What is Depression?
Depression is an illness that involves the body, mood, and thoughts.
Depression affects the way a person eats and sleeps, the way one feels about oneself, and the way one thinks about things.
A depressive disorder (major depression or bipolar disorder) is much different than the occasional "blues" and cannot be shaken off like a cold. It must be dealt with by seeing a doctor, therapist, or psychiatrist.
After a major life-changing event, be it childbirth, divorce, miscarriage, loss of a child, news of a terminal or chronic illness or even marriage, depressive episodes can become more common and more severe. Up to 12% of men and 25% of women will suffer from depression at some point in their life. Those numbers translate to about 22 million people impacted by mood disorders.
Depression can have many signs. Some of the signs of depression are so subtle that they may not be noticed until more severe symptoms appear.
Signs and Symptoms of Depression include:
- loss of interest in things that used to be enjoyable (including sex)
- loss of appetite or increased appetite
- feelings of hopelessness, pessimism, and helplessness
- fatigue, low energy level, disturbed sleep
- headaches, digestive disorders and chronic pain
- thoughts of death or suicide
Types of Depressive Disorders:
Some Depressive Disorders include:
Seasonal Affective Disorder (Wins the Awesome Acronym Award for: SAD). Seasonal Affective Disorder is characterized by depressive symptoms that occur in the winter months when levels of natural sunlight are diminished. The disorder typically lifts during the spring and summer months. It can be treated with light therapy (although only about half of the patients respond to light therapy alone), antidepressants, and psychotherapy.
Major Depressive Disorder: combination of debilitating symptoms that interfere with a person's ability to eat, sleep, work and enjoy once-pleasurable activities and prevent a person from functioning normally. It is often recurring throughout a person's lifetime.
Dysthymic Disorder: An episodic disorder characterized by at least two years of less-severe depressive symptoms that may not debilitate a person (such is the case with major depressive disorder) but can prevent a person from functioning normally and/or feeling "well."
Postpartum Depression: Depression in new mother up to a year after giving birth.
Bipolar Disorder/Manic Depression: Characterized by cycles of extreme highs and extreme lows.
Cyclothymia: A combination of Bipolar disorder of Dysthymic Disorder with less severe highs and lows than Bipolar Disorder.
What Causes Depression?
Depression is not an illness t caused by one specific thing. Instead, depression results from a combination of genetic, environmental, biochemical, and psychological factors.
How is Depression Treated?
The first step toward treatment of depression is to visit a doctor. Many illness and medications can mimic the symptoms of depression and should be immediately ruled out with examination or lab work.
Medications To Treat Depression:
Antidepressants work to regulate the levels the neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine (some regulate dopamine levels) in the brain. Antidepressants can take four to six weeks to reach therapeutic levels, which is often very discouraging to already-depressed patients. People who take antidepressants should also be advised to continue treatment with antidepressants even as they feel better, in order to prevent a relapse in depressive symptoms.
If one antidepressant does not properly work, there are many other antidepressants that may work more effectively. Studies have shown that switching antidepressants for patients who did not respond to one type of drug increased their chances at becoming symptom-free.
Sometimes, under a doctor's care, antidepressants are used in conjunction with anti-anxiety agents to treat depression more effectively.
Antidepressants may come with mild side effects that will gradually disappear over time.
St. John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum) has been an herbal depression remedy for many years. While its efficacy as an antidepressant medication remains unclear, it has been proven to interact with other medications used to treat HIV, depression, seizures, heart disease, certain cancers, and organ transplant rejection. Before taking St. John's Wort or any other herbal remedy, be sure to tell your doctor about it.
Psychotherapy (also known as "talk therapy") may help with mild to moderate depression and may be used alone or in conjunction with antidepressants.
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapy that teaches people how to change their negative style of thinking and behaving in order to help relieve their depression.
- Interpersonal Therapy (IPT) helps people work through their troubled personal relationships.
Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) also known as "shock therapy" is occasionally used to treat major depression when medication and therapy alone cannot treat it. ECT has, in previous years, been given a bad reputation, but methods have been much improved and are now considered to be safe enough for people who cannot receive relief from other depression treatments.
How Can I Help Myself If I Am Depressed?
Set realistic goals for yourself. It's easy to get bogged down in the big picture. Be patient with yourself. Remember that it really IS all about taking baby steps and you do not need to be perfect. Be happy with yourself when you wash your face in the morning (if that's something you're struggling with) and celebrate minor victories every day.
Progress, not perfection.
Try some mild exercise or activity to get your endorphins pumping.
Break up big chores into smaller, manageable chunks.
Confide in other people.
Don't isolate yourself.
Let other people help you.
Remember: you are not alone.
Don't expect to "snap out of it."
Postpone all important decisions until you feel better and make sure to let your family in on any decisions you make.
Positive thinking will replace negative thoughts as your depression responds to treatment.
How Can I Help Someone Who Is Depressed?
Listen, really LISTEN to what they are saying.
Never disparage their feelings, but try to offer some optimism.
Offer understanding and emotional support.
Never ignore thoughts of suicide. Report those immediately to their doctor.
Invite and continue to invite them to hang out with you. If they decline, keep inviting them.
Encourage them to seek treatment without pressure.
Where Can I Find Help For Depression?
If you are in crisis, thinking of harming someone or know someone who is, do not hesitate to call 911.
Call the toll-free, 24-hour hotline for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255); TTY: 1-800-799-4TTY (4889) to talk to a trained counselor.
Mental Health Specialists (therapists, psychologists, social workers, mental health clinics)
Community Mental Health Centers
The Emergency Room - hospitals often have psychiatric departments
Hospitals often have psychiatric departments
Mental health programs at colleges or medical schools
Family services, social service agencies
Peer support groups
The phone book under "mental health," "health," "social services," "hotlines"
Related Resource Pages on Band Back Together
Mental Healthy is a UK-based website dedicated to providing support and advice to those who are looking to improve their state of mind. Provides a great online resource and community for those interested in living a healthy life from the inside out.
Are you newly diagnosed? Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance has great information for those newly diagnoses with a mood disorder.
How to help a loved one cope with Depression.
HealingWell.com offers great forums for gathering information and support about Depression.
National Alliance on Mental Illness has resources and support groups for anyone dealing with major depression or caretakers of people with any sort of mental illness.
Experts Who Treat Depression: A breakdown of types of people who support and treat those with depression.