Understanding Major Depression
Depression is a mental health issue that is said to impact over 300 million people around the world. This mood disorder affects everyone in a different way, but can be characterized as a disorder that engenders hopeless feelings and a sense of apathy in an individual’s life.
Depression can range from mild to severe, and in some cases can result in death by suicide. This mood disorder is very common in the States, affecting almost seven percent of adults in a given year. Anyone who believes they or a loved may be experiencing depression should contact a mental health professional for advice.
The negative feelings experienced by those with depression are a normal part of life. Anyone can feel sad or distressed by significant life events. What people need to understand is that depression goes far beyond just having a bad day or getting into a bad mood.
Temporary feelings of sadness can make life difficult for a few days, but depression goes much further. This mood disorder can prevent an individual from getting their normal day-to-day tasks done and having a quality of life. Things such as taking a shower or even getting up can be impossible for someone with depression.
The diagnostic criteria used by mental health professionals to diagnose someone with depression runs as follows:
- Patients must experience 5 or more symptoms
- These symptoms must be present for more than 14 days
As stated, depression varies from person to person. The following symptoms can appear in individuals with the disorder:
- Large weight fluctuations
- Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness
- Disordered sleeping
- Lack of interest in enjoyable activities
- Feeling tired
- Lack of concentration
- Feelings of guilt
- Suicidal ideation
If you or someone you love experiences thoughts of suicide, seek out emergency care immediately. The number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. You can also speak with one of our mental health professionals.
Why Depression Happens
There is no single answer to why depression happens. It can result from a single event or a series of events in one’s life. The best approach is to speak with a mental health professional to determine the source of depression; knowing that help is possible and that there are therapeutic options available to you is an important first step in moving towards healing.
Traumatic Life Events
Traumatic life events such as a loved one’s passing or significant financial worries can lead to depression. In these cases, depression can result directly after such traumas. In other cases, the depression can have a delayed onset, as with cases of abuse during childhood. In these situations, causation is less obvious. Working with a therapist can help in both scenarios.
Depression can also stem from physical triggers or else be comorbid with physical disorders. Those with autoimmune diseases, as an example, often have depression as a symptom. Depression happens in tandem, too, with issues such as eating disorders or drug and alcohol abuse.
Additionally, some medications can cause symptoms of depression. Medications such as corticosteroids and specific anti-virals can increase an individual’s risk of the disorder. Some mental health medications also increase depression in some individuals and require close monitoring by a mental health professional.
The Genetic Component
Anyone with depression in their family may ask whether or not the disorder has a genetic component. When an individual has a sibling or parent with depression they are two to three times more likely to develop the condition than those with no first-degree family connection to the disorder. Some believe that what is thought of as a genetic factor actually stems from the culture of a family.
Can You Eliminate Depression?
There is no known single cure for depression. Patients with this disorder can work with a therapist to reduce symptoms and even put depression in remission. Treating depression shows significant and positive results. Eighty percent of those who get professional help for depression see improvement in under 6 weeks. The sad truth is that many do not seek help, however. Anyone experiencing depressive symptoms should contact a mental health professional to discuss options.
Seek Emergency Care
Again, if you are experiencing thoughts of suicide or self harm, contact emergency services.
If you or someone you love has thoughts of suicide, seek immediate medical attention. You can reach help at:
- The nearest emergency room
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
- The Crisis Text Line: text CONNECT to 741741
Working with a Therapist or Counselor
Working with a therapist can be significantly beneficial for those with depression. Forms of talk therapy can be effective, including:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
- Individual or family therapy
- Experiential therapy
- Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
- Group therapy
Seeing a Psychiatrist
A therapist may also recommend that you see a psychiatrist who can prescribe medication as well, if necessary. A therapist can provide psychological intervention and therapies, but a psychiatrist is required for medication. A psychiatrist otherwise works much like a therapist, using the DSM as a guidepost for treatment and diagnosis. Some psychiatrists can also employ interventions such as electroconvulsive therapy. If you are scheduled to see a psychiatrist, discuss everything potentially involved, including what types of talk therapy a psychiatrist may or may not use.
Lifestyle Changes in the Treatment of Depression
Making lifestyle changes can also be an effective way to supplement a treatment plan. Options include:
- Exercising regularly
- Eating healthy foods
- Avoiding cigarettes, alcohol, and drugs
- Sleeping well
- Maintaining an emotional support network
Work with a therapist to develop a lifestyle plan that works best for you.
Depression vs “Manic Depression”
Some who exhibit symptoms of depression may have concerns about “manic depression”, which is sometimes used to refer to bipolar depression. Depression and bipolar disorder are not the same thing. Someone with depression does not experience episodes of mania. One way of looking at it is thinking of depression as “unipolar”, instead of bipolar.