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14th July 2016

Choosing Treatment for Depression

You may have seen a news item recently about some new research using blood tests as a way of identifying effective treatments for depression, and helping doctors prescribe the most effective anti-depressant medication. The research highlights the debate about the relationship between biology and depression. It’s a rather more complicated discussion than whether depression has biological or psychological causes. The new research, in simplistic terms, seemed to show that types of inflammation can cause anti-depressant medication to be less effective. You can read about this research here: New blood test targets depression

Therefore a blood test could show whether certain anti-depressants would be effective. If not, then there appear to be different options, which involve either reducing inflammation by use of anti-inflammatory drugs, or use diet and exercise. So this could include eating more fruit and vegetables, plenty of liquids, reducing weight and getting good exercise and sleep. (I should point out that the BBC reports only 140 people with depression were involved in the trial and a larger trial sample is being proposed.) Now when you think about it, all of those routes to physical well-being that I’ve mentioned can help promote mental well-being.

Types of treatment

People often think of the term treatment and think of medication. Of course treatment should be seen in its widest sense that includes talking therapies, promoting good physical health, structured social support as well as anti-depressant medication. One of the alternative treatments not mentioned in the research study is cognitive behavioural therapy – a talking treatment aimed at changing people’s thinking, and in this way can tackle the vicious cycle of becoming depressed, getting anxious and experiencing panic symptoms about the depressive thoughts, and then feeling worse as a result.

Looking for signs

When you think about how you might identify depression in someone the kinds of things you would be looking for would include a mixture of physical and psychological symptoms. So as well as looking for signs of people feeling low in mood and letting people down, you would look for physical signs such as poor appetite, poor sleep, being slowed up, and physical symptoms of anxiety such as sweating or churning stomach.

The whole approach

So our causes, and our treatments for depression should be seen as a mix of biological and psychological – a whole symptoms approach. You’ll see more information on different types of support for people with depression in the QCS Depression Policy and Procedure.


David Beckingham

Mental Health Specialist

David Beckingham is a self-employed independent trainer, and is also an honorary lecturer with the University of Cumbria. His professional background is as a social worker and he has worked in care homes for older people in Cumbria. David’s main area of expertise is in mental health. Prior to becoming self-employed he was a Staff Development and Training Officer with Cumbria County Council, both commissioning and delivering training to mental health workers and others in statutory and independent sector organisations. Read more

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