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Depression

It is normal for anyone to feel sad or down from time to time. However, depression is an illness that leads to you feeling sad, down or miserable most of the time and makes it harder for you to function from day to day.  As a result, depression can have a significant impact on your life and overall well being.

There is strong and consistent evidence that people who experience depression or who are socially isolated (e.g. live alone or who are lonely), or do not have quality social support, are at greater risk of developing coronary heart disease. Thus anyone with depression should seek professional help, and talking to your Doctor or Advantage Pharmacist is the best first step.

Common behaviours associated with depression are listed below. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, speak to your local Doctor today.

  • Thoughts and feelings of sadness, hopelessness, helplessness or despair;
  • Thoughts and feelings of worthlessness, guilt or low self esteem;
  • Increased feelings of irritability, agitation or frustration;
  • Spending less time with friends and family;
  • Loss of interest in food, sex, exercise or other pleasurable activities;
  • Being awake throughout the night;
  • Being reckless or taking unnecessary risks (e.g. driving fast or dangerously);
  • Trouble thinking, concentrating and making decisions;
  • Thoughts of suicide or death.

Treatment

Depression is an illness that is likely to get worse if left untreated. There are many Health Professionals and services available to provide you with information, treatment and support. It is important that you learn about the types of effective treatments available and how you can access them.

Talking and Support

Talking is often the first step in managing depression. If you feel that you may have depression, speak to your local Doctor, Psychiatrist, Psychologist or Counsellor about your feelings and symptoms.  

For urgent assistance, you can contact the following services:

  • Emergency appointment with your local Doctor
  • Contact your local public hospital
  • Lifeline - 13 11 14
  • Suicide Helpline Victoria - 1300 651 251
  • Kids Help Line - 1800 551 800
  • Mensline - 1300 789 978

Medicines

Your Doctor may decide to prescribe you a medicine known as an ‘antidepressant’ to help with your depression. Antidepressant medicines can correct the balance of chemicals in your brain that relate to emotions and motivation. Different types of antidepressant medications work in slightly different ways, thus you may need to try several different types of antidepressants before finding the one that suits you.   Important information regarding antidepressant medication is listed below.  Antidepressant medicines:

  • Must be prescribed by your Doctor;
  • Are not addictive;
  • Are most effective when combined with psychological therapy;
  • May take 6-8 weeks to work, although some people may see benefits sooner;
  • May affect alertness and may cause drowsiness;
  • Need to be taken regularly and must not be stopped suddenly. Antidepressants should always be stopped gradually, with your Doctor’s advice and supervision;
  • Can interact with other medicines, including both prescription and over-the-counter medicines. Ask your Doctor or Advantage Pharmacist before starting or stopping a new medication or supplement.
  • Alcohol and certain foods must be avoided while taking some antidepressant medicines. Ask your Doctor or Advantage Pharmacist about what affects the medication you are taking.

Alternative Treatments

Many people with depression try to manage the illness themselves.  It’s important to know that while there are non-medical treatments available, some may be helpful (e.g. physical activity), however, others may be harmful (e.g. smoking marijuana and drinking more alcohol).   Some alternative therapies with good evidence include:

  • Increasing physical activity.  Moderate exercise for at least 30 minutes on all or most days of the week can help to improve your mood and physical health.  Try to partake in fun activities that you enjoy.
  • Taking the herb known as St John’s Wort (e.g. Swisse Ultiboost Mood). St John’s Wort may be an effective treatment in depression, however this herb may interact with many medications (including prescribed antidepressants, cholesterol-lowering medication and warfarin), thus it is best to seek advice from your Doctor or Advantage Pharmacist before use.
  • Self-help books involving Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT).  CBT is a program which recognises that the way people think affects the way they feel.  It teaches people to think rationally about common difficulties, helping a person to change their thought patterns and the way they react to certain situations.

Additionally, other alternative therapies with some evidence in the treatment of depression include: acupuncture, massage therapy, yoga breathing exercises, SAMe (e.g. Bio Organics SAMe Forte 400) and high strength fish oil (e.g. Bioceuticals OmegaSure Liquid Fish Oil).   It has been established that 15-38% of people with depression are also folate (also known as folic acid or vitamin B9) deficient. Good dietary sources of folate include fresh green leafy vegetables, such as cabbage and spinach, asparagus, broccoli, legumes, mushrooms and nuts. Your Doctor may be able to determine your folate level by doing a blood test.  If you are deficient in folate, your Doctor may recommend that you take a supplement on its own or in addition to your antidepressant medication.   

Additional Advice

  • Learn more about depression and its treatment. You can find out more information on www.beyondblue.org.au.
  • Some people find it helpful to keep a diary or write down their thoughts and feelings.
  • Let family and friends know how you are feeling. Even though they may not fully understand what you’re going through, they may be able to give you extra support.
  • Learn and practise relaxation techniques to relax your body and mind.
  • Do things that you enjoy e.g. painting, playing sport, going fishing etc.
  • Quit smoking. Nicotine may make anxiety worse. Ask your Advantage Pharmacist today for information and advice.
  • Limit or stop drinking caffeinated beverages (such as tea, coffee, cola or energy drinks) as caffeine may make anxiety worse.