Depression: New Ways To Recover
Lifestyle changes can give hope and health, claims psychologist
By: LYNN D. JOHNSON, PH.D.
SALT LAKE CITY - Oct. 16, 2015 - PRLog -- According to Salt Lake psychologist, Dr. Lynn Johnson, we are not helping depressed individuals as we need to. In his book, Enjoy Life: Healing with Happiness, he points out how we can improve our mental health through habits of happiness.
He reports that only 1 out of three patients who are given an antidepressant will fully recover. Another will be good responders to the medication but not completely recover. A third of them don’t seem to do well with medication.
Psychotherapy is the other major path out of depression, but the numbers are similar, says Dr. Johnson. Perhaps 45% will fully recover and another third will improve. But the counseling doesn’t seem to reach around 20% or more.
It is true that combining the two, especially in cases of very severe depression, improves the outcomes. But the one-in-fire who doesn’t recover represents a significant tragedy, with pain unrelieved and contributions frustrated.
Depression costs Americans over $210 billion a year in lost productivity, medical costs, and absenteeism. According to CNBC, depression causes 400 million disability days a year.
“We are treating more and more depression, and we aren’t keeping up,” according to Dr. Johnson. Depression has become the number one cause of disability among those from 15 to 44 years of age, warns the National Institute of Mental Health.
“We are in a depression epidemic,” says Dr. Johnson. One hundred years ago, a person had one chance in twenty-five of suffering from depression during his or her lifetime. Today the lifetime risk is as high as one in four for women, and one in eight for men.
While the traditional pathway out of depression is either psychotherapy or medication, or a combination of those two, Dr. Johnson finds that a third way – lifestyle changes – is very successful.
“I found that daily physical activity was helping many of my patients, and I wondered what other habits might offer hope,” he reports. He then found that changing eating habits could be helpful to many patients. Shifting to a so-called “rainbow diet,” or a diet of colorful vegetables and fruits was enabling a full recovery in almost a third of his patients. Some of these same patients had not responded to medication or psychotherapy.
“In the past few years, we have discovered how chronic inflammation is actually a trigger for many depressions, perhaps more than half,” says Dr. Johnson. He points out that our modern lifestyle has become what he calls “inflammagenic,”
“One hundred years ago,” he points out, “the meat we ate was from grass-fed animals. Cows, pigs, and chickens all ate grass and greens as a big part of their diet, the cows generally eating nothing but grass. Green vegetation boosts the omega-3 content of meat, which has been shown to be an effective treatment for some types of depression. The shift in our diet toward corn-based food has been a health disaster, Johnson argues.
“We know now of at least ten lifestyle changes that will boost happiness, health, and even joy,” claims Dr. Johnson. “Physical activity and rainbow-style eating are only two of them.” Others include avoiding tobacco, being socially more connected with friends and family, continual learning, and several others. Interestingly, he mentions, the same interventions that reduce depression have been shown in several large European studies to also reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. “Depression is a trigger for Alzheimer’s, and vice-versa. Alzheimer’s can trigger depression, but both can be effectively addressed through the lifestyle changes we are developing,”
Many patients discontinue depression treatment too early, asserts Dr. Johnson. People who reach full recovery are far less likely to relapse, whereas if they stop depression treatment too early, then the depression is likely to return. “Only about one-third of patients treated with drugs alone will fully recover, and less than half treated with psychotherapy recover.” He believes that adding lifestyle changes to the treatment of depressed patients can vastly improve that number.
“And,” he says, “the very same lifestyle changes can take people in the normal, average range, and turn them into high-performance and high-happiness individuals. We can help them become ‘superstars.’”
Dr. Johnson encourages curious readers to visit his website, http://DrLynnJohnson.com/
CONTACT DR JOHNSON: (801) 261-1412