treatment with antidepressants on a permanent basis.

Psychotherapy involves the treatment of a psychological illness by a therapist using interviews and exercises. In the case of depression, this therapy serves to determine and treat the non-physical reasons for the illness. In simple terms, psychotherapy can be categorised into two types: behaviour therapy approaches and depth psychology approaches.

Behaviour therapy:
This therapy is based on the results of learning research. Through interviews, exercises and new insights the patient is led to recognise and change the behavioural patterns that contribute to the illness. This approach sees the psychological illness as a kind of falsely trained behaviour that can be modified again through appropriate training.

Depth psychology:
The depth psychologist attempts to find the reasons for the psychological disorder. In a process that can be lengthy, the therapist attempts to determine the experiences in the life of the patient that may have led to the psychological illness. These experiences are largely assumed to lie in early childhood development.

Interpersonal psychotherapy:
IPT is a relatively new form of psychotherapy that moves between depth psychology therapy and behaviour therapy. In this form of psychotherapy, the therapist attempts to determine the conflict situations experienced by the patient that may have led to the illness, however, limiting the search to the central areas of life, e.g. separation or loss.

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Due to the law on advertising for health-related products, we may only provide access to further information to medical professionals.