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Turn to People Not Computers when Dealing with Depression

17 Nov

By Lynne Shallcross

People and DepressionAlmost 8 percent of Americans 12 and older dealt with depression at some point between 2009 and 2012. With that many of us feeling blue, wouldn’t it be nice if we could simply hop on the computer in our pajamas, without any of the stigma of asking for help, and find real relief?

Online programs to fight depression are already commercially available, and while they sound efficient and cost-saving, a study out of the U.K. reports that they’re not effective, primarily because depressed patients aren’t likely to engage with them or stick with them.

The study, which was published in The BMJ on Wednesday, looked at computer-assisted cognitive behavioral therapy and found that it was no more effective in treating depression than the usual care patients receive from a primary care doctor.

Traditional cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is considered an effective form of talk therapy for depression, helping people challenge negative thoughts and change the way they think in order to change their mood and behaviors. Online CBT programs have been gaining popularity, with the allure of providing low-cost help wherever someone has access to a computer.

A team of researchers from the University of York conducted a randomized control trial with 691 depressed patients from 83 physician practices across England. The patients were split into three groups: one group received only usual care from a physician while the other two groups received usual care from a physician plus one of two computerized CBT programs, either “Beating the Blues” or “MoodGYM.”Participants were balanced across the three groups for age, sex, educational background, severity and duration of depression, and use of antidepressants.

After four months, the patients using the computerized CBT programs, or cCBT, had no improvement in depression levels over the patients who were only getting usual care from their doctors. “Uptake and use of cCBT was low, despite regular telephone support,” the study authors wrote. Almost a quarter of participants dropped out within four months, and patients noted the “difficulty in repeatedly logging on to computer systems when they are clinically depressed.”

“It’s an important, cautionary note that we shouldn’t get too carried away with the idea that a computer system can replace doctors and therapists,” says Christopher Dowrick, a professor of primary medical care at the University of Liverpool, who wrote an accompanying editorial. “We do still need the human touch or the human interaction, particularly when people are depressed.”

The lack of patient engagement in this study means these programs aren’t the panacea that busy doctors and cost-conscious health care officials might be hoping for, Dowrick wrote in the editorial. Yet it’s important to note that the study was conducted in a primary care setting, he says, because many other studies on cCBT that show some benefit have been conducted in psychological settings, where patients might be more motivated to engage with these kinds of online programs.

Despite the unenthusiastic findings of the study, Dowrick says that do-it-yourself treatments like cCBT can still be effective. But they’re more likely to succeed when people have relatively mild symptoms of depression or are in a recovery stage – the participants in this study were mostly in the category of moderate to severe depression, he says. Computerized CBT is also more likely to succeed, he adds, if the patients are open to seeking help on a computer and when they have a “reasonable amount” of guidance as they go through the program, preferably from a therapist. In this study, he says, participants each totaled roughly six minutes of telephone support and guidance.

Being depressed can mean feeling “lost in your own little small, negative, dark world,” Dowrick says. Having a person, instead of a computer, reach out to you is particularly important in combating that sense of isolation. “When you’re emotionally vulnerable, you’re even more in need of a caring human being,” he says.

Source: http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2015/11/12/455743090/depressed-look-for-help-from-a-human-not-a-computer

Continuing Education Courses of Interest

Lewy body dementia (LBD) is a disease associated with abnormal deposits of a protein called alpha-synuclein in the brain. These deposits, called Lewy bodies, affect chemicals in the brain whose changes, in turn, can lead to problems with thinking, movement, behavior, and mood. LBD is one of the most common causes of dementia, after Alzheimer’s disease and vascular disease. Dementia is a severe loss of thinking abilities that interferes with a person’s capacity to perform daily activities such as household tasks, personal care, and handling finances. Dementia has many possible causes, including stroke, tumor, depression, and vitamin deficiency, as well as disorders such as LBD, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s. Diagnosing LBD can be challenging for a number of reasons. Early LBD symptoms are often confused with similar symptoms found in brain diseases like Alzheimer’s. Also, LBD can occur alone or along with Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease. This course is intended to help people with LBD, their families, and professionals learn more about the disease and resources for coping. It explains what is known about the different types of LBD and how they are diagnosed. Most importantly, it describes how to treat and manage this difficult disease, with practical advice for both people with LBD and their caregivers.

 

Everyone occasionally feels blue or sad. But these feelings are usually short-lived and pass within a couple of days. When you have depression, it interferes with daily life and causes pain for both you and those who care about you. Depression is a common but serious illness. Many people with a depressive illness never seek treatment. But the majority, even those with the most severe depression, can get better with treatment. Medications, psychotherapies, and other methods can effectively treat people with depression.Some types of depression tend to run in families. However, depression can occur in people without family histories of depression too. Scientists are studying certain genes that may make some people more prone to depression. Some genetics research indicates that risk for depression results from the influence of several genes acting together with environmental or other factors. In addition, trauma, loss of a loved one, a difficult relationship, or any stressful situation may trigger a depressive episode. Other depressive episodes may occur with or without an obvious trigger.This introductory course provides an overview to the various forms of depression, including signs and symptoms, co-existing conditions, causes, gender and age differences, and diagnosis and treatment options.

 

What is aging? Can we live long and live well—and are they the same thing? Is aging in our genes? How does our metabolism relate to aging? Can your immune system still defend you as you age? Since the National Institute on Aging was established in 1974, scientists asking just such questions have learned a great deal about the processes associated with the biology of aging. Technology today supports research that years ago would have seemed possible only in a science fiction novel. This course introduces some key areas of research into the biology of aging. Each area is a part of a larger field of scientific inquiry. You can look at each topic individually, or you can step back to see how they fit together, interwoven to help us better understand aging processes. Research on aging is dynamic, constantly evolving based on new discoveries, and so this course also looks ahead to the future, as today’s research provides the strongest hints of things to come.

Professional Development Resources is approved by the American Psychological Association (APA) to sponsor continuing education for psychologists; the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC ACEP #5590);  the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB Provider #1046, ACE Program); the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA Provider #3159); the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR Provider #PR001); the Florida Boards of Social Work, Mental Health Counseling and Marriage and Family Therapy (#BAP346), Psychology & School Psychology (#50-1635), Dietetics & Nutrition (#50-1635), and Occupational Therapy Practice (#34); the Ohio Counselor, Social Worker & MFT Board (#RCST100501); the South Carolina Board of Professional Counselors & MFTs (#193); and the Texas Board of Examiners of Marriage & Family Therapists (#114) and State Board of Social Worker Examiners (#5678).

 

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