Sunday, October 3, 2010

Simple Intervention Reduces Depression

A recent study of 700 chronically depressed patients published in the Annals of Family Medicine last week found that something as simple as a frequent telephone follow-up with care managers (mostly nurses) leads to sustained improvements in depression. The intervention involved a series of telephone calls with care managers. The study went on for 18 months and almost doubled the rate of depression remission from 27% to 49%. The authors concluded that their intervention is "feasible and highly effective."

The intervention consisted of a series of telephone calls and e-mail exchanges between patient and care manager starting with a 30 minute telephone conversation for the first interview, then 10 minutes for each month after that. The care managers did not give solutions or extra treatments advice just a bit of information and motivation such as setting a self-management goal.

Imagine what would happen if they also provided advice on Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, lifestyle interventions such as exercise and socialising, and nutrition all which have shown positive results with depression. But just knowing someone was going to phone each month and speaking about it for 10 minutes a month was enough to double the remission rates.

Relaxation and breathing techniques have been shown to have a positive effect on anxiety and depression. In another study of 18 patients who undertook a program of breathing every day for 30 minutes for 6 weeks, with 17 control subjects, the group taught breathing techniques had a greater decrease in anxiety and depression than the control group. Several studies have also demonstrated the positive changes in mood from meditation. Studies have shown that meditation increases alpha brain waves, which are the relaxed brain waves, which in turn can decrease anxiety and depression. Researchers from Harvard Medical School have found that meditation activates the autonomic nervous system. This controls the parasympathetic nervous system, which may be the reason for reduced anxiety, relaxation and calmness.

A large and growing body of research is highlighting the benefits of Cognitive Behavioural Therapies (CBT). It is now realised that the brain has its own internal pharmacy which can be activated by what we believe. With CBT techniques it’s possible to alter brain chemistry, altering mood and perception.

Some research in Australia is showing success in changing depression via the internet. This program is based on CBT and relies on people going through a number of modules. Early results suggest that it’s as beneficial as CBT and face to face contact with a therapist. You can log on to the website at What’s there to lose? At the absolute least you can learn more about depression. Other cognitive techniques that have been shown to be useful include hypnosis, Emotional Freedom Techniques, goal setting and cognitive reframing.

1 comment:

  1. I am 26 years old, and have experienced depression since I was 14.
    Throughout high school and most of uni I battled with low moods and low self-esteem, reaching my lowest point right at the end of uni. Thankfully my counsellor at uni referred me to be part of a study at the Black Dog Institute comparing CBT and mindfulness meditation as alternative ways of treating depression. It literally saved my life. I am now completing a meditation facilitator's course, and with the power of meditation, breath, and eating well mean I have been able to better manage my moods, and live without medication. Depression never goes away, but all these things mean I am not surrounded by that black cloud constantly or as ominously.

    Thank you for your great articles and posts promoting the benefits of breath and eating well in treating depression. In a society that is all too quick to use strong drugs to treat depression, it is refreshing to see someone promoting more natural and healthy alternatives.