- Question from Flavia: I thought only fragile people took antidepressants. My doctor wants me to try them, but I feel like I'm admitting I can't cope if I take them.
- Answers - Diane Thompson Depression is a medical condition just like diabetes or hypertension (high blood pressure). If we take the parallel to hypertension, there are several ways to treat it. One is weight loss and exercise, but another treatment that may be important, because it will act quickly, is medication. This is also true of depression. There are treatments for depression, including talk therapy, that can be very effective, but medication can often alleviate symptoms faster. Depression is a medical condition, not a character flaw, and treating it can allow for a better overall quality of life.
- Jennifer Griggs, M.D., M.P.H. We have named depression after the mood component of the illness, but we could have called it something else—something implying the difficulty with sleep or concentration. I think if we think of depression as a neurological problem rather than a weakness, accepting treatment may be more palatable. Diane, have you found that?
- Diane Thompson Yes. The other point is that chemotherapy and radiation have both been associated with depression. Therefore, while we can't change that fact, we can do something to address the component that may be due, in part, to the treatment.
- Jennifer Griggs, M.D., M.P.H. Good point!
- Rosalind Kleban, L.C.S.W. All too often I see patients who view depression as a character flaw and a weakness. But that's a case of blaming the victim. And it often doesn't allow the patient to get the remedy that would be so helpful. We accept medication for so many illnesses—neurological illnesses, chemical imbalances—that it would be helpful to see depression as an illness like the others, and in most cases a normal, even expected response to a diagnosis of breast cancer.
The Ask-the-Expert Online Conference called Overcoming Depression featured Rosalind Kleban, M.S.W., Diane S. Thompson, M.D., and Jennifer Griggs, M.D., M.P.H. answering your questions about medication and lifestyle changes that can ease depression along with to put hope, fun, and pleasure back into your life during and after breast cancer treatment.
Editor's Note: This conference took place in March 2003.
The materials presented in these conferences do not necessarily reflect the views of Breastcancer.org. A qualified healthcare professional should be consulted before using any therapeutic product or regimen discussed. All readers should verify all information and data before employing any therapies described here.
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