#WellnessWeds: When it Comes to Treating Depression, Does It Takes One to Know One?

DepressionWe all have days where we feel like the world is out to get us — everything seems to be going wrong and life doesn’t seem to want to slow down for anything. Fortunately, these heavy moods don’t last too long for most of us. There are many things that can serve as pick-me-ups, such as music, exercise and being surrounded by friends. However, there doesn’t seem to be anything that can pull some people out of their sadness when something unfortunate happens. These people deal with depression, a condition characterized by feelings of emptiness, loneliness and loss of interest in daily activities.

Sometimes, people dealing with depression can pull themselves out without any outside resources. Many times, though, the condition becomes too heavy a burden to handle alone. The looming feelings of loneliness, fatigue and sadness become all-consuming, taking away the ability to think about anything else. These people experience negative emotions much more intensely than do others, often coping with them in self-destructive ways that may include burning or cutting themselves.

What About Treatment?

There are various forms of treatment, including antidepressant drugs and therapy, which may be effective in managing and treating depression. However, those dealing with the illness may feel opposed to drug intervention because of the side effects that can result. There may also be those who don’t want to talk to a therapist because they feel as though there is no way a person they have never met before could possibly understand what they’re going through.

But what happens when therapists had, at one point in their lives, the same experiences as their patients? A recent New York Times article tells the story of Dr. Marsha M. Linehan, a woman who makes a difference in the lives of others because of what once happened to her.

A Doctor’s Story

Dr. Linehan was institutionalized at the age of 17, at a time when she was extremely suicidal, and so self-destructive that she was forced to live in a seclusion room where she could not harm herself. She was given many psychotherapeutic drugs, and she became convinced that the real treatment of depression does not lie with drugs, but with facts — discovering why each emotion and thought is there, breaking the old behaviors and implementing new ones.

After achieving a Ph.D. in psychology, Dr. Linehan set out to begin treating those dealing with severe depression. She could understand her patients’ feelings and self-destructive tendencies.The form of therapy that she formed, now known as dialectical behavior therapy, consists of a commitment from each patient to change his or her behavior. This commitment includes breathing exercises and observing emotions without acting on them.

After years of incorporating this treatment into the lives of affected individuals, studies show that in comparison to others receiving professional treatment, Dr. Linehan’s patients made far fewer suicide attempts and maintained better overall mental health.

Making a Connection

Experts say that one of the reasons that Dr. Linehan’s form of therapy is so effective is because of the level of empathy associated with it. She understands where her patients are because of where she herself has been, and that provides her with a window through which she can see hope and opportunity within each of her patients.

What do you think about Dr. Linehan’s form of therapy? What do you think is best — professional therapy, antidepressant drugs, or a combination of the two?

Editor’s note: #WellnessWeds posts will appear each Wednesday, and the series kicked off last week . We encourage you to join the conversation and share your thoughts by tagging your health-related Twitter posts with #WellnessWeds or leave a comment here on A Healthier Michigan. You can check out the latest discussions on Twitter here.

Photo credit: Spitefully

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