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Fighting Depression: Is Prevention Realistic?

How To Fight Depression

Fighting depression is a topic that has always been associated with a lot of debate and controversy. This is primarily due to the fact that some researchers believe that it cannot be prevented because you can’t possibly alter a genetic vulnerability to depression. However, many others say that it is actually quite possible to prevent the condition by adopting some effective strategies and techniques.

Risk Factors of Depression

Some of the most common causes and risk factors that lead to depression include chemicals in the brain, genetic composition and the environment around you.

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A history of depression in the family can significantly increase your risk of developing the condition because it can pass down from one person to the other. For many people, even if their family doesn’t have a history of depression, they can still get it after a major life event, a traumatic experience, or other serious life-altering health conditions like diabetes, cancer, Parkinson’s, etc.

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Fighting Depression

The most important and preliminary work that has been done towards the prevention of depression are interventions and strategies that mainly focus on the prevention of symptoms and their further reduction.

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The most ideal preventive measures are believed to be best administered as early as possible in life because the sooner one does it; the chances of them successfully preventing this deteriorating mental health condition increase considerably.

Research on depression prevention was published in 2007 which basically included 17 research trials, all of which were focused on studying pre-emptive strategies for depression. These strategies were initially developed for either a primary diagnosis or for prevention against relapse for those already diagnosed with depression.

The results from this research were found to be very promising and optimistic because they suggested that prevention of depression is quite possible, given that these preventive interventions are made a regular part of mental health services. It also brought forth the realization that so much work, effort, and energy is invested in post-treatment, so why can’t they be more focused on pre-emptive measures that prevent the condition from even developing in the first place?

Effective Strategies for Fighting Depression

Research posits that there are lifestyle changes and stress management techniques that one can implement in their lives to prevent or avoid depression altogether.

Since depression is often caused by certain triggers which are obviously different for everyone, one can use the following techniques to prevent the occurrence, and relapse of depression.

Cognitive-Behavioral Prevention

This approach has been developed for and mainly targeted at the younger generation that is at a greater risk of developing depression, particularly major depressive episodes (MDEs).

The main focus of the cognitive behavioral prevention of depression is to help people understand how their unconscious and irrational thoughts can result in negative behaviors and feelings. It further aims to help them replace irrational thoughts with rational ones in order to modify their negative behaviors.

Clark et al. (1995) conducted a school-study using this approach where participants showed a lower total occurrence for major depression over a 12-month follow-up period.

Coping with Depression (CWD)

This is a cognitive-behavioral approach developed by Peter Lewinsohn that has been used for both prevention and treatment purposes.

This approach to depression aims to teach individuals different ways to manage their mood and prevent depressive triggers and symptoms from getting to them.

The effectiveness of the CWD course was established with the help of 25 Residential Treatment Centers (RTCs).

A Meta-analysis of these studies was conducted that were mainly aimed at fighting depression. Six of these studies produced promising results where they indicated a 38 percent decrease in the risk of developing severe depression.   

Regular Exercise

There are several theories and research studies that suggest that depression can be prevented and avoided with a significant amount of exercise.

Considering how a majority of depressive episodes are caused by severe or chronic acute stress that results in inflammation in the body and brain, it makes sense how exercise can help battle depression from affecting an individual.

Exercise helps in the treatment and fighting depression in many effective ways. It increases the temperature of the body that produces a very soothing and calming effect on the nervous system. It also releases mood-boosting and mood-altering chemicals in the body like endorphin that helps prevent depressive moods. 

A large prospective study was carried out in Norway for 9-13 years and included thousands of participants.  They were required to fill out a basic screening form for anxiety and depression. A total of 22,500 people completed the study. The results of this study showed that those who used to exercise had a reduced risk of developing depression compared to those who didn’t. Interestingly, it was found out that the amount, or the intensity of the exercise didn’t matter at all as long as the participants engaged in some sort of physical activity for one hour every week.

Healthy, Balanced Diet

Needless to say, a healthy diet protects you from a number of illnesses and diseases. Diet is an integral part of mental health which suggests that what we eat directly affects our brain and mental health.

Several studies and researches have been conducted to explore the relationship between diet and fighting depression where one analysis revealed that a high intake of vegetables, fruits, low-fat dairy, whole grain, and antioxidants can significantly reduce the risk of depression.

Following that, a larger analysis that looked at the baseline diet and calculated the risk of developing depression for the volunteers who took part in the study found that the Mediterranean diet, for instance, significantly helps prevent the risk of developing depressive symptoms.

Considering the aforementioned research and strategies on how to effectively prevent depression, it can be safely concluded that depression is indeed preventable to a certain degree. However, it is important to understand that not everything will work for every individual, and it is also not necessary that a particular preventive measure will produce the desired results for sure. Often times, a couple of different interventions need to be paired together to effectively battle against depression.

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