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Wed, Dec. 11

Modern depression treatments are highly effective

Depression is a word that we all know. Many have experienced its meaning either directly or through the struggles of a loved one. As the final months of 2008 approach, Americans are confronted with a strained economy and difficult political decisions to be made. These stressors are among many possible factors that can contribute to a diagnosis of depression.

"Depression is the result of an interplay of environmental, psychological, genetic and biochemical causes," said Sharon Hickey, LCSW, therapist at Green Tree Wellness Center, a program of West Yavapai Guidance Clinic.

According to a report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, one in four women and one in 10 men in the United States will experience this mood disorder during their lifetime. The World Health Organization predicted in a 1998 report that by the year 2020 depression will be the second-greatest cause of premature death and disability worldwide.

"As a therapist, I sometimes meet with people who tell me, 'I've been depressed my whole life.' In their case, early trauma or deprivation affected the normal functioning of brain chemistry, especially the production of serotonin and norepinephrine. These individuals may have a low-level version of depression called dysthymic disorder. For others, a recent traumatic event such as loss of a loved one or a job, chronic pain, or financial difficulties may trigger a major depressive disorder that also involves an imbalance of brain chemicals," Hickey said.

Symptoms of depression include feelings of sadness, insomnia, significant weight gain or loss, and loss of interest in normally pleasurable activities that continue for more than two months. In adolescents and males, unusual anger may also be a symptom. Untreated, depression is now recognized as a factor in heart disease and other physical illnesses.

"The good news is that in today's society, mood disorders are no longer viewed by most as a personal weakness or a character flaw," Hickey said. "Of those who do seek treatment, 80 to 90 percent show improvement, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Most experts recommend a combination of medication and counseling, particularly cognitive/behavioral counseling. This type of counseling focuses on the connections between thoughts and emotions that can lead to depression."

How do you know if it's depression or just sadness? A case of "the blues" can usually be relieved by increasing your level of physical activity, getting enough sleep, turning to spiritual resources, or just de-stressing through relaxing activities. A balanced lifestyle and an optimistic attitude may be your ounce of prevention.

"But if you or someone you know is depressed, please seek help or assist them in getting help from a primary care doctor, local mental health clinic, or other medical or psychological provider," Hickey said.

For more information, go to www.greentreewellness.org.

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