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Anti-depressant drugs can be one way to deal with depression. One issue with anti-depressants is that there is not one anti-depressant that is effective for everyone. While many may find relief with the first anti-depressant, others need to ‘shop around’ for the right anti-depressant, and still others don’t find one that works for them. Add to this the delay – a number of weeks – between when anti-depressant therapy begins, and when you can tell if it effective, and the process can rather frustrating.

In the future this delay may be minimized. One article on psychcentral describes how brain waves were measured in a study to detect individuals responses to a couple of anti-depressants, with 74% accuracy, much higher than other methods. A recent article in the journal psychophamacology reports that fMRI – a technique using magnetic fields to examine which parts of the brain are active – can be used to predict how likely people with anxiety disorders are to respond to anti-depressants (anxiety disorders and depression are linked, so it’s thought fMRI could be used in a similar way with depression).

If such technologies became widespread it would make finding the right anti-depressant easier. But for now, we have to taking it one day at a time, making sure we have a healthy lifestyle and diet. And as always, it’s good to be supported, to have someone to go when you really need to.

I recently came across an article that highlights some misconceptions about depression. The story is basically this; a woman in the US is off work for depression, getting getting wages covered by an insurance company. But at some point, the insurance company looks at photo’s posted on Facebook, and it appears they decide she looks “too happy” to be depressed, and so they stop covering her, despite the fact she was doing the activities in the photos at the suggestion of her doctor.

Now, I’d be hesitant to make a judgment call about all of this on the basis of one article, but it does bring out some interesting issues.

For a start, it looks like the company may not have a clear understanding of what depression is. While ‘anhedonia’ – a diminished capacity to experience pleasure – is one of the symptoms of depression, there is a lot more to depression than ‘never going out and having fun’. People with depression may have more difficulty doing enjoyable things, and ‘having fun’ may be a part of recovery for some with depression, but to boil down depression to not looking happy – and specifically not having happy looking Facebook photos – is just crazy.

And I guess what is worries me about this story is that it looks like the insurance company is effectively discouraging proper recovery. One can imagine the poor woman struggling with depression, managing to find the energy to enjoy a few good evenings, and perhaps starting to feel like life is good. Suddenly in swoops an insurance company and ruins it all, and tells her to stop enjoying life, to stop doing what she needs to do to get through depression.

Of course, this is all based on a news report, and may be a little on the sensationalist side. However, this story highlights the importance of understanding depression – and an individual’s own experience – before anyone can decide whether someone fits their model of depression.

April 2010
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