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Approved by Dr Adil Jawad MBBS, DPM, FRCPsych — Clinical Lead for MindClinix

Recognising and acknowledging that you’re suffering from clinical depression is a brave step and can be a really tough thing to do.

Plenty of people are unaware they’re even suffering from a diagnosable condition. Or they’re stuck in denial, or too scared to confront the problem.

So, what’s the next step? Awareness alone is not enough to alleviate your suffering. In this blog, we’ll help you continue to manage your depression by exploring what treatments are available to you.

 

Does having the symptoms of depression mean I’m clinically depressed?

Before investigating the best treatment for depression, it’s important to discount any other reason for the symptoms you’re experiencing.

If you have an underlying condition that mimics the symptoms of depression, a course of antidepressants or therapy will do little to help. Treating the underlying condition itself will be the most effective way of alleviating your symptoms.

Symptoms of depression can range from feeling sad, listless and losing enjoyment of life, to low self-confidence, loss of appetite and suicidal thoughts. But these can also be caused by illnesses such as:

  • Diabetes
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Vitamin D deficiency
  • Hypothyroidism.

A consultation with your GP is vital to discover whether you’re suffering from such a condition. You may also find your symptoms are related to side effects from any medication you’re taking.

Once you are certain that you are suffering from clinical depression, there are two main treatments available:

  • Therapy
  • Medication

 

What are the different types of therapy?

Most therapists offer a blended approach to therapy, using a range of recognised methods.

  • Cognitive behavioural therapy. CBT focuses on how your thoughts, feelings and behaviour are interconnected. It works with what’s happening now, rather than exploring your past. It’s widely used to help people overcome negative feelings of overwhelm and manage their lives more positively and effectively.
  • Interpersonal therapy. IPT helps address the impact of relationships on your mental health. It can help you manage the effects of isolation, bereavement, break-up, and other relationship issues that may be underlying your mood disorder.
  • Psychodynamic therapy. A psychodynamic approach to therapy is less focused on specific problem-solving and is more holistic. Sessions tend to be a free-flowing exploration of your thoughts and feelings, with the aim of discovering patterns and developing insights into your depression.

 

How do I find the right therapist?

  • Word of mouth. A recommendation from a trusted friend or family member will give you a good measure of confidence in the therapist they suggest. Remember, your circumstances are unique to you, so just because a therapist has worked for someone else doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be right for you.
  • Your GP. If you’ve been consulting your GP about your depression, they should be able to refer you to an appropriate therapist through the NHS.
  • Mental health charities. There are community and charitable organisations that offer free or low-cost therapy.
  • Pay to go private. Using an NHS therapist is also free, but may involve long waiting times. If you’re able to afford it, paying for a private therapist will get you seen quickly, but you should ensure that the therapist is registered with a professional body. Our affiliate company, Psychiatry-UK offers private consultations across the full range of mental disorders.

 

Should I have one-to-one or group therapy?

Both have their benefits:

  • One-to-one therapy. With individual therapy sessions, you’ll build a close relationship with your therapist. They’ll get to know you and your personal needs, and be able to respond accordingly with help and guidance.
  • Group therapy. In a group of people with similar needs to your own, you get to hear their experiences, learn from their stories, and share your struggles with people who are on a journey like yours. Group therapy can be very supportive, even though you get less one-to-one time with your therapist.

 

Is there a difference between therapy and counselling?

Both are forms of professional intervention to help improve your mental health.

  • Counselling tends to be aimed at a specific short-term issue or crisis. A counsellor should listen to you non-judgmentally and offer help and advice on how to cope with your depression.
  • A therapist (or psychotherapist) tends to operate over a longer period of time at a deeper level, in order to help you resolve deep-set mental health issues, and overcome negative feelings and attitudes. A psychotherapist would be appropriate for treating chronic and/or deep-seated depression.
  • Before proceeding with any treatment, you should check that your therapist or counsellor is registered with a professional body.

 

What if I find therapy makes me feel worse?

Often, you have to get worse to get better. Therapy involves looking hard at yourself, often digging into your past. You may go to places that are hard to visit, or revisit. You may experience feelings of guilt, shame, fear or self-loathing.

But these feelings are a vital part of the journey, and your therapist is there to help you get safely through the process and move to a better place. Most therapists will have been through a similar therapy experience to you as part of their training and/or life journey, so they’ll be supportive and empathetic.

 

What are antidepressants?

An antidepressant is a type of medication designed to alleviate the symptoms of depression.

While they’re not likely to cure your depression, antidepressants are a popular and effective way of making your depression easier to cope with.

 

How do they work?

The theory that depression is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain is a controversial one. However, the way most antidepressants work is to rebalance the mood-regulating neurotransmitters. The greater the availability of these mood-regulating neurotransmitters within the neurons of the brain, the greater the improvement in mood.

What are the different types of antidepressants?

Common types of antidepressants are:

  • Serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
  • Serotonin-noradrenaline re-uptake inhibitors (SNRIs)
  • Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs).

Your GP or psychiatrist is the best person to advise you on which antidepressant is likely to work best for you.

Are there any downsides to taking antidepressants?

When you first take an antidepressant, it may take a few days or weeks to begin to have a positive effect on your symptoms.

There’s a risk of side effects with all medication, not just antidepressants. So even when the medication settles into your system and starts to work, you may experience one or more of the following:

  • An inability to sleep.
  • Feeling sick.
  • Getting headaches.
  • Feeling agitated.
  • Feeling drowsy.
  • Losing your sex drive/erectile dysfunction.
  • Putting on weight.

Everyone responds to medication in their own way, so it’s difficult to predict whether you’ll experience any side effects until you start taking your prescribed antidepressant.

If there are any effects you’re especially concerned about, discuss them with your GP, who may be able to prescribe a medication that will not cause that problem.

Are there any things I should be cautious about when taking antidepressants?

  • Don’t stop taking your antidepressant suddenly and without medical advice as you may suffer side effects.
  • Mixing antidepressants with alcohol and other prescribed and non-prescribed/recreational drugs could have unpredictable effects.
  • Discuss with your GP any circumstances that may make antidepressants (or a particular antidepressant) unsuitable/unsafe, for example if:
    • You’re pregnant or breastfeeding.
    • You’re taking other medication for your mental health.
    • You suffer from a health condition such as diabetes, liver or kidney disease, or heart disease.

 

Are there any other treatments for depression?

For alternative ways of coping with your depression, read our blog.

For more help treating your depression and a simple way of testing your depression, please get in touch. You’re not alone.

All content within the MindClinix website is provided for general information purposes only and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. MindClinix.co.uk is an independent website and a source of information.  If you wish to contact individual services for support, please contact them directly. MindClinix is not responsible for any diagnosis made by a user based on the content of this website. Any links to external websites have been carefully selected, however, MindClinix is not liable for the contents of any external internet sites listed, nor does it endorse any commercial product or service mentioned or advertised on these linked sites. Listing shall not be taken as endorsement of any kind. The site is hosted by HLP-U Ltd, an independent company affiliated to Psychiatry UK LLP and the views and opinions on the site reflect the ethos of this organisation and are expressed with the aim of improving wellbeing. Always consult your own GP if you’re in any way concerned about your health. You should always promptly consult a doctor for all matters relating to physical or mental health, particularly concerning any symptoms that may require diagnosis or medical attention.