Can Depression be treated without medication?

Over the next few weeks I will explore the possible approaches to the treatment of depression without prescription but before we get into that I want to look at what depression is.

Clinical depression is a medical syndrome, it is the association of a cluster of symptoms which happen together too often for this to be a chance occurrence; it is common and it is serious and it is entirely treatable.

The most important symptoms are biological:
Loss of sleep (particularly early morning wakening) – occasionally lethargy and excessive sleep.  The mood on wakening is often changed – you make wake with a start (suddenly alert) and then the hours before breakfast are filled with negative thougts, morbid preoccupations and dread – or  you may wake with the experience of not having been rested by sleep.  Loss of appetite (especially if associated with weight loss) – or more rarely; increased appetite with weight gain.  Change of bowel habit (constipation or, in the over anxious, intestinal hurry)
Loss of libido (a decease in sexual desire) – some women may have menstrual changes or even a cessation of normal cycle
There may even be a symptom known as psychomotor retardation in which everything a person does or says is slowed down – in milder cases this can manifest as a subjective experience of an increased effort in order to achieve anything “getting out of bed is like climbing a mountain.”
The body typically is afflicted by aches and pains – musculoskeletal in origin. There is a typical headache which is described as having a tight band around the head (like wearing a hat which is too tight)

The psychological symptoms include feeling helpless, hopeless and pointless – and it may get so bad that you feel worthless or even so bad that suicide becomes a constant preoccupation.

 If this describes you – go and see your doctor – this is an illness, it is a serious illness and it is completely treatable.

Dr Robin E Lawrence MRCP MRCPsych