Depression is a serious mental disorder that alters the functions of the brain. In 2015, over 16.1 million adults had at least one major depressive episode in the past year in the United States. In some ways, depression can change a person's state of mind by provoking negative thinking and low mood that interfere with his or her daily life. They may feel sad, discouraged, disinterested and fatigued for long periods and find that many of their goals and dreams are insurmountable.
In addition, they may develop an outlook that is biased, resulting in increased despondency and melancholy. People going through depression also risk being overwhelmed by incessant troublesome thoughts pertaining to past failures and mistakes. Due to the nature of depression, individuals may experience challenges with regard to decision-making and problem-solving skills as well as rational and analytical thinking. The chances are high that a depressed individual is more likely to focus on his or her distress and its possible causes and consequences as opposed to its solutions.
Such ruminating traits have been consistently found to be associated with the onset and occurrence of depressive disorders. Perhaps rumination is the brain's natural way of adapting and tackling certain problems that defy easy understanding; however, it can also lead to maladaptive coping mechanisms, if unaddressed.
Reducing rumination to manage depressive symptoms
A thought may only be a thought, but for depressed individuals, the fine line between such thoughts and reality can become blurred. Professor Roger Hagen and colleagues from the Norwegian University of Science and technology (NTNU) published their study on the role of metacognitive therapy (MCT) in treating depression. They revealed that reducing rumination can help in alleviating symptoms witnessed in patients diagnosed with depression.
The study entailed 39 participants – 23 women and 16 men – with an average age of 33.7 years, ranging from 18 to 54. The group had an average of 1.2 children per participant and three were being treated with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). In addition, 30 participants had earlier received treatment for depression, nine reported being treated with SSRIs for depression, 21 had received depression treatment at psychiatric outpatient clinics, three had received inpatient treatment and one had undergone electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) treatment.
The participants received 10 sessions of MCT over a period of 10 weeks. After six months, it was found that about 80 percent of the participants had achieved full recovery from their depression, with the exception of four patients. Consequently, the follow-up six months later showed the same patterns of recovery.
Potential for MCT to be standard for depression treatment
The success of MCT was a breath of fresh air for the participants as some of them had already experienced the failure of prior depression treatments. Hagen reinforces the fact that mainstream treatment of depression has high relapse rates, with 50 percent relapse rates in a total of 100 patients following a year of treatment and relapse rates of 75 percent in two years.
As of now, MCT is an upcoming intervention with a lot of studies and clinical trials reporting of its efficacy in treating depression. It can teach individuals to exercise control over their thought and differentiate between how they perceive things and the actual reality. Hagen encourages mental health professionals to consider this form of therapy to promptly assist individuals to recover from their depression.
Depression is an illness, not a weakness
Talk therapies and medications have come a long way in addressing the symptoms of depression and in accelerating the entire process of recovery from it. Such treatments are not only effective in writing off painful negative consequences associated with depression, but also empower people in adopting coping mechanisms that allow them to lead fulfilling lives.