Counselling as an alternative option to anti-depressants in Hastings

Anti-depressants do have their place in treating depression, particularly for those with the worst forms of depression. But counselling can be another option for those suffering from this debilitating condition.

As a counsellor in the Hastings and St Leonards area of East Sussex, I find that for some of my clients a combination of counselling and anti-depressant medication can work well: the drugs may provide a more stable emotional platform to give a talking therapy a chance to work. And for some clients counselling alone is effective.

But new evidence indicates a worrying trend: anti-depressants  are increasingly a first resort for doctors and are being prescribed at an ever-increasing rate.

The revelations come in the recently published OECD publication ‘Health at a Glance’ and show that the consumption of anti-depressants has increased significantly in most countries surveyed since 2000. In 2008 in Iceland, for example, almost 30 percent of women aged 65 and over had prescriptions.

The report points out that one explanation includes the extension of indicators of some anti-depressants to milder forms of depression, generalised anxiety disorders or social phobias.

Elsewhere, prescriptions for anti-depressants have jumped 20 percent in five years in Spain and Portugal, which have been badly affected by the global economic crisis, another possible explanation for the increase.

However, separate research indicates that global rates of depression have not increased in step, although depression is being diagnosed and/or recorded more in certain countries.

It appears that anti-depressants are being prescribed more frequently, but for milder conditions which didn’t previously extend to warranting anti-depressant treatments. Is this really appropriate when anti-depressants can have a powerful effect on the body chemistry?

If anti-depressants always worked all the time for everybody, with no side effects, this wouldn’t be a problem. But anti-depressants don’t work all the time and do carry the risk of side-effects — in fact, they can even make some people suicidal. Anti-depressants are not a silver bullet or some universal panacea. Ideally, they should form part of a wider treatment plan.

As counsellors, we can understand how it is that hard-pressed GPs tend to offer anti-depressants to patients presenting with depression or similar conditions, particularly when the waiting list for NHS counselling can be so long.

But counsellors in private practice are generally able to see new clients without there being any significant waiting list.

added at 12:02am on 5th February 2014

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