Q & A

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Below are some commonly asked questions regarding mental health difficulties and treatment options. If you have a question, please send this to me via the form on the contact page or alternatively by email to vicki@stewartoncbt.co.uk

Q. What is depression?

Depression is a clinical term for a collection of symptoms. These include persistent low mood, reduced motivation, impaired concentration, loss of interest in previously  pleasurable activities. Depression is often accompanied by negative thoughts about oneself and a gloomy or hopeless view of one’s future. Physical symptoms can include reduced or increased appetite, difficulty getting to sleep and/or periods of waking during the night, fatigue, and  general aches and pains. Behaviourally, people experiencing depression will often start to withdraw from social activities. They may also find themselves avoiding certain people or places that evoke anxiety or further low mood.

Depression can only be diagnosed by a GP or a mental health professional. For a diagnosis, symptoms have to have been a constant problem for some time. Symptoms also have to be interfering with a person’s quality of life to some degree.

Clinical depression is a more severe condition and people can often experience suicidal thoughts and a persistent sesce of hopelessness.

It is estimated that nearly 1 in 5 of us will experience depression at some point in our lives. The good news is, there are many different forms of treatment that have been shown to be highly effective in treating depression.

Q. What is anxiety?

Again, anxiety is a clinical term for a collection of symptoms. We all have the ability to become anxious as it is essentially a survival mechanism. When faced with a dangerous or life threatening situation, our brain send a message to our body that allows us to take immediate action be that to run away or fight the situation head on.

The problem arises when the feared object is not life threatening and is something we regularly have to come into contact with. For example, someone who experiences extreme anxiety when faced with social situations might be diagnosed with social anxiety. This is quite a common problem and again there are excellent treatment options available.

Anxiety presents itself in four major ways. Anxious people tend to think in catastrophic ways and are often anticipating worst case outcomes. This can lead to avoidance of certain situations, and in extreme cases, an inability to leave the safety of their own home.  People often experience accompanying panic attacks where the body reacts as if it were in imminent danger. Breathing becomes shallow as we try to catch our breath, muscles tense, the body starts to sweat and the heart starts to beat faster. This can be a very frightening experiences that unfortunately only acts to reinforce the underlying anxiety.

Again, a GP or mental health practitioner is required to diagnose a case of anxiety and the symptoms need to have been persistent for some time.

Q. Do medications help?

Medications have been shown to be effective in reducing the symptoms of depression and anxiety. Where symptoms are long standing and overwhelming, medication can often help individuals to engage better in psychological treatment by increasing motivation.

There are various medications available including anti-depressants and anti-anxiety drugs. These can be prescribed at varying doses but generally individuals will be started on a small dose so as to acclimatise the body. It is well documented that people can experience side effects as is common to most forms of medication however, many people also report no side effects. It is often a case of weighing up the pros and cons for continuing with treatment.

Anti-depressants work directly on brain chemistry by increasing levels of naturally occurring ‘feel good’ chemicals that act to maintain positive feelings. Beta-bockers are sometimes prescribed in cases of anxiety and panic disorder. These slow the heart rate down thus reducing uncomfortable physical sensations but have no sedative effect on the brain.

There are other ‘families’ of medications including mood stabilisers and anti-psychotics, both of which can have a profound effect on reducing symptoms associated with mental health problems.

It is important to discuss all available medical treatments with your GP. It will sometimes take a trial of a number of different medications to find the right one for you but patience can lead to a much improved quality of life.