Depression is more than feeling sad or going through a hard time. It’s not a condition that someone can “snap out” of. This serious mental health condition needs medical care to mitigate the damaging effect it can have on the sufferer and their family.
Also referred to as major depressive disorder, depression affects an individual’s thoughts, feeling and behaviors and can result in a variety of emotional and physical impairments. Sufferers may experience such debilitating symptoms that activities of daily living become difficult to manage and relationships become strained.
Symptoms of Depression
Depression causes emotional and physical symptoms, which vary widely from person to person. Depression may also present differently in a child or teenager than in an adult. Possible symptoms include:
- Feelings of sadness, emptiness, worthlessness or hopelessness
- Loss of interest in normal activities that once brought pleasure and satisfaction
- Changes in sleep patterns, including insomnia or sleeping too much
- Anger, irritability and frustration, even over things that seemingly don’t matter
- Severe fatigue or lack of energy
- Changes in appetite or weight
- The tendency to self-blame or focus on past failures or insufficiencies
- Trouble thinking clearly, remembering details, concentrating, or making decisions
- Suicidal thoughts or attempts
- Physical problems or ailments such as digestive problems, back pain, or headaches that have no medical explanation
Causes of Depression
The causes of depression are as varied as the symptoms. Causes include:
- Genetics: Depression, along with other mood disorders can run in families.
- Traumatic experiences, especially at an early age
- Life circumstances including death of a loved one, a change in marital or relationship status, loss of a job or other financial difficulties, or moving to a new place
- Changes in the brain including a decrease in activity of the frontal lobe or changes in hormonal response
- Substance use
- Other medical conditions such as ADHD, anxiety, sleep disturbances, chronic pain, or chronic illness. Some medications can also cause depression.
Treatments for Depression
While depression can be a crippling illness, many sufferers find relief in treatment. A mental health profession will often start by ruling out other medical causes and developing a safety plan for individuals who are experiencing thoughts of suicide or other self-harm. As the causes of a patient’s depression are uncovered, treatment may include:
- Medications such as anti-depressants, antipsychotic medications, and mood stabilizers
- Psychotherapy, including cognitive behavioral therapy, interpersonal therapy, and family-focused therapy
- Brain stimulation therapies
- A program of regular exercise
- Light therapy, which exposes the individual to full-spectrum light to regulate their melatonin
- Complementary treatments such as meditation, acupuncture, faith-based treatments, and diet
If left untreated, depression isn’t just devastating for the person involved. It can also affect those they love.