Depression, which is alternatively called “major depressive disorder”, is a mood disorder that comes with persistent sadness or a loss of interest in life. It’s normal to feel sad or depressed periodically as a response to everyday challenges and loss. Though, if this sadness is intense and present for lengthy periods (days, weeks, and longer), there may be a more profound condition. It is especially so if it comes alongside feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, and worthlessness that keep you from completing everyday tasks. This underlying condition could be clinical depression, which is medically treatable. That being said, there is currently no cure for depression. Even though symptoms may subside over time, the underlying condition stays. However, you can manage it enough to enjoy a long, healthy life through proper care and treatment.
Types of Depression
Doctors can diagnose types of depression that include:
- Unipolar Major Depression: Also known as major depressive disorder, this type focuses mainly on consistent feelings of low and negative emotion. So much so, it interferes with one being able to engage in regular life.
- Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder: Children and teenagers become irritable, angry, and react through intense outbursts that are not typical of their age
- Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder: This manifests through intense mood swings that surpass those associated with premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
- Persistent Depressive Disorder: Otherwise known as dysthymia, this form of depression lasts for upwards of 2 years.
- Substance-Induced Mood Disorder (SIMD): Here, symptoms manifest when one is intoxicated (via alcohol or drugs) or after one ceases to use them.
- Depressive disorders as a result of another medical condition
- Additional depressive disorders, like minor depression
Symptoms and Diagnosis of Depression
The DSM-5, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, stipulates that showing five or more of the following symptoms for more than two weeks indicates depression.
- A depressed mood for a more significant part of the day, and more so in the morning
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt on a near-daily basis
- A lack of energy or a feeling of weariness on a near-daily basis
- A sense of hopelessness and pessimism
- Sleeplessness or sleeping too much nearly daily
- A lack of focus, poor memory, and indecisiveness
- Contemplation of suicide and thoughts of death (separate from the general fear of death)
- Weight loss or gain
- Restlessness and a feeling of slowing down
- Lack of interest towards and an inability to derive pleasure from everyday activities
- Crankiness and edginess
- Loss of the pleasure associated with life
- Overeating or the loss of the feeling of hunger
- Headaches, pains, aches, digestive problems, or cramps that do not subside, even after being given medication
- Anxiousness, sadness, or emptiness
Whereas these symptoms are a commonality, they may vary from person to person. The symptom severity and length can also differ. There may also be a pattern to these symptoms. It is common for an onset of depression to coincide with a change in seasons too. This condition was previously known as a seasonal affective disorder.
People with depression can have the condition’s physical signs as well. For example, digestive problems, trouble sleeping, appetite changes, in addition to joint and back pain. It may also manifest alongside slowed speech and movements. All this results from serotonin and norepinephrine, the brain chemicals associated with depression that influence pain and mood.
How to Treat Depression
Talking to a doctor is the first step to take if you, or anyone you know, shows symptoms of depression. It helps in evaluation and treatment or, at the very least, a referral to a mental health practitioner.
That being said, any recommended treatment depends on the identified symptoms and their severity. It may include one or a combination of the following:
- Medication: Antidepressants, when combined with therapy, counter most cases of depression. There are a variety of antidepressants, a few of which you may have to try before identifying which works best. There may also be a need for a combination of them or other additional medication to boost their efficiency.
- Hospital or Residential Treatment: For severe cases that render an individual incapable of self-care and/or capable of self-harm and harm to others, psychiatric treatment in a hospital or a residential facility is a viable option.
- Psychotherapy: Regularly discussing depression with a mental health professional through cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), talk therapy, and more can alleviate the symptoms.
- Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT): ECT is a brain stimulation therapy where an electric current is circulated through the brain to enhance the function of the neurotransmitters. It is often an alternative if antidepressants are ineffective or can’t be taken due to other health conditions.
- Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS): If antidepressants are ineffective, a doctor can suggest a TMS. Using a magnetic pulse distribution coil, mood-regulating nerve cells are stimulated here.
How To Live With and Manage Depression
If you have depression, consider a healthy diet while also focusing on getting sunlight. It goes a long way in making your treatment effective. Cutting out caffeine while having low-fat carb and vitamin-rich diets also helps immensely. Meditation, getting enough sleep, taking part in exercise, and other endeavors with loved ones or a pet can keep you active and will also take your mind off any challenges.
Thoroughly discussing your discomfort with a practitioner and adhering to recommended treatment is equally vital. Ensure you do not abuse any drugs and stay clear of alcohol, as these will hamper progress.
- Does depression exist alongside other illnesses? Yes, it can coexist amongst other mental and physical disorders. Sometimes the symptoms overlap, like with anxiety and ADHD, or it can cause depression, like cancer can bring about depression in a person.
Healthier Me Today is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment, always consult with your healthcare professional. Stay healthy!