Weekly Wellbeing: Therapy Versus Medication To Treat Depression

Treating Depression: New Scan Says Whether You Need Therapy Or Medication

This has been quite the fortnight for depression. Last week we ran a feature on spotting the symptoms and what you need to know to help someone with depression, after Stephen Fry spoke candidly about his struggles. This week, we found from the National Office Of Statistics, that one in five people in Britain suffer from depression or anxiety.

The problem with depression, is that because people aren't sure whether it is do with genetics or if it develops on its own, is that there is no hard and fast rule on how to treat it. But there may be light at the end of the tunnel for those figuring out whether it's best to go through therapy or take anti-depressants. New research from Emory university in Atlanta indicates that patterns of brain activity may reveal whether a patient needs therapy or tablets. Dr Helen Mayberg who led the study looked at how different treatments affect brain activity and what happens in the brain when someone is suffering from depression.

The study included 65 people and they were randomly assigned to receive cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) or the antidepressant escitalopram. PET scans were then taken of the subject's brains.

Talking to HuffPost UK Lifestyle, Dr Sheri Jacobson from Harley Therapy says that the struggle between whether to go for therapy or medication arises all the time. "We don’t know if there is a biological tendency to have depression and it's activated by circumstance, or if it develops on its own. I’m a big proponent of talking therapy. I am a strong believer that mental health conditions can be traced back to early traumas. So the best way to resolve them – because I don’t believe in a 'cure' – is to work on those earlier factors."

Last year, the BBC revealed new figures that the NHS in England spent more than £270m on antidepressants last year, which was a huge 23% increase on 2010.

Dr Jacobson said: "A lot of us don’t believe in medication long term - it has side effects, and we don’t know the long term consequences. But - some people are not amenable to talking therapy. For some people we do recommend taking some medication to give them a step up to then contemplate the next step, because if you are suffering from depression then you can’t get on that ladder at all – it seems impossible.

"With therapy, the starting point is the present, where you get a grip on the damaging day to day conditions that are affecting you. Then at some point it’s worth exploring the roots of potential causes so that that it doesn’t morph into something else. On that basis talking therapy really helps because it gives people a real chance at being able to manage their condition and moving forward from it."

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