What is Depression?
Everyone’s mood varies day to day due to events that arise in life. You may have a particularly delicious cup of coffee in the morning, giving you an initial boost for the rest of your day. On your way to work, you may get stuck in traffic, causing you stress and sinking your mood for a few hours.
While these fluctuations are normal for everyone, the events that occur throughout the day impact some people negatively. Triggers like traffic, or having a tiff with your supervisor can cause you to get stuck in a bad mood for long periods of time. This is depression, a condition associated with low energy, loss of motivation, and extreme sadness. Depression is often naturally occurring but can be a result of stress, so it helps to understand it in case you or a loved one experience it.
Depression is the leading cause of disability in the United States. It affects around 7% of Americans and is diagnosed at an average age of 32. Depression is the most common mental illness and must be treated by a medical professional. It typically affects women more than men, but patients tend to show the same symptoms regardless of gender.
Types of Depression
The most common forms of depression are Major Depressive Disorder, Persistent Depressive Disorder, Perinatal Depression, Seasonal Affective Disorder, and Psychotic Depression. There are other forms of depression that are more rare or mild, but these 5 variations make up the majority of depression diagnoses. All of them have varying symptoms and causes, but all share common symptoms with general depression.
1. Major Depressive Disorder
Major depression is diagnosed when the patient shows signs of depression for two weeks or more, while Persistent depressive disorder is associated with signs of depression for more than 2 years. Other major forms of depression are associated with specific situations.
Perinatal depression occurs in women either during pregnancy or after delivery, commonly referred to as postpartum depression.
3. Seasonal Affective Disorder
Seasonal affective disorder is diagnosed when the patient experiences depression based on seasons, usually starting in the fall and ending in the spring.
4. Psychotic Depression
Psychotic depression is paired with some other form of mental illness, such as paranoia or schizophrenia.
What Causes Depression?
There are many urban legends about how depression is contracted, like having a chemical imbalance in the brain or being in an uncomfortable spot in life. These are misconceptions about depression.
Harvard Medical School found a high correlation between depression and the rate of neuron regeneration, the Thalamus, and the size of the Hippocampus. Their report states, On average, the hippocampus was 9% to 13% smaller in depressed women compared with those who were not depressed. The more bouts of depression a woman had, the smaller the hippocampus.
This biological approach to depression takes the criticism away from someone’s personal way of life and can lead to better treatment. Just like any disease, personal life experience or lifestyle habits can affect depression – with stress, in particular, having an impact on the brain. In addition to stress, poor health, diet, and/or lack of physical activity can also contribute to depression.
Symptoms of Depression
According to Psychiarty.org, Depression symptoms can vary from mild to severe and can include:
- Feeling sad or having a depressed mood
- Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed
- Changes in appetite — weight loss or gain unrelated to dieting
- Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
- Loss of energy or increased fatigue
- Increase in purposeless physical activity (e.g., hand-wringing or pacing) or slowed movements and speech (actions observable by others)
- Feeling worthless or guilty
- Difficulty thinking, concentrating or making decisions
- Thoughts of death or suicide
While many of these symptoms are very common, not all patients experience all of them. Furthermore, there are varying types of depression that can have different causes and signs.
How is Depression Diagnosed?
1. Physical Evaluation
First, a doctor may do a physical evaluation to determine if depression may be a symptom of an underlying disease.
2. Blood Test
Next, your physician may do a blood test to determine if the Thyroid is functioning correctly.
3. Psychiatric Evaluation
Perhaps the most common way depression is diagnosed is through a psychiatric evaluation. In this scenario, a health professional will evaluate the patient for symptoms of depression, and diagnose it if the symptoms are present.
Medical Treatment for Depression
There are two major forms of medical care for depression. The first of these is therapy, which is primarily used as a preventative treatment. The second, often more effective, treatment is the use of antidepressants. There are several categories of antidepressants, each of which has a different effect on the brain.
WebMD details the chemistry of the different antidepressants, which mostly include SSRIs, SNRIs, and NDRIs referred to as Reuptake Inhibitors. Depression is often caused by a slow-down of communication between neurons, and Reuptake Inhibitors help speed communication up. The different types of antidepressants use different chemicals to do this, and it’s common for patients to try multiple treatments before finding something effective. Working with a medical professional to figure out an exact treatment plan is vital for managing depression.
15 Natural Ways to Cope with Depression
In addition to medical treatment, depression can be managed with a number of natural techniques. Try these 15 tips for coping with depression:
Our careers sometimes feel like the most important thing in our lives, but it’s not. Taking time off of work when you’ve been experiencing the signs of depression will not only allow you to focus on treatment, but will also relieve stress and alleviate depression. Depression is considered a disability, so your employer should understand and give you the time you need to recover.
2. Seek Professional Help
Aside from medical professionals, there are therapists and care centers that are specially trained to help patients deal with depression. Seeking out this sort of professional attention will help you with your depression and give you more ideas and remedies to take care of yourself. These professionals are also good for preventative care, helping you avoid developing more severe forms of depression.
3. Reach Out to Those You Love
Reaching out can be an intimidating, but incredibly helpful, coping mechanism. It’s easy to feel like you’re a burden on those you love, but you definitely are not. Reaching out to those closest to you will give you the emotional support needed to safely recover from depression. Furthermore, your friends and family will want to help you and will be at ease knowing you are seeking help for any symptoms you may be experiencing.
4. Talk to Someone
Therapists, friends, or even online forums provide an outlet for you to talk about your experience with depression. Talking will help you organize your thoughts, and you may even be able to learn new ways of coping with depression. By not talking about your experience, you can begin to feel claustrophobic. It may feel difficult at first, but once you start talking about your depression, you will be more comfortable with it.
5. Join a Support Group
There are organized groups that regularly meet, both in person and online, to help manage depression. Meeting with other people going through depression will help you to understand depression better, allowing you to recover more fully. What’s more, you may meet people you connect with, allowing you to help each other move on. Searching for these groups can be an important step for recovering from depression.
6. Pay Attention to Nutrition
Besides the lifestyle changes, physical changes to your diet will affect depression. Just like nutrition affects your mood, concentration, and stress levels, it can also affect depression. By having a balanced diet low in refined carbs and added sugars, you’ll have more energy, feel more productive, and can better engage with treatments for your depression.
7. Remain Hopeful
It’s important to stay hopeful, even in the lowest points of depression. By having hope, you motivate yourself to keep treating your depression. You may even directly overcome some symptoms of depression, like loss of motivation, by looking forward to a happier future. Being hopeful helps you and those around you, even in the toughest of times.
Eastern holistic medicine advocates inward inflection through meditation, paired with body movements to improve blood flow and energy with yoga. By contemplating deeper meaning, you may find what helps you personally. Yoga can help you recover some of your energy, allowing you to manage your depression symptoms. It’s not always for everyone, but these more spiritual techniques can help you manage depression.
Sleep is one of the most vital aspects of health. Your body repairs muscle tissue, retains memory, and your immune system becomes more capable of fighting off sickness through sleep. It’s also vital for regulating mood and can be a powerful tool in helping with depression. Making sure to keep a regular, generous sleeping schedule will help manage the signs of depression, and is important for maintaining overall mental health.
Exercising regularly comes with a host of benefits. Your body becomes more fit, you feel more energy, and it helps regulate your mood. You don’t have to hit the gym every day, but even walking for 10 minutes a day can provide a huge benefit when it comes to your mental health. When you incorporate exercise during periods of depression, you can manage some of the symptoms, plus you get all of the other benefits that come with exercise.
One of the most common symptoms of depression is negative, self-loathing thoughts. While it can be hard, it’s important to fight these thoughts. You can do this by denying them, explaining how they’re wrong, or by distracting yourself. This not only eases your mind from the negative thoughts, but it also helps regulate your mood, making it easier to cope with depression.
In hard times, we often become pessimistic or cynical. It’s important to remain positive when you’re experiencing depression since it will combat lower, more negative moods. It can have external effects too, like making your overall environment more positive, thus helping you stay away from bad moods. Gratitude and positivity are also important when it comes to preventing depression and maintaining mental health.
13. Stick to a Routine
Life is hectic, and we often find ourselves following sporadic, seemingly random schedules. This makes you stressed out, and can be a major contributor to depression. Plan your days out, and make sure even your free time is organized. You’d be surprised how much more time you’ll have to relax when you organize your schedule. Keeping a routine will allow your mind to focus on what’s ahead of you, making it easier to manage depression.
14. Take on Commitments
Whether it’s work responsibility, family commitments, or community service, adding things to your plate can help you fight depression. You not only distract yourself from the depression, but you engage in productive, energetic activities, which help with some of the symptoms of depression. Plus, you have the benefit of helping your family, community, or workplace.
15. Face Your Problems Head-On
Depression is no small issue, and it can be life-altering. It’s natural to feel discouraged when you’re struggling with depression, but it’s important to face the symptoms of depression directly. By taking action, taking care of yourself, and taking the necessary steps to fight depression, you’ll be able to manage your depression and focus on what’s important to you.
Depression is a serious, life-changing illness, and should not be taken lightly. It’s important to provide support to loved ones suffering from it and to seek support if you’re experiencing it. The medical community is making huge leaps in understanding depression, and treatment is becoming more effective and individual. Through understanding depression and adopting a lifestyle to cope with it, anyone can manage it and live a rich and meaningful life and overcome depression.