Phillipine Daily Enquirer - 6 October 2008
Nobody wants to be labeled "crazy." In a country where depression is perceived as a sign of weakness more than a medical illness, seeing a shrink can send malicious tongues to whisper behind one's back that one has, well, lost it.
And so many Filipinos suffering from depression hide behind bright smiles. But can you actually talk yourself out of a lingering misery, snap out of it and pull yourself together? Is everything all in the mind? Is it even healthy to pretend you're okay when you're not?
"Nothing is all in the mind," said Dr. David Spiegel, one of the world's leading psychiatrists in the study of psychosomatic research, treatment and development, who was in the country as guest lecturer for the Natasha Goulbourn Foundation (NGF).
The NGF is a nonprofit organization on a mission to erase the stigma associated with depression and to inform the public about this serious medical illness. According to the foundation, the Philippines has the highest number of depressed sufferers in Southeast Asia, afflicting more than 4.5 million in 2004, with roughly about the same number of cases unreported. About 15 percent of depressed people commit suicide.
NGF director Dr. Ricardo Soler said out of 90 depressed Filipinos, 30 seek out medical help, 30 have depression but don't even know it, and 30 know they are depressed but are fearful or embarrassed of seeking professional help.
But telling someone "it's all in your head" is indeed short of saying "you're crazy." Although there are disorders that are primarily a problem of emotional or psychological conflict happening to the physical body, Spiegel said everything involves the interaction of the mind and body. The mind does matter, he said, but survival is not as simple as mind over matter.
"Be happy when you're happy; sad when you're sad. There's a price to be paid pretending to be happy when you're not," he said.
Spiegel, who performed group hypnosis to his audience at Santuario de San Antonio Parish Center at Forbes Park, demonstrated how visual imaging can change one's perception of things and how hypnosis can ultimately help some depressive people.
"One of the problems of depression is the feeling of being stuck in a certain state. You just feel lousy and you don't see any way out of it. Hypnosis can be a way of changing the mental state you're in, of changing the world a little bit more differently," Spiegel said.
When a person alters his/her perception of things, such as visual or pain, he/she is literally changing the way his/her brain is responding because both are stimuli, he said. It's still the same painting, so to speak, but he/she is reacting to it in a different way, Spiegel said.
For depression, he said, the benefits of hypnosis are seen after 10 weeks of once-a-week group hypnosis in unipolar patients. Not everyone is hypnotizable though. Only two-thirds of the population is receptive to hypnosis and 10 percent extremely hypnotizable. (If you easily lose yourself watching a movie, chances are your brain is receptive to hypnosis.)
Bipolar disorder, however, also known as manic-depressive disorder characterized by severe peaks of highs and deep valleys of lows, is a more complex condition to treat, Spiegel said.
Spiegel said bipolar disorders are at higher risk of committing suicide. It doesn't take much to flip people with bipolar disorders from being too high and happy to becoming severely depressed. The mood swings are much more disruptive and intense.
"What people don't understand is that right underneath all that mania (high) is still a lot of depression going on," he said.
Even worse, said Spiegel, is that bipolars tend to do things when they're "high" that would make them feel depressed afterward because while the mania feels really good it can easily spin out of control, too. For instance, he said bipolar people feel so great about the world they spend a lot of money in one go, and get depressed right after because, well, they spent all that money.
Spiegel, however, cautions that depressed people in general are more likely to commit suicide when they're coming out of depression. He said when people are at the bottom of depression they don't really have much energy to do anything; they just feel terrible and are unable to plan or initiate anything.
"People coming out of depression is one of the most dangerous times. They pick up more energy and are already able to plan things although they are still fundamentally depressed. It is during this stage that they commit suicide," he said.
Depression can be a debilitating condition and effects not only the individual, but their friends, family and loved ones. Hypnosis is a very effective treatment for depression and has been used for many years with great success. The hypnotherapists at The Harley Street Hypnotherapy Clinic have a great deal of experience in dealing with overcoming depression, enabling our clients to change their negative behaviours and feelings with hypnosis at the London hypnotherapy clinic.