Can a psychiatrist cure your depression and anxiety?
Domlur, Bengaluru Feb 9, 2017
Depression and anxiety are two of most common psychological ailments of our time. Both are triggered by extreme, stressful situations. Even their initial symptoms look the same. However, they are two completely different demons.
Anxiety and depression can be triggered by a wide range of factors, including but not limited to, emotional, environmental and nutritional and health factors, along with genetic ones. Studies have also pointed towards biochemical causes behind anxiety and depression but they have not been conclusive.
As I pointed out earlier, anxiety and depression are fundamentally different, but they often become entwined. People suffering from depression often develop anxiety disorders and vice versa. Sometimes, the treatments for depression and anxiety overlap. Therefore, it is necessary to delve into the nature of each ailment before we can talk about getting the right treatment.
Experts inform us that anxiety is the mind’s way of dealing with stressful situations and is a useful tool in coming out of tricky corners. However, when anxiety gets out of hand, it leads to anxiety disorders.
A person suffering from an anxiety disorder exhibits physical, emotional and behavioural symptoms. Some of the physical symptoms include fatigue, hot flashes, headaches, trembling, muscle aches and sweating, among other things. The emotional symptoms include fear, worry, haywire thoughts and a feeling that something is about to go wrong. The behavioural symptoms lead the person to avoid interacting with people and stop visiting certain places.
This is a generalized version of anxiety disorder but it can get more complicated than that. There are several kinds of anxiety disorders including panic disorder, agoraphobia, social phobia, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), acute stress disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The leading cause behind anxiety disorders is genetics but that alone can’t explain everything. Other factors including childhood trauma, social and environmental conditions also need to be taken into consideration.
Most people suffering from anxiety disorders can’t seem to identify the causes behind their irrational fears and worries and therefore don’t seek out professional help. People need to be aware of basic symptoms of anxiety disorders to help themselves or those around them. If an anxiety disorder gets identified early on and the treatment begins, there is a very good chance that the person will recover. The longer anxiety disorders stay untreated, the more entrenched they become, affecting those that have them and the people around them.
Depression can be categorized as a combination of symptoms such as lethargy, fluctuating moods, low self esteem, and a loss of interest in anything and everything that the person previously enjoyed. In a staggering estimate, it was revealed that close to 350 million people across the globe suffer from depression. Men and women go through depression differently. Experts believe that men who suffer from depression tend to become angry or restless while the womenfolk feel sad and guilty. Some of the most symptoms of depression include:
? Erratic sleeping patterns; patients either sleep too much or sleep too little
? Dramatic shifts in eating habits and weight
? Low energy
? Memory loss
? Contemplating death or suicide
? Headaches and gastric problems
The exact causes behind depression continue to elude experts but some studies have shown that it happens due to a combination of genetic and non-genetic factors. Scans of patients suffering from depression have shown that the area of the brain that regulates moods, behaviour, sleep and appetite stop working in a balanced manner. This has been attributed to genetic factors and energy transmission between neurons.
Apart from the genetic and biochemical factors, people who suffer from emotional stress tend to slip into depression more often. For example, an abusive relationship, loss of a loved one and financial difficulties are some of the triggers that lead to depression. Once depression takes hold, it takes little to trigger further episodes of depression.
Like anxiety disorders, people who suffer from depression tend to retreat into a shell of their own, shying away from social contact and showing no interest in other activities. As depression continues to take hold, the person’s personal life, work life, eating habits and health start to suffer.
Can a psychiatrist cure your depression and anxiety?
When you are suffering from a mental disorder such as depression or anxiety, the best thing to do is come out of shell and talk to someone, preferably someone who is close and trustworthy. However, in advanced or acute cases, it is always advisable that you seek help from a certified medical professional.
Many people shy away from seeking medical help as there may be social stigma attached to mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety; they finally suffer in silence for the rest of their lives. When you speak to the ones who are close to you about your problems, they can support you in seeking out medical help.
So yes, a psychiatrist can cure your depression and anxiety, provided that you visit one in the first place and take an active part in the treatment process that has been prescribed. Below is a basic treatment outlined for depression and anxiety that a psychiatrist might follow.
A. Treatment for Depression
First and foremost, the psychiatrist will have to rule out any medical cause that might be behind the depression. It is a well known fact that certain illnesses, like infection, medicine side effects, thyroid disease and hormonal imbalances can cause depression in certain people.
When it is established that the patient is not suffering from an underlying illness, the treatment begins in earnest.
- Psychotherapy – The most common form of treatment for depression is psychotherapy. The therapy provided by the psychiatrist depends entirely on how far gone is the depression. Sessions of therapy will be preceded by several rounds of evaluation, wherein the therapist will ask the patient a series of questions about their condition and pain areas. Depending on the answers, the therapist will decide the type and intensity of the psychotherapy session.
- Lifestyle and Behavioural Changes – The lifestyle and behaviour of a patient play a huge rule in treating the depression. Most psychiatrists ask their patients to draw a list of their current lifestyle and behavioural habits. Step-by-step changes to lifestyle and behavioural patterns fortify the treatment for depression. Changes in eating habits, sleeping patterns or exercise regime help in a big way and so do behaviour changes by instilling a sense of accomplishment in the patient.
- Medicines – Most people believe that if they pop-in a certain pill, their depression will go way. This is hardly the case. A carefully drawn on treatment plan includes the right combination of psychotherapy and medicines. In some cases, medicines are not even required. There are certain medicines out there which are effective against depression. However, they should only be prescribed after taking into consideration the patient’s medical history and the symptoms of depression.
B. Treatment for Anxiety
When it comes to treating anxiety, there are a lot of self-help techniques that can work wonders, provided that you stick to them.
- Get the proper amount of sleep – Lack of sleep can lead to a thought pile-up that contributes to anxiety.
- Become more social – Isolation acts as fuel to anxiety’s fire. Make it a point to see your friends regularly and talk to close family and friends about your anxiety and fears.
- Go for relaxation techniques
- Exercise on a regular basis
- Curb the consumption of alcohol and caffeine
These self-help techniques will go a long way in helping you control and even cure your anxiety. However, when your anxiety starts causing your extreme stress or stopping you from going about your daily routine, know that it is time to seek professional help from a psychiatrist.
The medical treatment for anxiety depends on the severity and type of anxiety you are suffering from, and this involves behavioural therapy, medicines or a combination of the two.
Studies have shown that anxiety disorders respond extremely well to behavioural therapy and at a faster rate as well. Again, the type of therapy depends on the type of anxiety the patient is suffering from. For treating general anxiety disorder, phobias and panic attacks, there two types of therapies: Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and Exposure Therapy.
a. Cognitive Behaviour therapy focuses on the patient’s thoughts and behaviour. The psychiatrist zeros-in on the negative thinking patterns and behaviour that are resulting in the anxiety and tackles them with therapy.
b. The Exposure therapy, which is generally used for treating phobias, simply involves finding out the root cause of the fear and helping the patient confront that fear.
There is medicine available for anxiety that can help you control it but this is a decision that should be taken after careful consideration. The patient might start relying heavily on the medicine, and start considering it the only way actually curing the problems. Also, certain medicines come with their own set of medical side effects that are best avoided. Medicine taken along with psychotherapy sessions is most effective.
So yes, a psychiatrist can cure your depression and anxiety with a combination of therapy and medicines. However, the main part of the cure is you. Accepting you have a problem is the first step in the treatment process. Seek out medical help on time and stick to the treatment regime for the best results.