Managing the Depression Puzzle provides a comprehensive look at how to manage depression. The goal is to provide a wide range of pieces that might fit in your own unique depression puzzle, so you can pick and choose what does fit for you. No one strategy (or set of strategies) is going to work for every individual, but having information about what the options are will put you in a better position to make choices about your mental health.
The book begins with an overview of depressive illnesses and subtypes. Strategies for dealing with depression are broken down into illness treatments and wellness promotion strategies. Illness treatment strategies like medication, ECT, and therapy, lift you from sick to less sick. Wellness promotion strategies, including mindfulness and self-care, help boost you up from less sick to well. Finally, the book looks at common issues faced by anyone living with a chronic mental illness.
Managing the Depression Puzzle draws on the author’s education and experience as a former mental health nurse and pharmacist, as well as personal experience living with treatment-resistant major depressive disorder. The approach is pragmatic, candid, and realistic, with the recognition that depression doesn’t happen just one way; it is as unique as you are.
Readers’ Responses to Managing the Depression Puzzle
Ashley presents everything like pieces of a puzzle. Each piece is for the reader to choose. The reader can pick those that fit their plan and leave the other pieces. Just in case you are not sure what the pieces are, Ashley ends each chapter with: “This Chapter’s Potential Pieces of The Puzzle”. I found this very helpful, it is a way to refer back to at a later time.
The most important thing I wanted to mention to you is that right from the start I love the tone of this book. I felt as if Ashley was an experienced guide and was holding my hand and reassuring me, as she explained all sorts of facets of a mental health diagnosis and the array of potential treatments to aid recovery.– Caramel (Learner at Love) (1st edition)
Knowledge is power and that power is provided in this book. I would recommend it for everyone who is interested in depression, is with living the illness themselves, knows somebody struggling with depression or who wants to have a better understanding of the condition.– Five star review from Kacha of Food.for.Thoughts (1st edition)
I believe that this book will be a great resource for those struggling with depression and those who care for someone with depression. I would not hesitate to suggest this book to my therapy clients, as it is both clinically sound and user-friendly.– Johnzelle Anderson of Panoramic Counseling (1st edition)
About Ashley L. Peterson
I began my career in health care as a pharmacist in 2002, and quickly returned to school to become a nurse two years later. I specialized in the field of mental health for my entire 15-year career, working with people with serious mental illness in both hospital and community settings.
Two years into my nursing career, I was hospitalized with a diagnosis of major depressive disorder. Since then, I’ve been passionate about challenging the stigma around mental illness. I completed a Master of Psychiatric Nursing degree in 2015, despite two hospitalizations while in grad school. My thesis work and several academic journal publications focused on my experience of mental illness within the context of nursing culture.
More About Depression on MH@H
Given that depression is the illness I live with, I write about it a lot here on MH@H.
Depression is a broad umbrella that encompasses a lot of unique blends of symptoms, history, and responsiveness to treatment. Several types of depression have been identified that involve particular patterns, including:
Symptoms of Depression
- Compensating for Depression Brain
- I’m Actually Getting Stupider: the THINC-it a research tool that measures common cognitive effects of depression
- Rumination is a common thinking pattern that chews over a problem again and again without getting anywhere; while worrying looks to the future, ruminating tends to look to the past
- Decreased positive & increased negative affect: depression can involve the loss of positive feelings (as in anhedonia) and/or increased negative feelings
- Anhedonia & motivation and what depression takes away
- Irritability: “You can be a real bitch” – Is it me or my depression?
- Mood rating: why I hate the 1-10 scale
Movement – How depression affects movement: decreased energy, psychomotor retardation and leaden paralysis
Psychosis: sometimes people will experience delusions and/or hallucinations in the context of severe depression
Sleep: this can involve insomnia or sleeping excessively. There’s more on sleep in the Sleep Better mini-ebook from the MH@H download centre.
Suicidal ideation: the straight talk on suicide page covers this topic
Psychomotor retardation (PMR) is a slowing of movement and thoughts (literally, mind-movement-slowing). The slowed movement is objectively visible, not just a subjective sense of slowness. While it’s long been recognized in the medical field, the general public tends to be unaware of this particular cluster of symptoms in depression.
What’s involved in psychomotor retardation?
It can affect the whole body, but tends to be most prominent closer to the core of the body. Walking can be difficult; steps become smaller, and the gait becomes awkward.
There’s also flattening of affect, meaning a lack of any facial expressiveness.
I find that walking is affected first, and then speech when it gets more severe. Speech gets slow and quiet, and it takes a while to generate responses. Subjectively, it feels like my brain is slow to fetch the motor scripts that go along with words. Written communication is easier, because I just have to fetch the word cognitively, without the motor script.
There’s a video displaying PMR on my Youtube channel
Is PMR due to low energy?
This may be easier for people to conceive of, as fatigue as common in depression. However, PMR feels like even if you had more energy, you’d be physically incapable of moving faster. If anything, I find the reverse is true; moving slowly makes me feel tired.
What causes it?
It’s not entirely clear, although dopamine appears to be involved. This post explores its possible biological basis.
How is it treated?
There’s no specific treatment for PMR, aside from the regular treatments that would be used for depression. Stimulant medications may be a helpful add-on. The research would say the benefit only lasts for a few months, but for me, dextroamphetamine has given a sustained benefit. There’s some research to suggest that the Parkinson’s medication pramipexole can help, but I tried it and didn’t get a significant benefit.
For most people, effectively managing depression is going to require more than one tool. It might require 5, or it might require 10. What’s essential is meeting your own unique needs. Chances are that mix of tools is going to have a balance of illness treatment & wellness promotion strategies.
- Psych Meds 101: Antidepressants are a basic building block of treatment, but the mood stabilizer lithium and atypical antipsychotics may be added on as part of the treatment regimen
- Psychotherapy alphabet soup gives a quick overview of different forms of psychotherapy. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and interpersonal therapy (IPT) have the strongest evidence base for depression. There’s a CBT Fundamentals workbook available from the MH@H download centre.
- Supplements: certain supplements, like S-adenosyl methionine (SAMe), L-methylfolate, and omega-3 fatty acids have shown benefits in clinical trials. St. John’s wort can also be helpful, but interacts with multiple psych meds.
There are a few different definitions, but generally depression is considered treatment-resistant if there have been failed trials of two or more antidepressants of adequate dose and duration.
My own illness was always challenging to treat, but it was at about 10 years post-diagnosis that the treatments that had worked before stopped working. They do still help with some symptoms, but I’m continuously symptomatic and psychomotor retardation is a major issue.
Some of the options that may be considered:
- Botox: Botox injected in the frown line area may help with depression
- Ketamine/esketamine: ketamine infusions or esketamine via nasal spray have a different mechanism of action than standard antidepressants, and can work rapidly
- Somatic treatments for depression: therapies involving brain stimulation, including: DBS: deep brain stimulation
- ECT: electroconvulsive therapy – read about my own experience in This one flew over the cuckoo’s nest
- tDCS: transcranial direct current stimulation
- TMS: transcranial magnetic stimulation
- VNS: vagus nerve stimulation
- You can read more about options for treatment-resistant depression here
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