In addition to the numerous treatments for depression, exercise has become an appealing new alternative to alter one’s mood. Many recent studies have been published supporting the belief that exercise has been proven effective in improving depression and in some cases has been able to prevent it all together. (24,21,7,18,26,17)
The basic reasoning behind this theory is that exercising has positive effects on one’s body and mind. It is argued that exercising increases one’s self-confidence as well as provides a feeling of accomplishment, which in turn may raise an individual’s overall outlook. In addition to the increase in self-esteem, exercise can also provide a more grounded perspective on life. By participating in group exercise the individual is placed in an environment where it is more likely that he/she will interact with others. The interaction in itself offers a therapeutic affect for those who are so depressed that they choose not to even get out of bed.
There are numerous types of exercise programs that can be employed for both young and old, male as well as female. Two studies looked at previously depressed subjects over 50 years of age and assessed the effectiveness of incorporating cardiovascular as well as load bearing programs into their anti-depressive therapy. Their studies showed that while anti-depressant medication may have a more rapid effect on modifying mood states in the first few weeks, after a few weeks of training, exercise eventually showed similar results. Other studies also looking at the mature adult population performing exercise, have yielded positive results.(3,6,23,22,25)
Two studies (31, 14) examined underlying factors behind college aged subjects and their depression. Both studies found that a majority of the subjects were inactive, and speculated that while exercise may not completely cure any chronic depressive disorders, it may help eliminate the symptoms of acute depression. There have also been long term studies on the effects of exercise and psychological well-being showing that exercise can have beneficial effects when performed regularly.(9,32)
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Two of the most common treatments for depression are antidepressant medications and counseling. (12)
The first antidepressant, monoamine oxidase (MAO), was accidentally created in the 1950’s. Scientists were hoping to find a new drug to treat tuberculosis and instead discovered MAO helped to raise one’s mood. Currently, there are numerous different antidepressants on the market, and most people suffering from depression can find a medication that works considerably well. In fact, it is estimated that antidepressants can raise one’s mood anywhere from 60% to 80% when used properly.(36)
In most cases however, sufferers of depression have to try a few different drugs until they find the right medicine that works for their body. When beginning such medication, sufferers often struggle with depression for up to six weeks until the medicine is able to make any improvement in mood. Such time is needed for the medicine to alter the availability of neurotransmitters within the brain. Although antidepressants have been proven effective, many doctors prescribe counseling or psychotherapy as an additional method of treatment. The basic idea behind this combination is to first help the individual identify his or her issues and then to help them cope with the accompanying emotions. Such treatment is quite effective for moderate depression in particular.(27,36)
Cognitive behavior therapy or CBT, is currently one of the most accepted and useful methods for aiding depression.(12) This is a relatively new approach through which the therapist works directly with a patient in order to identify the portion of the patient’s negative thinking that is problematic. By determining which element of thought or behavior is hindering the patient’s feeling of happiness, the therapist then teaches the patient how to successfully manage the situations(http://www.nacbt.org/).
Other alternative methods that have become acceptable treatments for depression include herbal medicines, dietary supplements and remedies such as St. John’s Wort, SAM-e, and ginkgo, all which are natural supplements that are used in order to relieve depression. Dietary supplements used to treat depression function in essentially the same manner as traditional drug therapy, by altering various chemicals in the brain.