Depression may be getting wrongly diagnosed as much negative thinking which is being termed 'depression, could be down to faulty habits of thinking and not coping properly with the normal 'ups and downs' of life.
- STOP CALLING IT ‘DEPRESSION’! Three-quarters of a million patients were referred for psychological treatment for depression or anxiety last year. Half a million of these patients were women, between the ages of 20 and 50. Depression is twice as common among women as men. But are these women actually ‘depressed’ or is this ‘diagnosis’ more damaging than helpful? To fit the medical category of being depressed a patient has to suffer “a state of extreme dejection or morbidly excessive melancholy; a mood of hopelessness and feelings of inadequacy, often with physical symptoms, sadness, gloom, a loss of interest in normally enjoyable activities, accompanied by anorexia and consequent weight loss, insomnia, feelings of worthlessness or guilt with a diminished ability to think or concentrate, or recurrent thoughts of death or suicide”. That lot would be enough to make anybody depressed! Surely a more accurate definition would be “a temporary loss of the ability to cope with the ups and downs of life in the present moment and to see life in its true perspective without loosing sight of perspective and reality”. Now that we can all sometimes identify with – and it certainly isn’t ‘depression’. That’s more a case of seeing life as it really is and not knowing how to think about it in a way that enables us to cope in a practical and positive manner. Your doctor’s diagnosis can be dangerous. Your own self-diagnosis even more so. As we misinterpret our inability to cope with life’s bad days as being ‘depressed’ we gradually change our perception of what is ‘normal’. The temporary failure of our coping skills gets turned into a ‘condition’ from which we need rescuing or ‘treatment’. This further convinces us that we are suffering from some medical disorder. A good example of this is how normal shyness has become transformed into ‘Social Anxiety Disorder’, a condition that didn’t even exist before the 1980’s. When it was first ‘diagnosed’ in the 1960’s it was considered to be a rare and relatively harmless condition. However, the two psychiatrists involved in it’s identification, Dr’s. Marks and Gelder, were overwhelmed by the pressure of the pharmaceutical industry, especially in the US where in 2010 more than 24 million prescriptions for Prozac were written. There is even a massive medical tomb called the ‘Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders’ (DSM) whose sole function is to categorise the criteria of mental disorders to assist in research projects and to aid the treatment of patients. Yet as this volume grows with each publication so does the number of identifiable conditions. The value of this book is now being challenged by those who feel it is distorting normal human behaviour by turning them into mental disorders. Even a past chairman of the DSM working party agrees. He cites the examples of “grief becoming Major Depressive Disorder; worrying about being sick is now Somatic Symptom Disorder; temper tantrums are Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder; gluttony is Binge eating Disorder; and soon everyone will have Attention Deficit Disorder.” Within your own GP clinic you will find the category GAD (General Anxiety Disorder) being banded about for any sort of worry or concern you might have. So why this vast endemic of so-called ‘depression which appears to be inflicting itself on so many women today? Can it be partly laid at the doors of the very folk charged with helping us – your family GP? Yes, it certainly can, but in a way without blaming them for it. The reason for this can be simply explained by 3 causes. First, your GP has not the training in the complex and subtle emotional and psychological aspects of this condition. In other words your GP is not a trained counsellor or psychologist. Secondly, he simply does not have the time in the pressured world of a busy and demanding practice. 5 minutes in and out does not allow him to get to grip with the causes of why you feel as you do, only the symptoms you are suffering. Thirdly, he is under enormous pressure financially by the pharmacological industry to issue a prescription. It is only the additional pressure to reduce the vast costs of medication that are increasingly forcing doctors to prescribe talking therapies and CBT as alternatives to medication. Little wonder that the pharmacological industry is lukewarm to research in cognitive neuroscience that is starting to show how patients can deal with their own faulty thought processes without recourse to additive medication. Yet some people remain able to keep an even keel on life’s little upsets even in severe situations. A few years ago the sailor Tony Bullimore was rescued by the navy after spending a few days in the upside down hull of his capsized yacht in the southern ocean. When asked if he wanted counselling his pithy reply was, “Certainly not; I’m going down the pub with my mates.” Perhaps it’s a sad reflection, in these days of massive virtual relationships on line, that we have fewer real friends. But it is this positive approach to dealing with those situations in life which have the potential to be turned into a negative mind-set which gives us hope for the development of a more constructive outlook. The programmes we run at ‘Therapy Retreats’ return the handset of thinking back to the client. Running on ‘Automatic Pilot’ becomes a thing of the past. Our ‘Fast Therapy’ approach over a few days midweek or at a weekend, provides instant control over those negative thought patterns which may have become ingrained over many years and developed the unwanted status of a habit. We do not go in for the traditional approach of long, drawn out psychological archaeology as we are focused on what you are capable of tomorrow, not what you have been doing wrong in the past. Rapid cognitive change is expected and can be achieved by this intense process which achieves rapid and permanent results over traditional week on week counselling; a process which in many instances may actually worsen the condition being addressed. Perhaps it’s time to stop calling it ‘depression’ and treat most sufferers for what it really is. That is getting into a habit of faulty thinking and reprogramming the cognitive process. After all, with the right teacher, bad habits can be converted into good ones. We might try scrapping the term ‘anxiety’ next?