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Manage Depression with Lifestyle Coaching

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), major depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the U.S. Symptoms typically include loss of interest in activities, fatigue and feelings of hopelessness. If you’re diagnosed with depression, there are a variety of treatment options available to help manage symptoms, the two most common being medication and “talk therapy.” But what if there was another way to beat depression symptoms? According to new research, meeting with non-healthcare professionals, such as a dietary coach, can help seniors manage their lives better, feel more in control and stave off major depression.

Related: Know the risk factors for major depressive disorder.

In a study of 247 older adults with mild depression symptoms, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine compared two approaches to treating depression: problem-solving therapy for primary care (PST-PC), a cognitive-behavioral therapy approach that treats depression by teaching patients how to regain control of their life’s problems, and dietary coaching. It turns out that meeting with a nutritionist or dietary coach to learn about healthy eating was just as effective as PST-PC. Previous studies have found that about 25% of people in their later years who are mildly depressed become seriously depressed within the next one to two years. But researchers found only 9% of those who spoke with a counselor or dietary coach went on to experience an episode of major depression. The findings were published online in Psychiatric Services.

It’s important to remember that while the study found no difference between PST-PC and dietary coaching, it’s hard to know how much of the effect was due simply to participating in the study since it wasn’t compared to a group who received no treatment. The study also did not compare PST-PC to other main treatments such as medication or other types of psychotherapy.

Related: Find out how nutrients in food play a role in treating depression.

What This Means for Depression Treatment
According to Daniel Amen, MD, a psychiatrist, brain imaging expert and founder of Amen Clinics, this study is just another testament to the fact that we are in control of our own health. “We have much more control over our minds and moods than ever thought before,” says Dr. Amen. “People can really change their brains and change their lives with the right interventions.” In fact, meeting with a dietary coach and changing your eating habits isn’t the only lifestyle change that’s been shown to help prevent major depression. An earlier study at Duke University compared Zoloft, a common antidepressant, and exercise in treating major depression. Researchers found that exercise did about as well as the popular prescription drug in treating the condition. And people who exercised were less likely to relapse than those who took medication. The study also found that more people stuck with exercise than medication. In fact, the researchers noted that many people in the medication group started exercising.

Related: Learn how exercise can support your depression treatment plan.

Implications for Younger People with Depression
Even though this recent study specifically looked at how interventions in which people actively engage in their own life problems can help seniors combat depression, Amen believes this study has implications for people of all ages. “If it works in elderly brains, which are harder to influence than younger brains, it stands to reason that it can help younger brains, too,” says Amen.

Related: 7 questions to ask your doctor about major depression.

Are you living with depression? Take a step toward feeling better with this assessment.

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