Sports psychology used to treat depression

Dr Dobbin says doctors who use the programme see about a 20% fall in anti-depressant prescribing

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The confidence-building techniques of Olympic athletes have been adapted into a self-help programme for people with anxiety and depression.

The positive mental training programme was developed by Edinburgh GP Dr Alastair Dobbin and Sheila Ross, a public health specialist, and has been endorsed by the Royal College of GPs.

"Being an Olympic athlete is all about developing resilience," said Dr Dobbin.

"It's about being able to bounce back if you have a bad performance, but stressed and depressed people who are often living in very deprived circumstances need to have these tools every bit as much as an Olympic athlete."

Dr Dobbin and Ms Ross developed the programme after finding that techniques commonly used by sports psychologists were especially helpful when used on the patients they were seeing in depression clinics.

One of those patients was Jacky Borthwick. She was suffering from anxiety and depression which had manifested itself in a fear of travelling on buses.

"I think it was lack of control," she said. "You can't jump on and off when you want, you have to wait. Being stuck in traffic, it was like being out of control."

The psychological techniques are on CDs which Jacky was given to take away with her. She found them extremely helpful.

She said: "It's amazing how many of your problems disappear when you can relax. It just gives you an amazing sense of confidence and you do feel that you can go on and do things which are causing you problems."

Jacky has put the CDs onto her MP3 player and listens to them when she is faced with stressful situations. She has not needed anti-depressants or any other treatment since she was given the CDs in 2006.

Dr Dobbin says doctors who use the programme report a fall in anti-depressant prescribing of about 20%.

"After trying it out, we went on to do a research trial with Edinburgh University and we found out it was extremely effective," he added.

Further research is due to be published in the New Year.

Dr Dobbin and Ms Ross have formed a charity to promote the programme and a one-day training course which GPs need to complete in order to prescribe the self-help CDs.

Those who have been through the course can prescribe it on the NHS, and 50,000 patients have used it so far.

Dr Dobbin says his colleagues welcome the opportunity to offer patients something other than pills or a long wait to see a therapist.

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