Q: Is entering psychoanalysis a good way to quickly get over Depression?
A: Not necessarily. When we think of Sigmund Freud (the “grandfather” of psychoanalysis), we think of traditional psychoanalysis, or analytic psychotherapy. We picture the patient lying on a couch while talking, sometimes not even facing the therapist. The therapist often says little. This style of therapy rests on the principle that what develops reflects the pattern of earlier relationships, and that because the therapist is relatively passive, various emotions may freely emerge and may then be identified as the source of current problems.
This type of therapy is not aimed primarily at relieving symptoms of Depression, but rather at helping people learn more about themselves and how their past has contributed to the present. Any benefits from this type of analysis can take years. If one is depressed and in need of help now, it is advisable to seek treatment with a therapist who specializes in one of the newer approaches.
Q: Can aerobic exercise help relieve depression?
A: Aerobic exercise, done on a regular basis, can help ease symptoms of mild to moderate Depression. It is believed that regular aerobic exercise stimulates the body’s production of endorphins, which are natural painkillers that produce a calming effect on the central nervous system. To reap these benefits, one must engage in continuos aerobic activity for a minimum of 20 minutes, three times a week. Examples of aerobic exercise include brisk walking, jogging or running, bicycling, swimming, dancing, rowing, and playing racquet sports. Sometimes the mere act of getting out - whether for a brisk walk or a focused session at the gym - can have a revitalizing effect. However, before embarking on any exercise program, always consult with your physician. There may be medical reasons why certain exercises are advisable, while others are not.
Q: My 70-year-old grandfather lives alone, has been active in his retirement community, and generally gets along fine. But lately he seems sad and has been behaving strangely, forgetting things, and not getting dressed. What could be wrong?
A: People over age 65 are four times as likely to suffer from depression as other age groups. In the elderly, Depression is often accompanied by other symptoms, such as confusion, forgetfulness, and inattention to personal hygiene and appearance. These problems are sometimes mistaken for dementia, but they may be masking depression. Be sure that your grandfather receives medical attention immediately and that he is properly diagnosed and treated accordingly. In addition, general medical problems can cause depression, such as thyroid disease, endocrine disease, diseases of the central nervous system, and some cancers.
Q: Lately, I’ve been feeling as if I’m losing my mind - I can’t seem to think clearly. Could this be Depression?
A: It could be. Many people with depression will find that their ability to think and reason is affected. Some will find it hard to make decisions. Others may have mood changes. Some may find that their mind wanders when they are watching a movie, or that they have trouble finishing an article when reading the newspaper. From there, depression can progress even further, affecting sleep, appetite, and energy level.
Revision date: July 7, 2011
Last revised: by Jorge P. Ribeiro, MD