Also known as depression – major, major depressive disorder, and unipolar depression.
Depression is most often described as feeling blue, unhappy, sad, down in the dumps, or even miserable. Most people feel this way at some point in their lives or another, but for short periods of time at a time.
The true clinical depression is classified as a mood disorder where feelings of loss, anger, sadness, or even frustration can interfere with a person’s everyday life for weeks or sometimes longer depending on the bought of depression.
Incidence, Causes, and Risk Factors of Depression
What exactly causes depression in people is not known, and there are many researchers that believe it is mostly caused by a chemical change in the brain. This can be due to a mutation within your genes, or can also be triggered and set on by a stressful event or a series of stressful events. It is most likely a combination of both genes and events.
There are certain types of depressions that can run in families, but depression can also happen if there is no family history of the illness for some people. Anyone is able to develop depression at some point in their lives, even children.
These are some things that might play a role in obtaining depression:
- Drug or alcohol abuse
- Medications i.e.: steroids
- Problems in sleeping patterns
- Medical conditions i.e.: cancer, long term pain, or hypothyroidism
- Events in life that can be deemed as stressful, for example:
- Breaking up with a significant other
- Job loss
- Death of someone close to you
- Childhood neglect or abuse
- Failing a class or other important event
- Social isolation which is more commonly found in elderly
Symptoms of Depression
Depression has a way of distorting the way you view yourself, the people around you, and your life in general. When a person has depression they tend to look at everything with a negative light or attitude, and are unable to imagine that any situation or problem that they have can be resolved in any sort of positive way.
The symptoms of depression include:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Restlessness, irritability, and agitation
- Change in appetite followed with weight loss or weight gain
- Lack of energy or fatigue
- Withdrawn or isolated
- Excessive sleeping or having trouble sleeping
- Thoughts of suicide or death
- Feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, self hate, helplessness, and even guilt
- Loss of interest in the pleasures that were once enjoyed
Depression might not appear as sadness, it might appear as anger or even discouragement. If the depression is very severe, there can also be psychotic symptoms shown such as delusions and hallucinations.
Signs and Tests for Depression
Questions will be asked by your healthcare provider about your symptoms and medical history. The answers to these questions and a series of certain questionnaires can help your healthcare provider make an accurate diagnosis of depression and even determine how severe the depression might be. Other medical conditions might have to be ruled out as well that have symptoms common to depression by administering urine and blood tests.
Treatment for Depression
The general treatments for depression include:
- Talk therapy or psychotherapy
- Antidepressants which are medications to help with the depression
One of these treatments might only be needed if you have a mild case of depression. When someone has a more severe case of depression a combination of both the treatments might be necessary. Time is something that is needed in order for the individual to feel better, but there are day to day improvements that can be seen. If you’re extremely depressed or suicidal and you cannot function properly than you may need to seek help and be treated in the nearest psychiatric hospital.
The medication that is used to treat depression is referred to as antidepressants. Some of the more common types of antidepressants include:
- Serotonin norepinephrine re-uptake inhibitors or SNRIs which include: Pristiq ( desvenla faxine ), Effexor ( venla faxine), Cymbalta ( duloxetine ).
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs which include: Prozac ( fluoxetine ), Lexapro ( escitalopram ), Paxil ( paroxetine ), Luvox ( fluvoxamine ), Celexa ( citalopram ), and Zoloft ( sertraline ).
Some of the other medications that can be used to treat depression include:
- Wellbutrin or Bupropion
- Tricyclic antidepressants
- Monoamine oxidase inhibitors
If you’re experiencing hallucinations or delusions than your doctor might prescribe other additional medications on top of these.
Note that these medications should not be taken by minors under the age of 18 unless prescribed by a doctor. If they are prescribed by a doctor to children, adolescents, and young adults under the age of 18 than the child should be observed closely for suicidal behavior, especially within the first few months of taking the medication.
If the depression is not becoming better by using talk therapy or antidepressants than you might have something known as treatment resistant depression. Your doctor might prescribe higher, but safe amounts of antidepressants or even a combination of medications. Thyroid supplements and lithium are sometimes prescribed to help the antidepressants along.
There are herbs sold without prescriptions that can be taken such as St. John’s Wort. It has been proven to be effective with those people that have mild depression. It can however, change the way other medications work in the body including birth control pills and antidepressants. Before trying any herbal supplements, talk to your doctor.
If you’re taking medications for another health problem, these medications can sometimes cause or even worsen depression. Talk with your healthcare provider about the medications that you’re on. You might have to change or switch your medications or dosages. Do not stop taking your medication until you speak with your doctor.
Women that are being treated for depression that think that they may be, thinking of becoming, or are pregnant or nursing should not stop taking antidepressants without talking to their healthcare providers first.
Talk therapy is a form of counseling that you go to in order to talk about your thoughts and feelings, and to help you learn how to cope and deal with what you feel. Some of the forms of talk therapy are:
- Cognitive – behavioral therapy where they teach you how to keep away from negative thoughts. Learning how to be more aware of the symptoms that you have and how to recognize things and events that can trigger your depression is also taught.
- Psychotherapy is what helps people understand certain issues that are behind your thoughts and feelings and how to cope and get rid of them.
- Support groups are for people that share their problems with other people that have the same problems. You can usually get a recommendation from your doctor or therapist for a support group.
Other Types of Treatment for Depression
- Trans-cranial magnetic stimulation or TMS uses many different pulses of energy to stimulate the nerve cells within the brain that are believed to affect a person’s mood. There is some research conducted that leads us to believe it does help depression.
- Light therapy is usually not considered a top of the line treatment, but it is said to help relieve some depression symptoms in the winter time.
- Electroconvulsive therapy or ECT is one of the most effective treatments out there for severe depression and it is generally a safe treatment. It can improve the mood in those people suffering from severe depression or even suicidal thoughts and those that do not become better with other treatments. It can also help to treat those that have psychotic symptoms.
- Depression Treatment
- Depression Symptom Relief
- Depression Symptoms
The stress of depression can be eased and comforted through a support group with members that share the common experiences of depression and the problems that come along with it.
- Daily Strength Depression Support Group
- Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
- National Alliance on Mental Illness
Expectations (Prognosis) of Depression
There are some people that have major depression that feel better after a few weeks of taking antidepressants. However, they still need to continue the medication for between 4 to 9 months to feel the full affects of the medication and to prevent the major depression from reoccurring.
Quick and ongoing treatment might be needed by some people that have repeated episodes of depression. This is to prevent severe, long term depression from happening. Sometimes, the only way to improve this is by putting the person on medications for long periods of time.
Complications with Depression
When people are depressed they are more likely to turn to alcohol or even illegal drugs to help combat their anxieties and feelings. This can lead to suicide and an increased risk for physical or mental health problems. Some of the other complications of depression can also include:
- Depression – Diabetes
- CDC – Post Partum Depression
- Association of Depression and Diabetes Complications
- Pregnancy Complications and Post Natal Depression
Prevention of Depression
Do not use illegal drugs or drink alcohol since these substances can ultimately worsen the depression and can lead to thoughts of suicide.
Make sure to take your medications exactly as your healthcare provider instructed. You should ask about the possible side effects and what to do if there are any. Learn to recognize these signs because it could mean that your depression is getting worse.
Follow these tips to help make you feel better:
- Exercise more often
- Maintain better sleep habits
- Look into activities that bring you joy
- Try to be around more people that are caring and positive
- Talk to someone close to you about how you feel
- Become involved in group activities
Here are some resources that can help with depression in adolescents as well as depression in general: