The patient’s depression was crippling. He was in an out of psychiatric hospitals and could not work let alone function a normal life. All other treatments had failed him until neurosurgeon John Smider performed and operation. His skull was opened exposing his brain, in which they then placed a battery operated “pacemaker.” This pacemaker emits a rhythmic electrical pulse which alleviates depression whithout altering the thinking process or damaging the brain.
The operation was a success! The patient positive attitude soon returned and he was able to return to work. “You saved my life,” he told the doctor. “Now I can live a normal life.”
This man was one of many millions of americans suffering from chronic depression, a disorder that created intense feelings of guilt, helplessness and hoplessness. Many other symptoms of this disorder are disturbances in appetite and sleep, constant fatigue, crying spells and the inability to cope with life and derive pleasure from anything.
Only a very slight amount of people suffering from chronic depression require surgical treatment with a “pacemaker.” With most forms of major depression trained professions can help the patient.
What treatments are available? There are a variety. Some suggest that other methods do not work, and others suggest that multiple methods work together. Why is this?
Some researchers feel that severe depressions are caused by a physical defect in the body, such as a chemical imbalance in the brain, thusly medication such as antidepressants are considered a viable method of treatment. Others argue that the disorder results from faulty thinking and that the mind creates the imbalance and can thereby rectify it. These believe that the mind needs correction by “talk therapy,” psychotherapy. While both methods have experienced some good results, neither of them has the full answer.
Mind and Body Involved
The relationship between the mind and the body is a complex relationship because of the close interplay between the mind and body.
Each and every patient is different and mental disorders can be very complex. Only a trained doctor can make recommendations as to which approach is best for the patient. It is recognized that within every field of treatment there are often a wide range of practitioners. For example in psychotherapy there are over 130 different reported approaches.
Talk Out Depression
When one is sufffering from major depression, psychotherapy or “talk therapy” is one recommended approach. Since a depressed person usually has greatly disturbed ideas, many have been aided by their talking to a therapist. Such professionals may include psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers and others with specialized training. Many have also found great help in just talking with a caring friend of relative.
Armand DiMele, director of the Center for Psychotherapy, observes: “The depressed person is protecting himself by shutting down his mind and body and not allowing any stimulation. For example, when someone suffers a loss such as a death, he may go into a depression rather than face the loss.” The job of the counselor is to help the sufferer to face the feelings and anxiety that come from such a loss. DiMele continues: “If the therapist sitting with him can really nurture him through and tell him what to anticipate in body sensations, then the person gradually realizes he can cope with the emotion, and the depression lifts.”
Submerged feelings, such as anger, resentment and guilt, have often bred depression. For instance, a psychologist employed by the New York State Mental Health Department treated a 58-year-old woman suffering from severe depression. She felt that God had abandoned her and that everyone was talking against her. As this expert of 20 years’ experience began to talk with her in a kindly way each week, he noticed that in discussions about her family she never mentioned her mother, with whom she was now living. He probed. In time she revealed that she felt that her mother, by her neglect, was responsible for her beloved father’s recent death. Gradually the counselor helped her to overcome this resentment, and her depression melted away.
Since guilt is often a major symptom of depression, psychologists will endeavor to eliminate it along with the patient’s feelings of worthlessness. One woman became severely depressed when her child turned rebellious. “I was never really a proper mother, was I?” she cried to the psychiatrist. “That’s why she’s gone wrong.” The doctor helped her to see all the good she had done for the child. The guilt then vanished–and so did her depression.
However, the treatment of most cases is unsuccessful, according to Dr. Ronald Fieve. He reports in his book Moodswing–The Third Revolution in Psychiatry that not infrequently, after weeks, months and years of working with a moderate or severe depressive, helping him to analyze his behavior, “very little happened.”
Authorities in the field differ as to intensive psychotherapy’s effectiveness. One of the reasons for this is that many doctors feel that the chemical imbalance present in severe moodswings cannot always be corrected by psychotherapy. They advocate the use of . . .