Some More Thoughts on Depression

One of the common questions I am asked as a therapist relates to how busy I am at Christmas.  Christmas is a painful time for many people.  The problems they have with other family members come to the forefront; decisions have to be made as to how to divide the time spent with each side of the family; whether to even spend time with the family, or maybe there are just too many painful memories of past holidays.

My answer is “No, things slow down at Christmas for me.”  I then go on to explain that  regardless of the past issues, there is usually enough activities going on that most people simply hold tight and make it through to January.  And then I say, “Beginning in January, and through tax day in April, that’s when I get busy.”  That’s when they get back in touch with the depression they have been fighting against.

In the two previous posts, I referred to some of the changes in the way we are seeing depression.  Researchers are moving away from calling it a mental disorder to calling it a systemic disorder.  That means depression takes a heavy toll on our whole body, not just the synapses in our brain.

The other insight they are pointing to is that probably the major cause of depression is our stress levels.  Here’s what one study found:

They took a large group of people who were all diagnosed with major depression.  This was a depression that interfered with their ability to function in daily living.  They were randomly divided into four groups.  Those in one group were simply treated with the appropriate SSRI medications.  The second group was assigned to a therapist and experienced only psychotherapy.  The third group was given the medications and participated in psychotherapy.  And here’s the surprise–the fourth group was given a personal trainer who made certain they exercised four times a week.  All four treatments continued for the same length of time.

Two years later, they went back and examined all four groups of people and to their surprise, there was no difference in the outcome of treatment.  Those who exercised only had the same positive outcome as those in the other three groups.  Why is that?

If depression is the consequence of stress, one of the ways we can offset the effects of stress is, as we said earlier in a post, sleep.  The other way is through exercise.  And the exercise needn’t be that strenuous.  Those in the test group were to walk four times a week for 30 minutes at a brisk pace, but not so brisk they couldn’t talk with a fellow walker.  If you’ve got the post-holiday blues, why not try exercise as your treatment of choice.

Question:  What are you doing about an exercise program?

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One Response to Some More Thoughts on Depression

  1. Shannon says:

    Dr. Stoop,

    Thank you so much for this post. I suffer from major depression that can be incapacitating at times but for my own reasons I choose not to medicate with SSRIs. I have found exercise to be my lifeline at times and it is good to get reinforcement that what my body has been telling me is right. The second weapon I use is to force myself to avoid extended isolation. The more consecutive time I spend alone the stronger the foothold of my negative thoughts. Even if I go to church and don’t say anything just being with other people helps.

    Of course my FIRST weapon is crying out “Abba Father”. Prayer reminds me I am in His hands even if I can’t feel it.

    Bless you for all the work you do. I love hearing you on New Life Live. The show has really come alongside me in my recovery. Thank you.


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