Depression (major depressive disorder or clinical depression) is a common but serious mood disorder. It causes severe symptoms that affect how you feel, think, and handle daily activities, such as sleeping, eating, or working. To be diagnosed with depression, the symptoms must be present for at least two weeks.
People who may have depression may not know that help is available. Major depressive disorder is a treatable illness, even though it may feel impossible to overcome when someone is experiencing it.
The American Psychiatric Association estimates that one in every six individuals will experience depression in their lifetimes. Furthermore, about one in 15 people have depression during any given year.
More than just a bout of the blues, depression isn’t a weakness, and you can’t simply “snap out” of it. Depression may require long-term treatment. But don’t get discouraged. Most people with depression feel better with medication, psychotherapy, or both.
Signs of Depression
Signs of depression can vary wildly. For example, some people exhibit uncontrolled anger, while others do not have the energy to get out of bed. Furthermore, people with similar symptoms may have different severities of each one.
The following are some common signs of depression:
- Low or depressed mood daily
- Intrusive thoughts about death or committing suicide
- Feeling uninterested in activities that you used to enjoy
- Difficulty concentrating or with memory
- Unintended weight loss or gain
- Feeling guilty or worthless
- Trouble with sleep
- Fatigue or low energy levels
- Slowed movements
If you exhibit the symptoms of depression on the above list for two weeks or more, you could be suffering from depression. It’s crucial to seek the help of a mental health professional so you can get treatment. Depression is treatable with the right care, and a therapist can support you to get the help you need and start feeling better. They can help you learn about how depression affects your body and mind, and find ways to cope with your mental health condition. When you know how to deal with depression, it’s possible to live a great life.
A mental health professional can help you diagnose what type of depression you have. It’s important to report your exact symptoms to your provider so they can make an accurate diagnosis. Withholding information could prolong your suffering and make it harder for them to help. Be honest about what you’re experiencing so your therapist can make an accurate diagnosis and give you the best treatment options.
It’s not known exactly what causes depression. As with many mental disorders, a variety of factors may be involved, such as:
- Biological differences. People with depression appear to have physical changes in their brains. The significance of these changes is still uncertain, but may eventually help pinpoint causes.
- Brain chemistry. Neurotransmitters are naturally occurring brain chemicals that likely play a role in depression. Recent research indicates that changes in the function and effect of these neurotransmitters and how they interact with neurocircuits involved in maintaining mood stability may play a significant role in depression and its treatment.
- Hormones. Changes in the body’s balance of hormones may be involved in causing or triggering depression. Hormone changes can result with pregnancy and during the weeks or months after delivery (postpartum) and from thyroid problems, menopause or a number of other conditions.
- Inherited traits. Depression is more common in people whose blood relatives also have this condition. Researchers are trying to find genes that may be involved in causing depression
- There’s no sure way to prevent depression. However, these strategies may help.
- Take steps to control stress, to increase your resilience and boost your self-esteem.
- Reach out to family and friends, especially in times of crisis, to help you weather rough spells.
- Get treatment at the earliest sign of a problem to help prevent depression from worsening.
- Consider getting long-term maintenance treatment to help prevent a relapse of symptoms.
Therapy Helps Depression
One of the most effective types of treatment for depression is counseling. Talking to a therapist about your feelings is invaluable. You will be able to express what you are struggling with and get the treatment you need. Depression can feel incredibly overwhelming, weighing you down, but a therapist is trained to recognize the symptoms and help you work through them. They will teach you coping skills, and you will learn to manage depression without feeling hopeless.
Frequently Asked Questions FAQ(S)
What is the number one cause of depression?
According to health information by the National Institute of Mental Health (nimh.nih.gov/health), depression has multiple causes instead of just one. Genetics, medications, stress, medical problems, thyroid problems, and certain chemicals in the brain may contribute to the development of symptoms. Anxiety disorders may also play a role in depression.
Who is at higher risk of depression?
Health information through ongoing studies suggests different groups of people are at high risk. People with brain chemistry variations, a family history of depressive disorders, people with chronic pain or illness, or hormonal changes may have a higher risk. People who experienced a traumatic event such as abuse, neglect, or family dysfunction (incarcerated parent, domestic violence, substance use, divorce, etc.) or an environment such as poverty may have a higher risk of depression.
How is depression different from a bad mood?
When a patient suffers from depression, the hopelessness and other symptoms last for at least two weeks. The signs of depression also interfere with the person’s ability to live their daily life. Counselors may also diagnose this mental illness if the symptoms have not lasted long but are so severe that the patient is in danger.
It’s typical for people to feel sad or even depressed from time to time. When something upsetting happens in life, that feeling can last several days or even two weeks without major depressive disorder. While patients who experience this type of mood may benefit from seeing a therapist, it is not the same as having depression.
How Can I Help a Loved One with Depression?
If you love someone who is living with depression, the best thing you can do is encourage them to seek professional help. You can also validate their feelings, provide practical support, and get emergency care if needed.
What Lifestyle Changes Can Help with Depression?
A mental health care team may recommend certain lifestyle changes to cope with depression. For example, a therapist may suggest that a patient remove specific triggers from her life. Meanwhile, a psychiatrist may recommend daily exercise for the patient in addition to his medication.
Meditation, exercise, journaling, and healthy eating habits can all make people with depression feel better. However, lifestyle changes are not always enough to treat depression on their own. People need to seek professional help if they have symptoms of depression and have not been able to heal on their own.
When Should I Seek Emergency Care for Depression?
If you have thoughts of suicide or self-harm, call or chat with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or chat with them on the website.
If your loved one is in danger of suicide, you can take them to a nearby hospital, emergency room, or mental health facility.