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What is Depression and How can I Treat It?

Millions of Americans suffer from some form of depression every year, making it one of the most common mental disorders in the country. Being depressed often feels like carrying a very heavy burden, but you are not alone in this struggle.

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Depression is more than just feeling sad. Everyone feels upset or unmotivated from time to time. Prolonged feelings of sadness and loss of interest in daily activities, trouble sleeping, decreased or increased of appetited are all symptoms of a more mood disorder. If these symptoms persist for a period of at least two weeks, it is considered a depressive

According to a 2010 World Health Organization (WHO) report, depression accounted for 3.7% of all U.S. disability-adjusted life years and 8.3% of all U.S. years lived with disability.

Causes of Depression

There is no one cause for depression, as it depends on a unique combination of an individual’s genetic makeup and environmental conditions. There are many factors to take into account:

·         The brain’s physical structure or chemistry

·         History of depression in family

·         History of other disorder (SAD, Anxiety, Complex Trauma etc.)

·         Stressful, traumatic events (abuse, financial issues, death of a loved one)

·         Hormone changes (menstrual cycles, pregnancy, taking hormones)

·         Certain medications (sleeping aids, blood pressure medication)

Types of Depression

Depression types can take many forms. The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders lists nine distinct types:

1.      Major Depression, is the most common type of depression. Often, people with major depression experience recurrent episodes throughout their lives.

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2.      Dysthymia is a persistent low mood over a long period of time, even a year or more. It could be described as feeling like you’re living on autopilot.

3.      Some people are more sensitive to the lower amount of light in the wintertime. Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression brought on from a lack of natural sunlight.

4.      Those with Atypical Depression often report feeling a heaviness in their limbs. They may suffer from irritability and relationship problems, as well as be prone to overeating and oversleeping.

5.      Bipolar Disorder is also called Manic Depressive Disorder because it involves alternating between mania and depressive episodes.

6.      Sometimes depressive episodes can get so severe that hallucinations or delusions are present, the person becomes catatonic, or they feel stuck in bed. This is known as Psychotic Depression.

7.      Postpartum Depression occurs after giving birth. Mothers may feel disconnected from their new baby or fear that they will hurt their child.

8.      Severe depression that shows up during the second half of the menstrual cycle is called Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder. It affects the individual’s ability to function normally.

9.      Situational Depression is triggered by a life-changing event. It could be anything, from losing your job to the death of an immediate family member.

Signs and Symptoms of Depression

Though there are multiple types of depression, many of them have similar recognizable symptoms. This list provides a general idea of what comprises depression:

·         Persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, worthlessness, or emptiness

·         Irritability, frustration, or restlessness

·         Loss of interest in activities or hobbies that used to be enjoyable

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·         Difficulty sleeping, sleep disturbances, or sleeping too much

·         Fatigue and lack of energy

·         Difficulty thinking clearly, remembering, concentrating, or making decisions

·         Appetite or weight changes

·         Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide

·         Physical symptoms such as headaches, stomachaches, or back pain

Experiencing some combination of these symptoms for a period of at least two weeks likely signifies that you are in the midst of a depressive episode.

Treatment

Any treatment for depression should coincide with a healthy diet and regular sleep schedule. It may sound simplistic, but the importance of taking care of your body cannot be overstated.

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There are various methods you could use to sooth the symptoms of depression. Physical activity is especially helpful for the depressed mind. It enables you to better handle stress, helps you sleep better at night, and the endorphins released give you a mental boost.

Yoga is a more accessible form of exercise, because it doesn’t require equipment and because many of the moves and poses do not require much effort.

Meditation is a highly effective way of clearing your head and calming your body. It’s also easy to do, with guided meditations available through phone apps, online in text and videos, and in books.

If you enjoy keeping a journal, you may find that it helps to express your thoughts on paper instead of bottling them inside. It’s helpful to have close friends and family who you can confide in, but they’re not always available or may be dealing with stress of their own.

For a more hands-on approach, try a mental health experts to dive into learning healthy coping skills to help with the current mood and prevent relapse.

Sonila Sejdaras Psy.D, LCSW, CADC