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Posted 449 Days Ago by Anna Richardson - Producer and TV Presenter

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There is a simple way you can beat depression.

Depression and anxiety is on the increase. And anybody who has ever experienced what it’s like to be truly affected, knows that it’s not simply a case of feeling ‘low’ or ‘out of sorts’. Depression, and other associated mood disorders, slowly eradicate a person’s sense of connection – gradually isolating them until they exist in a cocoon of fear and despair. Normal activities, like showering, seeing friends, or exercising, are increasingly avoided as depression takes over, and the person withdraws from life. An unhelpful feedback loop is then created: the more depressed they become the more they avoid pleasure - the more they avoid pleasure the more depressed they become. It’s no wonder then, that people turn to medication to lift them out of their misery.

According to the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC), a staggering 61 million antidepressants were prescribed in 2015. At least 1 in 11 British adults are now taking them, showing our reliance on the pills as our first line of defence against depression and stress. The UK is the 4th most medicalised country in Europe, and just goes to highlight the crisis in Britain’s mental health services.

But the fact is, many studies have now shown that ‘talking therapies’ are just as effective as antidepressants, and are a preferable alternative to a medication with serious side effects. But with patients now having to wait up to a year before their needs are even assessed due to lack of funding for therapists within the NHS, where is a patient in need supposed to turn? With one in 4 of us suffering a mental health problem every year, that’s an awful lot of people in need.
Enter ‘Behavioural Activation Therapy’. Behavioural Activation is a simple form of therapy that encourages depressed people to do the things that they used to do before they got ill – such as going for a walk, or seeing friends. By promoting positive behaviours, like waking up early, engaging with nature and talking to other people; whilst discouraging unhelpful behaviours like staying in bed all day or relying on alcohol, the theory is that depressed people will form practical and constructive habits that will in turn lift them out of their malaise.

What’s interesting is that Behavioural Activation Therapy is 20 per cent cheaper, and requires less training than the current NICE recommended Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), in theory saving NHS trusts thousands of pounds. According to Professor David Richards, a National Institute for Health Research senior investigator at the University of Exeter Medical School who led the research into Behavioural Activation, “Our finding is the most robust evidence yet that Behavioural Activation is just as effective as CBT, meaning an effective workforce could be trained much more easily and cheaply without any compromise on the high level of quality.” Research is ongoing and NICE have demanded more evidence, but for many of us access to effective, inexpensive treatment can’t come soon enough.


What’s the Difference?

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy v Behavioural Activation Therapy

CBT is a talking therapy that focuses on how your thoughts, beliefs and attitudes can in turn affect the way you think and then behave. A therapist works closely with a client to identify the negative thoughts and feelings that create a negative pattern of behaviour. It’s these ‘patterns’ that are then challenged, encouraging a client to think differently about a situation – which in turn then helps them to respond differently. In essence, it’s an ‘inside out’ therapy - a kind of, “we are what we think”.

Behavioural Activation Therapy is based on the idea that the more depressed a person becomes, the more they avoid pleasurable activities and isolate themselves – which serves to worsen their symptoms. The aim in therapy is to help the client engage in the pleasurable activities they used to enjoy, such as meeting up with friends, exercising outside, or learning a new skill. The goal is to boost mood, create structure, and lift clients out of a negative cycle of behaviour. In short, it’s an ‘outside in’ therapy – in other words, “we are what we do”.

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Depression Therapy Behaviour Cognitive Beliefs

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