Clinical depression, sometimes referred to as major depression or depressive disorder, is one of the most prevalent mental health disorders in the world. Some estimates place rates of depression globally at over 300 million. In our country, experts say that as many as 15 percent of adults deal with depression.
Symptoms experienced in depression include detachment from others, loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed, insomnia, and pervasive feelings of sadness and hopelessness. These symptoms can be mild or so severe as to be life-threatening. Whether someone’s symptoms are mild or severe, individuals should seek out help for this mental health disorder.
Major Depression – Understanding It
We all experience feelings of sadness from time to time. It can, in fact, be a healthy way to cope with certain things in life. In depression, however, these feelings become so intense that the individual cannot conduct a normal and productive life.
Healthy sadness passes after a little time. When people have depression, these feelings remain for weeks at a time. This state of affairs can prevent someone from doing basic things, such as taking a shower, going to work, or even eating.
A diagnosis of major depression requires that the patient have five or more of the following symptoms and that those symptoms last for two weeks at least:
- Suicidal thinking
- Significant loss of weight or appetite
- Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
- An inability to concentrate
- Feelings of hopelessness or sadness
- Poor sleep hygiene
- Disinterest in activities once enjoyed
Suicidal thinking should be taken seriously. If you are having thoughts of suicide, contact The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
Depression & Its Causes
Researchers agree that, while there is no reason for depression, a person can have the condition due to many causes. Unfortunately, the causes of a case can remain impossible to ascertain. However, the causes of depression may involve stress and physical disorders, as well as biology and biochemistry.
Trauma or Stress
A loved one’s death, a personal tragedy, chronic illness and loss of work are only a few examples of incidents that can place people under stress. These things can lead to depression occasionally. Likewise, persistent stressors can cause depression, such as unhealthy relationships.
Physical Causes for Depression
Depression may also be caused by a physical accident or disease. Many autoimmune disorders lead to depression. Additionally, medications may lead someone to experience depression, including antivirals and corticosteroids. Medicines can also induce depression as a side-effect when used for other issues related to mental health. Effective medication management can help with these issues.
Genetics and Depression
Some research has identified genetic differences in certain patients that may lead to depression. Those with a relative or parent that has depression are 3 times more likely to experience the disorder compared with those with no genetic connection to depression. It is unclear, however, if this is due to genetics or shared environments and backgrounds.
Biochemistry and Depression
The human body has billions of chemical reactions a day. Any of these reactions can affect everything within the body, including the mood of the individual. If the chemical reactions in an individual are imbalanced, it may cause mood disturbances such as depression.
Does Depression Last?
While there isn’t a cure for depression, many patients experience remission of their symptoms after intervention. In fact, it is estimated that 80 percent of patients who get help from an MHP experience improvement in their symptoms within a month and a half. Unfortunately, not everyone with depression seeks help; some research suggests that half of those with depression never contact an MHP.
Social stigma around depression often prevents those with symptoms from seeking out help and diagnosis. There are even people who think that being depressed is somehow a sign of weak character. It is not. Depression is a mental health disease that deserves compassion and requires treatment.
When to Get Emergency Care
Treatment can help with depression, but sometimes the disease can create suicidal thinking that is very dangerous. If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, reach out to an emergency care option right away:
- The closest ER
- The Crisis Text Line: text CONNECT to 741741
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
Getting Therapy for Depression
If you do not have symptoms that require emergency intervention, working with a therapist on your depression can benefit you greatly. Therapies your mental health professional might employ include:
- Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)
- Group therapy
- Experiential therapy
- Couples or Family therapy
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Working with a Psychiatrist
While talk therapies such as CBT benefit many patients with depression, sometimes medication is needed as a supplement to therapy. In these cases, working with a psychiatrist is necessary. As a medical doctor, a psychiatrist can prescribe the right medications to help with your depression. A psychiatrist can also prescribe alternate interventions to talk therapy, such as TMS or ECT therapy.
Making Lifestyle Changes
A well-balanced treatment plan for depression can include making lifestyle changes. Lifestyle changes that can supplement therapy or medication include:
- Spending quality time with family
- Getting regular exercise
- Sleeping well
- Maintaining a healthy diet
- Avoiding stimulants and alcohol
Your therapist can also make additional recommendations based on your specific lifestyle and needs.
Is Depression the Same as Bipolar Disorder?
We often refer to a condition known as bipolar disorder as “manic depression”, leading some to believe that bipolar disorder and depression are the same. While there are periods of depression in bipolar disorder, that disorder also comes with extensive periods of mania, making it very different from clinical depression.