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Ask the Mental Health Expert Archives 2001-2004

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Recent Depression

Q. I am going to read about case studies of folks who have gone through depression. I've recently been diagnosed with depression and I'm having a difficult time coping with the fact that I am depressed. I have been a successful, outgoing and positive person my whole life, however, over the past few years I have spiraled downward. Is there group therapy? I am seeing a counselor already. Are there success stories published? Thank you for your help.

A. There are many success stories of people who have overcome depression, including very public discussions by newsman Mike Wallace and author William Styron (who still struggles with the illness). One of the first difficulties the depressed individual faces, as you know, is accepting the fact that he or she is depressed. In our "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" culture, psychological problems are still seen as weaknesses by many people. This notion persists, despite strong evidence that major depression and related disorders are biologically-based illnesses.

Of course, social and psychological factors are also important, and that's why counseling is a critical part of getting better. For some more severely depressed individuals, antidepressant medication is necessary, usually in combination with psychotherapy. And yes, group therapy for depression is available--your counselor should be able to refer you for this. For more details on these issues, I recommend John Medina's book, "Depression: How It Happens, How It's Healed" (CME LLC).

As to finding case histories, I would suggest you take a look at a self-help/self-education program called "Overcoming Depression: A Cognitive Therapy Approach for Taming the Depression Beast". This may be obtained by calling 1-800-211-8378 (www.PsychCorp.com). This workbook includes cases of individuals who have coped with their depression. There is also a good video tape entitled, "The Many Faces of Depression", available from Pfizer Pharmaceuticals or the National Council on Aging. You may also be interested in the book, "You Are Not Alone: Words of Experience and Hope for the Journey Through Depression,", by Julia Thorne & Larry Rothstein. (I have not read this, but one editorial comment by a psychiatrist was very favorable, as were several reader comments).

Finally, you may want to look into a very helpful organization called the National Depressive and Manic Depressive Association (NDMDA, 800-826-3632), which can provide invaluable support and face-to-face meetings with others who are battling depression. The good news is, most folks with depression can and do get better. I wish you well on your road to recovery.

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June 2001

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