Depression (major depressive disorder) is a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act. Fortunately, it is also treatable. Depression causes feelings of sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed. It can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems and can decrease your ability to function at work and at home.
Depressive symptoms vary from mild to severe. They can include some of the following:
Mood: anxiety, apathy, general discontent, guilt, hopelessness, loss of interest or pleasure in activities, mood swings, or sadness
Behavioral: agitation, excessive crying, irritability, restlessness, or social isolation
Sleep: early awakening, excess sleepiness, insomnia, or restless sleep
Whole body: excessive hunger, fatigue, or loss of appetite
Cognitive: lack of concentration, slowness in activity, or thoughts of suicide
Weight: weight gain or weight loss
Also common: poor appetite or repeatedly going over thoughts
I tend to hear people compare sadness and depression. Depression differs from sadness. The feelings you have will affect all aspects of your life. It may be hard or even impossible to find enjoyment in anything, including activities and people you used to enjoy. Depression is a mental illness, not an emotion. Sadness can be a mood symptom of depression, but sadness doesn’t always mean you are depressed. You must have the above symptoms for at least two weeks before a doctor will diagnosis you with depression.
Depression is also different from grief. Grief can be from any loss of something significant to the individual. This can be a loved one, end of a relationship, loss of job, loss of pet etc. Grief is unique to each individual. Grief can feel like depression, but there are some differences.
Grief will come in waves of emotion, where the individual will feel as if they are drowning in sorrow. This eases after some time. Positive memories will also return to us when the grief eases. Depression, is a constant state of mind. Many people struggle to come up with anything positive about themselves or that happened in their day.
When grieving, people tend to keep their self-esteem and self-worth, whereas in depression it leaves. People will become hopeless, with feelings of worthlessness.
With grief people think of joining their loved one, someday. In depression the thoughts are of ending their life to get rid of the pain.
According to the national institute of mental health (NIMH), depression is the leading mental health disability in our country. World wide approximately 5% of our population struggles with depression. Some of the causes of depression are genetics, brain chemistry, abuse: physical, sexual or emotional, alcohol and drugs, family history, and age. As people age the risk for depression increases as well.
Depression is very treatable with around 90% of people being treated showing an improvement in their symptoms. Before being diagnosed with depression however, a person should go to see their medical doctor to rule out a physical problem.
Medication is one way to treat depression. People tend to get frustrated with medication, as it can take up to six weeks before they start to feel better. There are also many different medications that are available, finding the right one for you can be frustrating and overwhelming. Genetic testing is starting to be done to help doctors prescribe the correct medication for each person. However, the cost is high, it can take weeks to get the results back and many insurances won’t pay for it as yet. If you are going to take medications for depression it is recommended that you also get therapy at the same time. Therapy works with one part of the brain, while depression works with another part. Recent research has shown that when doing them together the individual has a higher rate of success.
If you have mild depression, exercise is an effective form of treatment. Getting out and doing things, being more social, doing hobbies and things you enjoy.
Mild to moderate depression, all of the above-mentioned things can work, they may take a little more effort if you are into the moderate range of depression. People who have moderate depression tend to need medications to help them. The most common are SSRI’s (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), these include medications such as Prozac and Zoloft. SNRI’s (Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors), these include Cymbalta, and Effexor. There are other types of medication and talking with your doctor will help you make the most appropriate choice for you. Talk therapy along with medication is very helpful for some people. Research has shown that when utilizing medication and talk therapy, people have a higher success rate of managing their depression symptoms.
Moderate to severe depression, medication, and talk therapy do work. However, there are some people who need to be hospitalized or go to a rehabilitation facility to get more intense care and stabilization.
Other treatments that are available to those seeking help are electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), this is used to treat severe, chronic or treatment-resistant depression.
Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS), this is less invasive than ECT, with fewer side effects.
Many people do not want to take medication for depression, and there are alternative ways to help your depression. Probiotics, black and green tea have L-theanine and catechins which can help with depression. Omega-3-fatty acids, some studies have shown that putting these into your diet can help with depression. Vitamin-D deficiency has also shown to have an effect on depression.
When I have clients who choose not to take medication. I encourage them to start making some lifestyle changes. This includes exercise, even if its around the block, diet, setting their alarm if they are sleeping too much. Finding a new hobby, a support group, or starting their own.
Having depression is not something to be ashamed of, if you would like help in learning how to cope with depression and learn new skills in managing your depression symptoms, please contact Life Enhancement Counseling Services today at 407-443-8862 to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced mental health counselors.