Depression is an illness that affects how you feel, changes your body and even how you think.
Everyone feels “blue” sometimes, but depression is different than something like a cold, because you can't just get over it. Depression requires medical care from a doctor, therapist, or psychiatrist. You shouldn't have to feel terrible or be sad all of the time.
People can become depressed as the result of life-changing events like the divorce of your parents, death of a friend or family member, severe illness, remarriage, and other things, like trauma and abuse. Genetics and hormones can also play a part in dealing with depression. If someone in your family suffers from depression, you are more likely to deal with it yourself. Depression is common in everyone, but more common in girls.
Depression can have many signs and symptoms. Some of the signs of depression are so subtle that they may not be noticed until more severe symptoms appear.
Here's What Depression Can Look Like:
- Loss of interest in things that used to be fun
- Feeling hungrier or less hungry
- Feeling hopeless and helpless
- Lots of self-doubt
- Feeling extra tired
- Headaches or stomach pain
- Thoughts of harming yourself, wishing you were dead, or killing yourself
- Feeling sad more days than not
- Feeling numb or disinterested
Types of Depression:
Seasonal Affective Disorder (Wins the Awesome Acronym Award of: SAD). Seasonal Affective Disorder is depression brought on during the winter months when levels of natural sunlight are low. SAD usually improves 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), antidepressant medication, and therapy.
Major Depressive Disorder: combination of symptoms that interfere with a person's ability to eat, sleep, work and enjoy activities that they once used to like. Major depression does not typically get better without treatment, or it tends to reoccur.
Dysthymic Disorder: This disorder is best described by at least two years of less-severe depressive symptoms. It is often not debilitating, but can prevent a person from functioning normally and/or feeling "well." It is often described as feeling “down in the dumps” or “blue.” This depression is on-going and persistent.
Psychotic Depression: Severe depression coupled with psychosis - a break with reality, hallucinations, and delusions.
Postpartum Depression: Depression in a new mother up to a year after giving birth.
Bipolar Depression/Manic Depression: Characterized by cycles of extreme highs and extreme lows.
How is Depression Treated?
The first step toward treatment of depression is to visit a doctor. Many illnesses and medications can mimic the symptoms of depression and should be immediately ruled out by examination or lab work. Medication and therapy are often successful in treating depression.
Medications To Treat Depression:
Antidepressants work to regulate the levels of the neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine (some regulate dopamine levels) in the brain. Antidepressants can take four to six weeks to have a significant effect, which can be difficult.
People who take antidepressants should also be advised to continue treatment with antidepressants even as they feel better to prevent a relapse in depressive symptoms.
If one medication doesn't work well, there are many other antidepressants that may work better.
Antidepressants may come with mild side effects that generally get better over time.
Sometimes, as a person begins to have more energy from taking an antidepressant, they may begin to think more about suicide and thoughts of harm. If you feel these feelings, please tell someone or call 9-1-1 right away.
There are some homeopathic and natural remedies available, such as St. John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum). However, how and how well it works is not clear. Further, it has severe impacts upon other medications that treat HIV, depression, seizures, heart disease, certain cancers, and organ transplant rejection.
Make sure if you do take any herbal remedies, tell your doctor about it.
Therapy To Treat Depression:
Psychotherapy ("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 thinking and behavior to help relieve their depression.
- Interpersonal Therapy (IPT) helps people to 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 improved in method and is considered to be safe enough for people who cannot receive relief from other depression treatments.
Help! I'm Depressed! What Can I Do?
Set realistic goals for yourself. It's easy to get feel like things will never get better.
Be patient and kind to yourself.
Take baby steps and remember that you don't need to be perfect.
Celebrate minor victories every day.
Progress, not perfection.
Try some mild exercise to get your endorphins pumping. These are the body’s natural “feel good” chemicals.
Break up big chores into smaller, manageable chunks.
Talk to your friends.
Don't isolate yourself.
Let other people help you.
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.
My Friend Is Depressed. How Can I Help?
Listen, really LISTEN to what they are saying.
Never belittle their feelings, but try to offer some optimism.
Offer whatever support you can.
Never ignore threats or mentions of suicide. Report those immediately to their doctor or parent. Even if it makes you feel like a snitch or an asshole, this may be life or death.
Invite and continue to invite them to hang out with you. Keep inviting them, even if they say no.
Encourage them to seek treatment - talk to a teacher or guidance counselor - without pressuring them.
Where Can I Find Help For Depression?
If you are in crisis, thinking of harming yourself or know someone who is, don't 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
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
Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance has great information for those newly diagnosed with a mood disorder.
Child and Adolescent Bipolar Foundation - The most complete authority on Pediatric Bipolar Disorder around. This site offers libraries of knowledge, forums, podcasts, areas for specific groups of teens (called Flipswitch), chats and a comprehensive list of resources.
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.
TeensHealth has information about depression, self-injury, addictions and other topics. A wonderful site for teens and their parents.
Get Right Side Up is a site with information at statistics related to depression in teens. Toolkits are available for family and schools.
DelTeenSpace is a site for Delaware, but provides fantastic information on how to know if you are in need of immediate psychiatric help and is geared towards teens.