Behavioral Activation In The Treatment of Depression

Depression is a debilitating condition that makes simple tasks seem impossible, sometimes to the point where it keeps them from doing critical daily tasks. Depression causes the person to stay in a constant cycle; they’re apathetic to accomplish a task. When they don’t finish the job, they just feel worse about themselves. It is normal for people to feel differently during significant changes in their lives, such as the transfer from high school to college.

Depression can take a situation such as a going away to college and make it feel almost unbearable. People with depression are not any less capable than anyone else, the total lack of self-confidence mixed with their habit of expecting the worst out of a situation just hinders their ability to function.

Researchers have published a new study showing that with the right kind of therapy, such as encouragement and education of how depression works, may help patients suffering from the condition. A team of psychologists at the University of Washington experimented with four types of depression treatment: behavioral activation, cognitive-behavioral therapy and, curative therapy with an anti-depressant and a placebo.

Within the study, 250 patients that were diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder were split into one of the 4 treatment groups. The study lasted 4 months, after that period the patients in the behavioral activation group did just as well, if not better than those in the group receiving antidepressants. These findings amazed the physiologists.

Since it was in the guidelines that cognitive therapy and antidepressants are the best therapy for depression, it was hard to believe that behavioral activation was actually competing with the best treatments.

Behavioral activation also seemed to be more effective than cognitive therapy on patients with the major depressive disorder. Another interesting fact is that fewer patients in the behavioral activation dropped out of the treatment than those who took antidepressants.

The therapy of behavioral activation differs from traditional depression treatment, the doctor does not tell the patient just to “deal with it and move on.” Instead, it helps people with depression to do what they usually tried to avoid for one reason or another. It helps get the patient out of the vicious cycle of depression.

Since people with depression avoid most stressful situations, and since life is full of stressful situations that a person must face on a day to day basis, patients with depression will opt out of these needed activities. Afterward, the patient feels remorseful or guilty for not partaking in that necessary activity, in turn, makes them feel worse about themselves.

Behavioral activation works to gradually get the patient to partake in more outgoing activities so the patient would feel more confident about themselves and their situation. Since depression makes patients recluse from activities they once enjoyed or could be fun, they lose out on the satisfaction that comes from living a fulfilling life. Most patients in a behavioral activation program have a daily schedule that they have to follow closely, and as time goes on and the patient becomes comfortable with doing one activity, another one would be put into the schedule.

Therapists work with patients to boost their confidence and slow down the negative, worrisome thinking that comes with depression. They help set short and long-term goals by evaluating the patient’s actions and reactions. Problem-solving is another part of behavioral activation that patients must work on to treat their depression.

There are significant differences between cognitive therapy and behavior therapy. A behavioral activation therapist doesn’t tell the patient not to think about it. They just work by setting simple tasks for the patient to accomplish such as solving a problem or reaching a goal. Fixing the issue in front of them, instead of the larger more daunting tasks that would overwhelm the patient quickly and may cause the patient to fall back into more profound depression. On a cognitive therapy model, thinking must change before behavior can. A cognitive therapist will spend his or her time reviewing many negative, self-defeating beliefs of a depressed person.

These two different treatment styles have been closely linked through a method called cognitive-behavior therapy (CBT), which blends the two forms of treatment. Being happy doesn’t just count on the success of ‘deal with it’ and ‘getting to know your feelings.’ To find that happy balance you have to have a healthy dose of both mental processes. No one wants to emotionlessly meander through life, if you turn your attention away from feelings and thoughts that are compromising your functionality and look toward ideas that are functionality positive, it should prove to help.

Behavioral activation therapists tell their patients to notice when they are thinking about unproductive thoughts, then focus instead on their immediate surroundings, the sights and smells, what it feels like. That is very moment when you begin to operate on an even level emotionally. It is much simpler to dissect your thoughts from a better position. The goal is to completely comprehend why those thoughts were so negative and harmful.

Self-motivation for a depressed person is not an easy task, that’s why the therapist is there to give them the encouragement they need. The therapist also reminds the patient of all the great things that are to come from accomplishing hard tasks. Behavioral activation is not a treatment that will replace CBT and drug therapy as the first attempt at treating depression in a person, even though the study at the University of Washington showed that behavioral activation won out over the other treatments in the study.

The study showed the benefits of using behavioral activation with a comprehensive plan for helping depressed patients, even in the worst cases. It’s not about choosing one treatment over another, but combine different approaches that might give patients a chance at a happy, balanced life.

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