Happiness is not that hard to find

Feeling low about your exam results? Can’t handle the increasing competition at work? Antidepressants are not the answer. Keeping in mind our fast-paced and highly stressful modern lifestyle, DNA chats with Dr MJ Thomas, consultant psychiatrist and Member of National Academy of Medical Sciences, for advice on ways to cope with anxiety and depression.

What are the harmful effects of antidepressants? 

Most new antidepressants are relatively safe. Common side effects include dryness of mouth, constipation, and drowsiness. If the patient is monitored regularly by the treating doctor almost all side effects are reversible. However, overdose can beharmful.

What are the common antidepressants?
Imipramine, Fluxhitine, Serpraline are the most common ones.

Are antidepressants available over the counter?
Most are available, but they should not be misused by the public. One must know the exact dosage of any antidepressant for it to work, and since it varies from person to person, visiting a doctor for prescription is a must. There have been cases of overdosage of antidepressants. Doctor’s advice must be taken and followed to avoid any complications.

As exam results have been announced recently, are many youngsters approaching you for antidepressants?
Not really. Very few people, including youngsters, know much about antidepressants. Young people, mostly from professional colleges, approach me for help in dealing with reduced concentration. This occurs when a person thinks obsessively about various irrelevant and distracting things.

Apart from the usage of antidepressants, what alternative methods of treatment do you use for depression?
Depression is only treated medically when the patient feels the need or when their families find medical intervention necessary. Depression is a wide spectrum; it ranges from very mild to very severe. When the case is very mild, the patient usually overcomes it by talking to friends and family. People who are severely depressed are first advised to talk to others and seek help from a traditional support system, usually friends, family members and their extended family. Later, they may be recommended to local counsellors and more trained personnel. Only when all of these fail, or if the patient’s depression increases, he or she entertains suicidal thoughts. In that case, medical treatment is necessary.

What is the best way to combat depression?
Talk to others about it. Make sure that wherever you go you have some sort of a social support system. Cognitive
Behaviour Therapy is also very useful. Depression occurs only when people think in a negative manner and degrade themselves. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, which is a form of counselling, helps in changing negative thinking to positive thinking.

Do you have any suggestions on how people can avoid depression?
A balanced lifestyle with daily exercise, a healthy diet and good sleep can keep a person happy and healthy.

Published in DNA, May 18 2010