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How to Treat Comorbid Depression Associated with Chronic Illness

How to Treat Comorbid Depression Associated with Chronic Illness

No one likes being sick or hurt.  Try to imagine what it would feel like to know that you would be sick or hurt forever; a person with a broken leg can often find solace in that he or she will only have to suffer from limited mobility and pain for a finite period of time, but other people are not as lucky.

While working in the field of psychology, I came into contact with a number of people who suffered from chronic illnesses like Parkinson’s disease, or the lasting effects from catastrophic medical events such as strokes.  Often, people who have been diagnosed with a chronic illness or condition suffer from comorbid depression, which is a type of depression that is resultant from a primary physical or psychological ailment.  However, comorbid depression must be taken as seriously as major depressive disorder, and there are some things caretakers can do to help treat the depression of a loved one.

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Two things everyone needs to thrive

I believe that there are two things every person needs, healthy or well.  First, every person needs a support system beyond the practitioners who are paid to help them.  There is no “right” support system.  Some people rely heavily on familial support whereas others turn to friends and neighbors.  I found that the most challenging type of person to work with was one who did not have a loved one in the world, as caretakers often need to provide companionship as well as care-taking.  In a best-case scenario, loved ones can act as caretakers and provide continual support through genuine companionship.

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The second thing every person needs is meaning. Often, limited mobility, embarrassing consequences of a speech impediment, or clumsiness due to a neurological disorder can make it difficult to go outside and face the world.  I heartily believe that every person has the capacity to do something meaningful, whether they provide support on online message boards, push the candy cart at the hospital, volunteer at a bookstore, hold a part-time job, or focus on spending time with loved ones. The idea that a person can do something meaningful after suffering from a traumatic medical diagnosis can seem like a pipe-dream, but there are many ways to help change a person’s thought patterns from “I’m useless” to “I am a good and important person.”

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Talk therapy / psychopharmalogical treatments           

There is no one-size-fits-all option for treating depression, though some of the most popular and widely accepted treatments include talk therapy and psychopharmalogical treatment (i.e. taking antidepressant medications).  Often, working with a therapist in addition to taking prescription medication can yield the best results. Keep in mind that a good therapist will not want to see patients twice a week for the rest of their lives, and similarly, people often take popular antidepressants such as SSRIs or SNRIs for a finite period of time. A good analogy I like to use is how most people recover from a knee injury: they may need to use a crutch, see a physical therapist, and take anti-inflammatory medication for a period of time so that they can heal. People suffering from depression are no different—instead of viewing the need for therapy or medication as a failure, it’s best to consider it as a temporary treatment plan so the person can heal.

Have something to look forward to

The most dangerous part of depression is that severe depression coupled with a notable medical condition can cause people to lose the will to live. When a person slips into a state of complete despair, their immune system can become less effective, leaving them susceptible to other serious conditions (e.g. a cold could more readily progress into pneumonia and have a greater chance of more complications). Try to always have something realistic to look forward to, like trips to an equine therapy center, a favorite homemade meal, visits from grandchildren, or trips to baseball games. Sometimes, spending quality time together can be the best motivator to live, improve, and thrive.

Comorbid depression is a serious condition that needs to be addressed. With increasing advances in medication and talk therapy, depression is far more treatable than it was a few decades ago. Ironically, caretakers might find that by helping treat a loved one’s depression, they can improve the quality of their own lives as well.

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Last Updated on September 20, 2018

7 Powerful Questions To Find Out What You Want To Do With Your Life

7 Powerful Questions To Find Out What You Want To Do With Your Life

What do I want to do with my life? It’s a question all of us think about at one point or another.

For some, the answer comes easily. For others, it takes a lifetime to figure out.

It’s easy to just go through the motions and continue to do what’s comfortable and familiar. But for those of you who seek fulfillment, who want to do more, these questions will help you paint a clearer picture of what you want to do with your life.

1. What are the things I’m most passionate about?

The first step to living a more fulfilling life is to think about the things that you’re passionate about.

What do you love? What fulfills you? What “work” do you do that doesn’t feel like work? Maybe you enjoy writing, maybe you love working with animals or maybe you have a knack for photography.

The point is, figure out what you love doing, then do more of it.

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2. What are my greatest accomplishments in life so far?

Think about your past experiences and the things in your life you’re most proud of.

How did those accomplishments make you feel? Pretty darn good, right? So why not try and emulate those experiences and feelings?

If you ran a marathon once and loved the feeling you had afterwards, start training for another one. If your child grew up to be a star athlete or musician because of your teachings, then be a coach or mentor for other kids.

Continue to do the things that have been most fulfilling for you.

3. If my life had absolutely no limits, what would I choose to have and what would I choose to do?

Here’s a cool exercise: Think about what you would do if you had no limits.

If you had all the money and time in the world, where would you go? What would you do? Who would you spend time with?

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These answers can help you figure out what you want to do with your life. It doesn’t mean you need millions of dollars to be happy though.

What it does mean is answering these questions will help you set goals to reach certain milestones and create a path toward happiness and fulfillment. Which leads to our next question …

4. What are my goals in life?

Goals are a necessary component to set you up for a happy future. So answer these questions:

Once you figure out the answers to each of these, you’ll have a much better idea of what you should do with your life.

5. Whom do I admire most in the world?

Following the path of successful people can set you up for success.

Think about the people you respect and admire most. What are their best qualities? Why do you respect them? What can you learn from them?

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You’re the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.[1] So don’t waste your time with people who hold you back from achieving your dreams.

Spend more time with happy, successful, optimistic people and you’ll become one of them.

6. What do I not like to do?

An important part of figuring out what you want to do with your life is honestly assessing what you don’t want to do.

What are the things you despise? What bugs you the most about your current job?

Maybe you hate meetings even though you sit through 6 hours of them every day. If that’s the case, find a job where you can work more independently.

The point is, if you want something to change in your life, you need to take action. Which leads to our final question …

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7. How hard am I willing to work to get what I want?

Great accomplishments never come easy. If you want to do great things with your life, you’re going to have to make a great effort. That will probably mean putting in more hours the average person, getting outside your comfort zone and learning as much as you can to achieve as much as you can.

But here’s the cool part: it’s often the journey that is the most fulfilling part. It’s during these seemingly small, insignificant moments that you’ll often find that “aha” moments that helps you answer the question,

“What do I want to do with my life?”

So take the first step toward improving your life. You won’t regret it.

Featured photo credit: Andrew Ly via unsplash.com

Reference

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