December 23, 2018 Adrienne Cantwell 0Comment

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More than four million people in Germany suffer from depression. Yet often neither sufferers and relatives nor employers know what to do in case of illness. Depression is easy to treat. Prof. Dr. Hegerl of the Foundation German Depression Aid shows how an optimal treatment of the disease would look like.

The prevalence of depressive illness in Germany is about five percent. It is all the more astonishing that there are still many prejudices and stigmata about the disease . According to Prof. dr. Ulrich Hegerl, the chairman of the Deutsche Depression Aid Foundation, sometimes believes that depression is often downplayed in the population. This is reflected, for example, in private life. It is much easier for sufferers, friends and family to recognize diseases that have clear symptoms, such as fatigue and depression as depression.

Hegerl wants to fight the stigma with education through counseling services and is committed to recognize depression as a real disease and to name it. At the Research Center for Depression in Leipzig, he is also researching new therapeutic approaches to develop improved and individualized therapies . With Prof. Hegerl has now talked about his work.

Depression: more than stress, overwork and grief

A big problem Recognizing depression as a disease lies in the symptoms that many people know about their everyday lives in a weakened form . These include exhaustion, sadness, stress and listlessness . However, when stress and overwork lead to a longer break from working life, it is often referred to as “burnout” – ie being burnt out – rather than depression, Hegerl said.

“A large proportion of these people are suffering defacto from a depressive illness . This mix of stress, burnout and depression leads to a trivialization of depression. Stress, occasional stress or grief are part of the often bitter and difficult life and do not need medical treatment. Depression, on the other hand, is a serious, often life-threatening disease that is very different from the feeling of fatigue that every person sometimes knows every morning before getting up and after a long day at work. “

“The trivialization of depression intensifies the incomprehension of depressed patients. The best way to get the most out of depression is to call depression depression.”

How should sufferers and relatives react to depression?

Those who suffer from depression themselves can often no longer care about professional help because they are too hopeless and exhausted or blame themselves or fear the stigma, Hegerl said. In such situations relatives should intervene . But before they make a diagnosis, they must, according to Hegerl well informed about the disease. “If you do not know what depression is, you may misinterpret behaviors. People suffering from depression see reality as though wearing black glasses . They perceive negative things magnified or retire from their partners. “

Helping relatives is so important because even doctors often overlook depression . This happens, for example, when affected persons report only on the physical symptoms . In addition “there is a tendency to underestimate the severity of depressive illnesses or to regard them as a comprehensible reaction to difficult living conditions rather than as independent illnesses. Since effective treatments are available with antidepressants and psychotherapy , this is an unacceptable condition. “

Information helps to understand and recognize depression

Books on the subject, the Germany-wide information phone (0800 3344533) or websites such as can help to better understand the disease and its course. Relatives can also share their experiences in the foundation’s online discussion forum.

“Depression is a disease and can be treated well”

In his fight for the social recognition of depression Hegerl is also concerned with a suitable treatment. According to Hegerl, this standard consists of two components: drug treatment with antidepressants and psychotherapy . Since antidepressants do not make them dependent, but normalize functional processes in the brain, they can bring the depressive phase to subside and significantly reduce the risk of relapses. “They make sure that you can be yourself again. Psychotherapy can be useful for the acute treatment of mild to moderate depression and also reduce the risk of relapse . The best efficacy records are available for the so-called cognitive behavioral therapy. For example, this is about avoiding self-excessive demands or negative mindsets. Often it makes sense to combine medication and psychotherapy . “

New Research Center Depression: Sleep deprivation as a therapy

In addition to treatment with drugs and psychotherapy Hegerl researches in the 2014 opened research center in Leipzig therapeutic approaches for depression . One approach is sleep reduction . More than 60 percent of patients with depression feel that their mood suddenly lightens after a night of sleep early in the morning. In order to be able to maintain sleep deprivation independently at home, Hegerl is currently developing a new app called “GetUp!” . It helps sufferers to document the relationship between sleep duration and mood and possibly to perform a slight sleep reduction outside the clinic.