Depression is Treatable for Many

By SPECIAL TO U-T SAN DEIGO 12:01 A.M.OCT. 29, 2013

Needless stigmas are often attached to mental health

Most people don’t hesitate to see a doctor for a disease such as diabetes or high blood pressure.

But when it comes to seeing someone for mental health issues, such as depression, there’s often a stigma attached.

“There’s no shame in it. It’s a treatable disease, like high blood pressure,” said Reena Mittal, a San Diego-based marriage and family therapist who specializes in anxiety and depression. “This is a disease. It’s a treatable disease.”

According to a 2010 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report, 9 percent of respondents in a survey of more than 200,000 people age 18 and older across 45 states reported they felt depressed to some degree in the weeks prior to the survey. That includes 3.4 percent of adults who met the center’s standards for major depression.

Mittal said depression — which she defines as feelings of sadness and worthlessness — results from a chemical imbalance that affects mood. The result often includes low mood, sadness, feeling lethargic, feelings of low self-worth and loss of energy and interest in work, friendships and relationships.

But she said that just like many physical ailments are treatable, the same goes for depression.

Mittal said depression can be caused by a number of factors including genetics, environmental influences, psychological influences and personal experiences.

She said most people “have a depressive gene in us.” She said if a parent suffers from depression, there’s a chance it can be passed to a child. But she also said experience plays a role. The chemical imbalance that creates depression can be triggered by past experiences or traumatic events from childhood, such as the death of a parent at a young age or being abused by family members.

“A lot of our experiences in life can explain this imbalance,” she said.

Meanwhile, she said depression runs across a spectrum and is often handled differently by each individual. While she said some can mask the fact that they are depressed around friends or strangers, those with deep depression often have such low energy that it can impact their jobs, lives and appetites. For those on what she calls the “low grade,” it can lead to suicidal thoughts.

The good news is that there’s been a lot of research on depression in recent years, and a lot of very good medications which are very safe are now available as a result, she said.

However, she said, just medication or therapy on its own doesn’t always help.

While therapy alone can work for those with mild depression, those with deeper depression often have good results from a combination of the two. She said those who are depressed tend to get tunnel vision and think they are worthless. She said therapy can help many depressed people see the world more broadly and help pull them from negative to positive self-thought.

“We help them to reprogram their brain,” she said. “There’s a process to working with depression.”

Meanwhile, she said medications can help fix the chemical imbalance that comes with depression. She said not all drugs fit everyone, so a doctor might try a few medications before finding one that’s effective.

Mittal also said exercise works for those who are depressed because it creates chemicals that are “mood enhancers.”

“There’s nothing to be ashamed about,” she said. “There are treatments … instead of suffering.”

Read it at The San Diego Union-Tribune

October 29, 2013 12:01 AM

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