Managing Depression

What is Depression?
Although we will all experience sadness from time to time, depression differs from sadness in its intensity and duration. Typically, depression involves daily, significant sad moods or apathy, loss of energy, feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness, and a diminished ability to concentrate or make decisions. In some cases, depression is also accompanied by thoughts of suicide and disruptions in eating and sleep patterns. For most, depression makes even daily routines difficult to approach or complete, and goes far beyond feeling down or blue. If untreated, depressive episodes typically last between 4 and 9 months (although can last a year or more), and are likely to recur. Approximately 85% of those who have one episode of depression will go on to experience more episodes of depression if untreated.

How Common is Depression?
Depression is one of the most common psychological problems and has become the leading cause of disability worldwide. An estimated 13–16% of persons will experience depression at some point in their lifetime. Also, the incidence of depression is increasing. Younger generations are experiencing higher rates of depression than previous generations.

Common Symptoms of Depression
The following are common symptoms of depression. If you experience five or more of these symptoms in a two-week period, and you find they interrupt normal life, it is recommended that you seek help. 

  1. Lack or excess of sleep
  2. Loss of interest
  3. Feeling guilty
  4. General lack of energy
  5. Inability to concentrate
  6. Change in appetite
  7. Psychomotor lethargy
  8. Suicidal thoughts

If you have been experiencing excessive anxiety, stress, sadness, or any other of the above signs/symptoms associated with depression, you may want to look into different screenings or tests to test for depression and/or anxiety.

If your screening test(s) indicate that you may have some concerns with depression and/or anxiety, you may wish to consult your insurance provider for referrals for counseling and medical treatment. People frequently consult with their physician, ecclesiastical leader, or LDS Family Services for local resources. The BYU Comprehensive Clinic is a non-insurance, low-cost option for counseling services for children, families, and couples (phone: 801-422-7759, website: cc.byu.edu).

Treatments for Depression
The good news is that there are effective treatment options for depression. Of the interventions have been adequately tested for their usefulness in alleviating depression, the two that have received the most empirical support are the following: 

  • (1) cognitive-behavior therapy (often called CBT) and
  • (2) medication. 

Although there are many medications for depression (which fall into three main categories), all anti-depressant medications are about equally effective in reducing depression and differ mainly in side effects. Medications reduce depressive symptoms in about 50%–60% of those who take them. Likewise, about 50%–70% of persons who receive CBT experience significant reductions in depression. CBT also reduces the likelihood that a person will experience depression again. After treatment has ended, only 30% of those receiving CBT go on to develop another episode of depression, whereas 70–90% of those on medication relapse. Cognitive-behavioral therapy can therefore not only treat the depression a person currently experiences but can also reduce the likelihood of future episodes.

Despite the existence of effective treatments, only about 50% of depressed persons seek any treatment at all. Which type of treatment to choose is usually left to patient preference. Some things to consider when choosing a treatment for depression are: efficacy, time, cost, access to treatment, side effects, and drug interactions. Cognitive-behavioral treatments typically involve weekly therapy sessions for 12 to 20 weeks and help individuals understand and change depressive thinking and behavioral patterns. Many therapists are not adequately trained in CBT methods and thus access to CBT treatment can be limited. A listing of Board Certified CBT therapists can be found at: www.academyofct.org. Medication is usually easily accessible through a primary care doctor or psychiatrist and requires minimal time commitment. However, medications often have problematic side effects and provide no lasting benefit once they are discontinued. Additionally, anti-depressant medications can interact with other medications and are often not appropriate for those who are pregnant, wish to become pregnant, or are nursing.

Other Resources

  • National Alliance on Mental Illness:  For help contact www.nameut.org
  • Crisis Line of Utah County: (801) 226-4433 
  • Crisis Line at Wasatch Mental Health (801) 373-7393
  • Live Your Life Well: Mental Health America has information and resources for dealing with depression. Visit http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/ten-tools. This site also promotes stress relief through ten tools for boosting a sense of well-being. There are several smaller goals within each tool that allow participants to tailor their goal-setting experience to their own unique situation. Visit http://www.liveyourlifewell.org/conditions/depression.   
  • Ecclesiastical Leaders:  Ecclesiastical leaders can provide valuable advice and resources for you. Arrange an appointment with your leader. If you do not have an ecclesiastical leader, you may refer to LDS Maps to find your local LDS leader.
  • Deseret Mutual Benefit Administrators (DMBA): If you have DMBA as your primary insurance provider, contact them online or via telephone at 1-800-777-3622 to find a Mental Health Provider to assist you in your circumstances.
  • LDS Family Services:  Provides a variety of counseling programs and resources to assist families and individuals going through hard times. You can contact LDS Family Services online at http://www.providentliving.org/lds-family-services or the Provo agency via telephone at 801-422-7620.
  • BYU Comprehensive Clinic:  The BYU Comprehensive Clinic is a non-insurance, low-cost option for counseling services for children, families, and couples. You can contact the BYU Comprehensive Clinic online at cc.byu.edu or via telephone at 801-422-7759.