Depression isn’t about simply having a “bad day.” It’s not a failure of character. It’s not because you’re lazy or tired. Depression is an illness, and there’s treatment out there! That’s why it’s so important to recognize the symptoms of depression as soon as possible.
Nobody wants to talk about it, but a shockingly high number of Americans suffer from depression every year. Depression is not a sign of weakness or a character flaw. It’s a real medical condition that affects many people. So, what is depression, and how can you spot it in yourself or a loved one?
This blog will take you through a basic understanding of depression and common characteristics of the disorder. If you recognize these symptoms of depression, do not self-diagnose and seek help from a professional. *If this is an emergency, please call 911 or reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
How Common is Clinical Depression?
Do you ever feel like the world is just too heavy? If so, you’re not alone.
The prevalence of depression is great, with many people experiencing depression at some point in their lives. It’s a mental illness that can range from mild to severe, even life-threatening. And it’s more common than you might think.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), depression can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, race, or ethnicity. If you’re wondering whether your moods are “normal,” you’re not alone! 8.45% of all U.S. adults (21 million) have had at least one major depressive episode.
Symptoms of Depression
Depression can interfere with your ability to work and enjoy life, but it can be treated. Knowing the symptoms of depression is crucial to getting help and seeking treatment, especially in the early stages. However, it’s important to seek out a professional when you notice symptoms. Do not self-diagnose any mental disorder.
While depression can be incredibly hard to deal with, there is hope. The first step is to know how to spot the signs. When you notice these symptoms, call a mental health professional who has the ability to make a clinical diagnosis. Remember, there is no shame in asking for help!
Here are some common signs and symptoms of depression:
- Feeling hopeless or worthless, often for no reason at all (not related to a particular event)
- Feeling constantly sad or low for long periods of time (more than two weeks)
- Not sleeping or sleeping too much
- Not being able to eat or eating too much
- Difficulty concentrating
- Difficulty with social situations, school, family activities etc.
- Feeling down or unmotivated for more than two weeks at a time
- Loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed
- Low self-esteem
- Suicidal thoughts or self-harm
Types of Depression
The most important thing to understand about depression is that it’s a medical condition and that it can be treated by a doctor. It’s not a choice or something that someone can just “snap out of.” Once treatment begins, it often takes a few weeks before you start feeling better.
Depression is not one-size-fits-all. There are different types of depression, as well as different treatment options.
Major Depressive Disorder
Major depression is also known as clinical depression or major depressive disorder.
Those with major depressive disorder feel depressed for the majority of the day, most days of the week. Typically, five or more lasting symptoms indicate major depression: loss of interest, weight loss, weight gain, loss of energy, feeling of worthlessness, trouble concentrating, and suicidal thoughts.
If you experience severe and frequent mood swings, you might have a mood disorder. Those with bipolar disorder have their moods go from extremely high energy to a low depression.
When in their low moods, individuals with bipolar disorder experience common symptoms of depression. While medication may control these mood swings, typical antidepressants may exasperate symptoms. Seek help from a mental health professional to ensure effective treatment.
Persistent Depressive Disorder
If your depression lasts for longer than two years, you may be diagnosed with persistent depressive disorder. This disorder was previously known as dysthymia and chronic major depression.
Persistent depressive disorder can be treated with psychotherapy, medication, or both.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
Seasonal affective disorder is a major depression that many people experience in the winter months. Shorter hours of daylight prompt a biochemical imbalance in the brain, causing this depression.
While it typically goes away in the spring and summer, you can still seek help. With severe SAD, antidepressants can relieve symptoms. However, most people experience relief from talk therapy with an experienced counselor.
Situational depression is a depressed mood initiated by life events. This is not a chronic depression and instead is associated with a specific stressful event.
The death of a family member or friend, divorce, and sudden unemployment are just a few reasons why someone may have situational depression. Psychotherapy and counseling can help you through this type of depressive episode.
Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD)
Premenstrual dysphoric disorder occurs in women at the start of their menstrual period. Similar to PMS but with more serious symptoms, PMDD can cause a depressed mood, irritability, anxiety, fatigue, mood swings, and change in appetite.
While severe cases may require an antidepressant, oral medications can also treat PMDD.
Also known as peripartum depression, postpartum depression occurs after childbirth. While this type of depression is most commonly affecting new mothers, it can also impact the newborn, resulting in bonding, sleeping and feeding difficulty.
According to the American Psychiatric Association, new fathers may also experience signs and symptoms of peripartum depression – an estimated 4% of men experience some type of depression in the 12 months following their child’s birth.
Even mild cases of the “baby blues” are nothing to take lightly; antidepressants and counseling can help.
Causes of Depression
Why is someone depressed? There can be an endless number of reasons!
It might be because of something that happened in the past (like abuse or trauma) that they’re still struggling to overcome. It might be that they have a chemical imbalance in their brain that keeps them from feeling happy and motivated. Or it could be a combination of things!
But, the important thing to remember is that there’s always hope, and you’re not alone. There are ways to feel better. And if you need more help, there are other people out there who want to help you feel better, too!
Depression is an illness. It is the result of chemical imbalances in the brain and body, as well as behavioral and psychological factors. These factors can include stress, trauma, substance abuse, and other medical conditions. Depression can affect anyone at any point in their life, with a range of symptoms that manifest differently for each individual, but it should be always taken seriously.
Mental Health Treatment of Depression
It’s hard to talk about depression. People tend to minimize or make light of it because it’s not something that you can see with your eyes. But make no mistake: the pain, anger, and isolation that accompany depression can be truly devastating.
It’s important to remember that depression is a serious illness. It takes a lot of hard work and patience to start feeling better. When you’re at your lowest, waiting to feel better can make you feel hopeless. It’s important to keep in mind that severe depression won’t go away at the drop of a hat, but it can get better!
There is no one single way to experience depression, so there are a variety of ways to treat it. Effective treatment of depression considers many factors, including physical symptoms, life events, family history, side effects of medication, suicide attempts, and severity.
Most people will use a combination of medication and psychotherapy to combat mental disorders. Medications often relieve immediate symptoms and therapy addresses long-term issues.
Antidepressants help alleviate symptoms of depression. Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) are a type of antidepressant that increases the amount of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is the neurotransmitter that contributes to your good mood, appetite, and is referred to as the “feel-good hormone.” Those experiencing depression have a lower amount of serotonin, so replenishing that relieves depression symptoms.
Let’s Talk Therapy
Counseling often has a negative connotation, but the truth is that you don’t need a severe mental health condition to feel the benefits of talk therapy. Even those with mild symptoms can benefit from having someone to confide in.
With therapy and counseling, mental health professionals work through your emotions to determine why you feel a certain way (and how you can avoid it in the future).
Support groups are another way to talk through your issues and feel less alone. Group therapy allows you to meet other people with similar issues. When you feel alone, having someone who knows how you feel can go a long way. Group therapy options span age groups, from adolescents to older adults.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can help people with a range of mental conditions, including depression, anxiety, addiction, eating disorders, and severe mental illness. CBT is based on the principle that psychological problems are due to unhelpful ways of thinking, unhelpful behavior patterns, and hurtful coping mechanisms. These therapists work with clients to adjust thinking patterns and help the individual to better understand their own thoughts.
Debunking the Myth: Depression is an Illness, Not a Weakness
So, what is depression? It’s a deep sadness that is hard to climb out of. Depression is common, but that doesn’t make it any less scary or overwhelming.
It’s hard to watch someone you love go through its symptoms — anxiety, sadness, and hopelessness. It may make you feel like you can’t do anything to help, and for those dealing with their own depression, the signs can be difficult to see in yourself.
There will never be a perfect time to get help — but when you’re ready, so are we. Call Meridian HealthCare today to start your road to a healthier, happier life.
*If this is an emergency, please call 911 or the suicide helpline at 1-800-273-8255.