Understanding Depression and the Best Ways to Treat It
Depression is a medical condition that affects your mood and ability to function, and different people experience it in different ways. It can therefore be classified as a mood disorder associated with feelings of sadness, loss, or anger that interfere with a person’s day-to-day activities. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 18.5 percent of American adults had symptoms of depression in any given 2-week period in 2019.
Let’s not confuse sadness or grief with depression. Sad and upsetting events happen to everyone and feeling unhappy at times is a normal part of life. However, feeling low or hopeless regularly is not considered normal and could be the onset of depression. Many individuals try to ignore the symptoms of depression, but depression is a serious medical condition that can worsen without proper treatment.
Experiencing depression can take serious turns and may interfere with your daily work, resulting in a loss of time and lower productivity. It can also influence relationships and some chronic health conditions. As such, let’s take a closer look at it to help better understand this condition.
Many times bouts of depression have no obvious cause, and, in some individuals, they can linger much longer than in others for no apparent reason. Healthcare providers name depression types according to symptoms and causes. Types of depression therefore include:
- Major depressive disorder (MDD):Major depression, also known as clinical depression, has intense or overwhelming symptoms that last longer than two weeks.
- Bipolar depression:People with bipolar disorder have alternating periods of low moods and extremely high-energy (manic) periods. During the low periods, there can be accompanying depressive symptoms such as feeling sad, hopeless, or lacking energy.
- Perinatal and postpartum depression:Perinatal is a term referring to around birth. Many people refer to this type as postpartum depression. Perinatal depression can occur during pregnancy and up to one year after having a baby. Symptoms go beyond “the baby blues,” which cause minor sadness, worry, or stress.
- Persistent depressive disorder (PDD):PDD is also known as dysthymia. Symptoms of PDD are less severe than major depression, but people experience PDD symptoms for two years or longer.
- Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD):Premenstrual dysphoric disorder is a severe form of premenstrual disorder (PMS). It affects women in the days or weeks leading up to their menstrual period.
- Psychotic depression:People with psychotic depression have severe depressive symptoms and delusions or hallucinations. Delusions are beliefs in things that are not based in reality, while hallucinations involve seeing, hearing, or feeling touched by things that aren’t truly there.
- Seasonal affective disorder (SAD):Seasonal depression, or seasonal affective disorder, usually starts in late fall and early winter. It often goes away during the spring and summer.
General Signs and Symptoms
Not everyone with depression will experience the same symptoms. Symptoms can vary in severity, how often they happen, and how long they last. Moreover, depression symptoms in men and women can be different.
Below are some of the general signs and symptoms of depression. If nearly every day for at least two weeks you are showing these signs, you may be living with depression:
- feeling sad, anxious, or “empty.”
- feeling hopeless, worthless, and overly pessimistic
- crying a lot
- feeling bothered, annoyed, or angry
- loss of interest in hobbies and interests you once enjoyed
- decreased energy or fatigue
- difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
- moving or talking more slowly
- difficulty sleeping, early morning awakening, or oversleeping
- appetite or weight changes
- chronic physical pain with no apparent cause that does not get better with treatment (headaches, aches or pains, digestive problems, cramps)
- thoughts of death, suicide, self-harm, or suicide attempts
How Is It Treated?
Depression can be serious, but it’s also treatable. Treatments for depression include:
- Self-help through exercise:Not only does exercise boost serotonin, endorphins, and other feel-good brain chemicals, it triggers the growth of new brain cells and connections, just like antidepressants do. Regular exercise, getting enough sleep, and spending time with people you care about can improve depression symptoms.
- Medication:Antidepressants may be the most advertised treatment, but that doesn’t mean it is always the most effective. It may help relieve some of the symptoms, but it doesn’t cure the underlying problem and is usually not a long-term solution. Antidepressant medications also come with side effects and safety concerns to consider.
- Brain stimulation therapy:Brain stimulation therapy can help people with severe depression or depression with psychosis and has proven to be quite effective. Types of brain stimulation therapy include Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), and vagus nerve stimulation (VNS).
- Alternative medicine:People with mild or ongoing symptoms can improve their mental state with simple therapy sessions, which may include massage, hypnosis, acupuncture, etc.
- Psychotherapy for depression treatment: Talk therapy can be highly effective when there are no underlying medical causes for symptoms of depression. These therapies help you learn skills and insight to feel better and help prevent depression from coming back.
- Individual or group therapy:Whenever we hear the word “therapy,” a visual of one-on-one sessions with a therapist comes to our mind. However, group therapy can also be very useful in treating depression. Both group and individual therapy sessions are quite effective and usually last about an hour.
Therapy: A Closer Examination
In individual therapy, we build a strong relationship with one person and may feel more comfortable sharing some sensitive information with one person than with a group. We also get individualized attention.
In group therapy, listening to peers who have gone through the same struggles can validate our experiences and help build self-esteem. Often group members are at different points in their depression. This usually helps to get tips from someone who is facing troubles and has worked through a challenging problem. Apart from giving and receiving inspiration and ideas, attending group therapy can also help increase our social activities and network.
There are many types of therapy available. Three of the more common methods used in depression treatment include cognitive behavioral therapy, interpersonal therapy, and psychodynamic therapy. Often, a blended approach is used.
Depression is a common condition that affects millions of Americans every year. The good news is that depression is treatable. In some cases, these conditions may be resistant to pharmacological intervention. Fortunately, the professionals at Pristine Mental Health have medical technologies such as TMS therapy and other ways to help. Contact us today to learn more about how you can help yourself or your loved ones!