Depression: Prevention and Treatment

More people are suffering from depression than ever before. Life is getting more challenging all the time, with increased demands on our time and our energy for work and other commitments, increasing complexity in the way we have to deal with the world, and increasing pressure to live “perfect” lives. We know that anxiety and depression usually go together, and if we’re constantly worrying about whether we’re succeeding at our work or our relationships, plus feeling that we can’t meet the standards being set for us, plus thinking that this will never get easier – we’re heading for depression. I often talk about the “four cornerstones of mental health” with my clients, which refers to sleep, nutrition, exercise, and pleasure.

We all know that, when you’re not getting enough sleep, life gets a whole lot harder. If you’re not eating regularly and sensibly, your body has fewer resources to draw on when stress arrives. We also know that regular exercise (and I don’t mean running a marathon or sweating at the gym – I just mean a 30-minute fast walk) does good things to our bodies and our brains. Finally, we know that having pleasurable activities in our lives helps protect us against depression. Doing things that make you feel happy and that bring you pleasure each day is really important. Achieving balance in these four areas of our lives helps prevent depression. However, despite our best efforts, you or I (or one of our children or one of our parents) could become depressed. If that happens, it’s even more important to attend to the lifestyle factors referred to above, but it’s also important to seek treatment.

We know that mild to moderate depression can be effectively treated with psychotherapy, or the “talking cure”. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has been shown to be effective in the treatment of depression around the world. CBT teaches people how to alter negative thinking patterns, how to manage the symptoms of depression, and how to protect against relapse once the depression has lifted. CBT is a relatively brief, focused treatment that depends on a good relationship between the therapist and the client so that they can work well together. There are many variants of CBT available, with some treatment even available online ( for young people, and for adults).

CBT can be used with adults, adolescents, and children, and there are therapists who specialize in each age group. People who are suffering from severe depression may need medication to help lift their mood before they can benefit from psychotherapy. We know that antidepressant medication can be very effective in treating severe depression, and for some people, this involves life-changing benefits. Obviously, treatment of any kind – psychotherapy or medication – must be administered by a qualified health professional, so make sure that you ask any health practitioner about their training and experience, and what professional organisation they belong to (which keeps an eye on the standards of practice they use).


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