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Depression

Alternatives to drugs for Treating Depression

04/02/2010

Question:

I`m a 55-year old guy with depression that has been steadily getting worse due to personal matters (loss of my wife and sister last year, numerous changes in employment due to the economy, and other issues). I thought that I was dealing with this o.k., but the recent loss of my pet cat has really made things a lot worse; sounds minor, ubt he meant a lot to me. My problem: I`m a airline transport pilot and can`t take any pshch drugs; even talking to a psychiatrist and establishing a medical history of "mental problems" could end my career, and I need to work another 10 years to retire at 65. My question: is there anything that I can do on my own for depression? Thanks.

Answer:

There's lots you can do "under the radar" of psychiatric treatment.
The first thing is to go to your primary care doctor and get an evaluation that:
a) confirms your guess that this is major depression, and b) makes sure you are not struggling with some other medical or psychiatric condition.

You can pitch it as a routine check up or an evaluation of "fatigue." From your primary care doctor, get recommendations on exercise, diet and sleep management that form the groundwork for the non-pharmacologic treatment of depression.

The second is you can start reading about the self-help aspects of treating depression. Two good books are Getting Your Life Back, by Jesse Wright and Monica Basco, and The Feeling Good Handbook, by David Burns.

Third, find a self-help group near you through the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance website. At these confidential groups you can learn a lot about managing depression with no paper trail.

Fourth, I bet you can get counseling from pastors, social workers, and psychologists for "common problems of daily life" and still fly planes. Find out what the limits are and what the right terms are for your employers, and get some good counseling for depression from one of them. The content of the counseling should be confidential until you give permission for release of information. Don't let discrimination interfere with treatment. The untreated depression is more dangerous for you and your plane than the well treated depression. Good luck navigating the healthcare system. It's harder than navigating the skies.

For more information:

Go to the Depression health topic, where you can:

Response by:

Lawson  Wulsin, MD Lawson Wulsin, MD
Professor of Psychiatry and Family Medicine, Training Director of the Family Medicine Psychiatry Residency Program
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati