Have you ever felt the crushing weight of depression? Are you unsure of what options you have for relieving the symptoms? Is someone you know acting differently and you want to know how to help them? There are various ways one can work to overcome this debilitating illness, which is exactly what we are going to address in this article. The following information is vital in helping you identify depression in yourself or within those close to you. Furthermore, it will assist you in understanding what options you have for treatment and to fight the feelings you or someone you know may be experiencing. If you are questioning or coming to terms with depression lurking in your life, this information will aid you in your battle to be free from the grips of it. So read on and find out what you can do today to feel better or help others as this illness might be a nightmare to deal with, but there is 100% hope of overcoming it.
Living with Depression
According to The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), over 17 million individuals have experienced it. It is a darkness that follows you around, a darkness you cannot seem to shake. Not only is it a darkness, but it is an aching. A longing to be able to see the light once again in the world and feel capable of handling daily activities. Sometimes it seems that light is too far out of reach, but I promise you will find it again. Depression and depressive disorders are common mood disorders that are not just sadness. It’s a loss of energy, like the weight of the world is drowning you, and you are fighting to stay above water. Depression is fighting to handle all the pressures that life requires of you every day with even just simple tasks such as showering and eating being an accomplishment to be proud of. It is battling the forces of a condition that you cannot physically see. It’s a tight feeling in your chest that seems to come out of nowhere. “Not again,” you think as your heart begins to race, and your body shakes with anxiety, your mind spiraling into negative thoughts about the world around you and towards yourself. Anxiety is a symptom of depression, as the two often go hand-in-hand. Your body aches, your ability to focus diminishes as your too busy battling your own mind and some even wonder if they can survive these symptoms. Here’s what I am going to tell you; having depression is never easy, but with treatment, the future is bright. You CAN recover, and I am going to tell you precisely what you can do.
Symptoms of Depression
Depression is a mental health disorder that consists of various debilitating and bothersome symptoms. An individual must meet, at minimum, five of the nine symptoms to qualify for a diagnosis of depression. One of the reported symptoms must be either 1.) loss of interest and pleasure or 2.) depressed mood that occurs nearly every day. Other symptoms include:
- weight loss
- slowing down of thought and movement
- excessive fatigue
- feelings of worthlessness or guilt
- diminished concentration
- recurrent fixation and thoughts pertaining to death
Clinically significant distress or impairment of one’s daily functioning has to be present in order to diagnose an individual with this disorder. Depression should not be confused with typical feelings of sadness, as it is a clinical condition that presents various symptoms in several aspects of one’s life. Now that we have an understanding of what depression is, let’s try to open our minds and understand what it might be like living with the condition.
Types of Depression
The various types of depression include the following:
- Persistent depressive disorder: An individual meets the qualification for this diagnosis if they have been experiencing the symptoms of depression for a minimum of two years.
- Postpartum depression: Criteria for this disorder is met when depressive symptoms develop shortly after the time a woman gives birth. Mainly, it develops within two weeks of delivering a baby.
- Psychotic depression: Psychotic depression is categorized as a disorder where an individual suffers from severe depression symptoms, as well as episodes of psychosis. Psychosis is defined as a state of detachment from reality, where one may experience delusions (believing things that are not real) or hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that are not real).
- Bipolar depression: Bipolar depression is a result of an episode of depression in those diagnosed with bipolar disorder, where an individual experiences both periods of extreme depression and periods of intense euphoria (also referred to as hypomania or mania depending on the type).
- Major Depression: Individuals with major depressive disorder experience episodes of depression that can last from weeks to months at a time for a single episode. Some individuals may only ever have one episode, whereas others may have multiple throughout their lifetime.
Depression is more likely to occur in those that have a family history of the disorder or other psychiatric conditions, are experiencing significant life changes that result in severe stress or trauma, are taking certain medications, or dealing with troubling physical ailments. If you know someone experiencing any of those risk factors, it is important to ensure you monitor for any manifesting symptoms of depression.
Depression Treatment Methods
Regardless of which type one may be experiencing, treatment is an extended hand to help pull you out of the water. Treatment options that exist today have saved the lives of many and made the symptoms manageable for those struggling with depression.
Since depression can vary significantly from one person to another, there could be a stage of trial and error until an efficient treatment is found. It is also important to note that if a type of treatment is found to work, that down the road, it may lose effectiveness and alternative treatments may need to be considered. This results as episodes of depression can vary in severity.
Antidepressants are the usual treatment option when it comes to medication treatment for depression. Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), are the most common type of medication used to treat the symptoms of depression although Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), Norepinephrine and dopamine reuptake inhibitors (NDRIs), Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), Serotonin antagonist and reuptake inhibitors (SARIs), Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) and tetracyclic antidepressants (TeCAs) can also be prescribed as well. Source These medications are known to alter neurotransmitters (chemicals in the brain) and their functioning that control our stress and mood. Once a medication or form of therapy is effective for an individual, the treatment will help them improve their overall quality of life and help them manage their daily activities. A medication that family members may have taken for their depression is considered if the depression is thought to be the result of genetics.
However, for antidepressant medications to begin working, it could take around 2-4 weeks before the individual starts noticing a difference, and for the symptoms to start decreasing. When a person is given antidepressant medications, it is best if they do not stop taking them without a doctor’s consent. Generally, after 6 to 12 months, if a person feels they no longer need the medication, the doctor would slowly decrease the dosage to help the person stop taking the medicines as opposed to abruptly stopping. If one suddenly stops taking antidepressants, this could cause them to develop distressing physical and mental withdrawal symptoms.
The most common medications prescribed for depression include:
- Prozac (Fluoxetine)
- Zoloft (Sertraline)
- Celexa (Citalopram)
- Lexapro (Escitalopram)
- Luvox (Fluvoxamine)
- Paxil (Paroxetine)
Psychotherapy treatments can be combined with medication treatments or used separately. Psychotherapy treatments are generally known as ‘talk therapies’ and have helped many people overcome their depression symptoms. It is essential to ask your clinician what type of psychotherapy they perform and ask questions about the therapy treatments to get a better understanding of their skills and effectiveness in treating depressed patients.
Some forms of psychotherapy treatments include:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): This therapy is based on intense research and helps with the symptoms of depression by lessening them through changing negative thinking patterns.
- Interpersonal Therapy (IPT): This therapy focuses on improving the problems one has in their lives, such as with relationships and family members while considering other important factors that could have contributed to their state of depression.
- Psychodynamic Therapy: This approach helps recognize as well as understand what negative behaviors alter the individual’s moods and experiences via looking at the unconscious processes.
Psychoeducation and Support Groups
Psychoeducation involves teaching those suffering from depression about the disorder, how to treat their depression disorder, as well as how to identify any signs of relapse that could occur after the right treatment is found to work for that person. Support groups are also practical because it enables individuals suffering from similar symptoms to talk about it with one another to share each other’s experiences and coping strategies. Support groups can be found by speaking with a doctor or mental health professional in the area.
Brain Stimulation Therapies
For brain stimulation therapies to be effective in treating depression, a person generally tries other forms of medications first. The various types of brain stimulation therapies include:
- Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT): This method transmits short electrical impulses into the brain and can have some side effects but is generally found to be very effective.
- Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS): This method is relatively new and helps to stimulate the brain using magnetic forces as opposed to electrical currents but is not valid towards maintenance treatment.
Going Beyond Treatment Remedies
Sometimes those suffering from depression may decide to go beyond that of the traditional medication and therapy recommendations. Some ways that can help you supplement such treatments include:
- Exercise: Studies have shown that aerobic exercise may help treat mild depression symptoms given that it increases and stimulates the endorphins and norepinephrine in the brain, and by improving these chemicals, mood is improved.
- Folate: Some studies have shown that taking folate supplements along with traditional medication or separate can help symptoms of depression because some may not be receiving the full benefits from taking antidepressants alone. Folate is also known as folic acid or vitamin B9.
So as you can see, there are many available methods for overcoming depression. It may be challenging to find the motivation to seek help, but I promise you in the end you will be happy you did so you can live life to the fullest. Through medication, therapy, and even physical activity, one can fight back and overcome this. The quicker that treatment is initiated, the more chance of the treatment being effective and the individual experiencing relief of their symptoms. The treatment of depression can include medication, psychotherapy, or a combination of the two. However, if these treatments are not enough to produce favorable results, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and other types of brain stimulation can be explored. There are so many people out there that want to help you get better, so let’s put up a fight and go beat depression! If you are not the one struggling with the condition, someone you know may be struggling with it, so knowing this information will help you support them and find them resources. Always keep fighting, I know you got this.
About Mattias Sommers
Mattias Sommers is a Mental Health Advocate who’s a strong supporter of the use of cannabis and CBD to treat mental health. Leading with empathy and understanding, Mattias hopes to educate others to help those struggling to overcome hardships live a more fulfilling life. Mattias’ self-care routine includes art, poetry, photography, and caring for her dog Josie.
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