Millions of people live with depression worldwide, and it is the primary cause of disability among people ages 15 to 44 in the United States. Per the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), children as young as age 3 can have depression. Despite these staggering statistics, few people seek help for depression. This doesn’t mean that it isn’t affecting their lives, however.
Despite the perception, depression is a serious condition on its own or a condition that is a symptom of another mental illness, such as bipolar disorder. It is also among the most common mental illnesses we live with, in addition to anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). If you suspect that you or someone you love has depressive symptoms, please reach out and get help as soon as possible. Family Recovery Specialists in Miami is here to help you in any way we can.
What Is Depression?
Many people think depression is a temporary low mood. This mood is usually described as “being down in the dumps” or “having the blues.” But for millions of people, depression isn’t temporary. The condition affects their thoughts, emotions, and behavior every day. It also can affect how they feel physically.
Depression is formally known as major depressive disorder (MDD), and the condition can range from minor to severe. It is also called clinical depression. Not everyone experiences depression in the same way, but there are symptoms that characterize it. Among those symptoms are:
- Persistent sadness
- Little to no interest in daily activities
- Loss of interest or pleasure in once-enjoyable activities
- Unexplained weight loss or gain
- Little to no energy
- Restlessness, irritability
- Increased social isolation or withdrawal
- Slowed movements
- Slowed speech
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
- Struggling to think clearly
- Unable to concentrate, make decisions
- Personality changes
- Suicidal thoughts
- Thinking about death
Depression can present differently in children and adolescents. Many of the symptoms are similar to those affecting adults. But a child may also:
- Eat more or less than usual
- Sleep more or less than usual
- Have bursts of energy followed by low energy
- Increased social isolation or withdrawal from others
- Perform poorly at school
- Experience physical aches and pains (e.g., stomachaches, headaches)
- Struggle with paying attention
- Feelings of worthlessness, guilt
- Harm themselves (e.g., cutting or burning themselves)
- Think about suicide or engage in suicidal behavior
As Mayo Clinic explains, “For many people with depression, symptoms usually are severe enough to cause noticeable problems in day-to-day activities, such as work, school, social activities or relationships with others. Some people may feel generally miserable or unhappy without really knowing why.”
What Causes Depression?
Anyone can experience depression. Various factors can increase or contribute to a person’s chances of developing depression, and many are out of a person’s control. They include:
- Biochemistry: A person’s unique brain chemistry can cause depressive symptoms. If there is an imbalance in chemicals that affect your mood stability, such as dopamine and serotonin, depression can result.
- Genetics: Depression can run in families. If close blood relatives have it, such as one’s parents, then their child could have it, too. Scientists continue to research if any particular gene can be linked to causing depression.
- Personality: According to Mayo Clinic, people with low self-esteem or those who experience stress or pessimism are at higher risk of depression.
- Hormones: An upset hormonal balance can also bring on depression. These changes take place during pregnancy or after childbirth.
- Environmental factors: Living in an environment where violence, neglect, abuse, or poverty takes place can make someone more vulnerable to depression.
These are just a few of the factors that can cause or contribute to depression. According to Mayo Clinic, certain medications, such as high blood pressure drugs or sleeping pills, can bring on depression. It is important to alert your doctor if you have noticed a change in your mood since starting a certain medication. Abusing drugs and alcohol can also contribute to or cause depression.
Depression and Addiction: What’s the Link?
Depression can make daily living hard. The small, everyday things that most do with ease can feel like insurmountable tasks to a person with depression. Living with this condition can take its toll over time. Some people use drugs and alcohol to manage their symptoms and relieve themselves of their discomfort. Some numb the emotional pain with addictive substances, while others may use them to get to sleep or feel enough motivation to do the things they can’t do sober.
Whatever their reasons for using drugs and alcohol, neither of these actually helps the situation in the long run. In many cases, people with mental health disorders also develop a substance use disorder (SUD) while trying to treat their symptoms themselves. They also run the risk of making both problems worse, particularly if both conditions go untreated. Using drugs and alcohol to self-medicate against depression can lead to overdose and death. It is important to seek professional help right away for both disorders.
How Is Depression Treated?
Psychotherapy, medication, or a combination of both are used to treat adults and children with depression. Parents who think treatment involving these approaches would help their child should speak with a pediatrician or mental health professional, who is the best person to assess patients and advise them on their next steps.
Getting a formal diagnosis from a licensed medical professional is important. While depression is a mental disorder by itself, it can also signal that a person has another mental disorder, such as bipolar disorder. A medical health professional can shed light on these disorders so that a person can be treated for them properly. Each person’s treatment program will be based on their unique needs.
After an evaluation, a mental health professional may prescribe their patient to start therapy to help them learn more about depression and what they can do to improve their outlook and well-being. Medications may also help as they participate in therapy.
Medications for Depression Can Include Antidepressants
If you or a loved one is prescribed medication for depression, you may have to take an antidepressant. These drugs work on balancing chemicals in the brain responsible for behavior, mood, and emotions. One of their main functions is to block a depressive episode from happening.
Many health professionals recommend these medications because they are not habit-forming (addictive) and work slowly in the body. They may prescribe an antidepressant if their patient also has any of these conditions:
- Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
- Obsessive-compulsive disorders (OCD)
- Manic depressive disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Social anxiety disorder
According to FamilyDoctor.org, there are five antidepressants on the market, but only two are widely used. They are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). SNRIs affect serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain.
SSRI medications include:
- Citalopram (Celexa)
- Escitalopram (Lexapro)
- Fluvoxamine (Luvox)
- Fluoxetine (Prozac)
- Paroxetine (Paxil)
- Sertraline (Zoloft)
SNRI medications include:
- Duloxetine (Cymbalta, Irenka)
- Venlafaxine (Effexor)
- Desvenlafaxine (Pristiq, Khedezla, Ellefore)
Your medical or mental health professional will evaluate your needs and prescribe an antidepressant for you based on your needs. A doctor may also prescribe a mood stabilizer that will work to regulate a patient’s mood from going too high or too low. This type of medication can be given to patients in addition to an antidepressant if the antidepressant isn’t effective enough.
Therapies for Depression
Psychotherapy is also part of depression treatment, and it can be prescribed along with medication a patient may take. It is important to address the mental and emotional aspects of depression, and psychotherapy is designed to do that. It also teaches people how to understand themselves, cope with life situations, and seek solutions to their challenges.
Individual therapy is widely used for people with depression. But they may also be assigned to participate in group therapy to help them learn various things, including how to relate to others, interact with them socially, and reach out to those with similar struggles.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
A widely used therapy for depression is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), a short-term therapy that addresses why we think the way we do. One of the main things CBT does is help people become more aware of how their thoughts, emotions, and actions are connected. It also teaches patients if they can change and reframe irrational, self-sabotaging thoughts, they can seek solutions that lead to positive changes.
Interpersonal Therapy (IPT)
Interpersonal therapy is also a short-term therapy, maybe 12 to 16 weeks. It addresses how a person functions in their social interactions and interpersonal relationships. A person taking IPT may address problem areas that cause or contribute to their depression. Those areas are unresolved grief, role disputes, role transitions, and interpersonal deficits, per Therapy Tribe.
Behavioral Activation (BA)
This short-term therapy addresses why people lose interest in activities that once brought them joy. A patient who participates in behavioral activation may be assigned an activity, such as going to a movie with friends or taking a nature hike, that they like or brings them a sense of accomplishment. The aim is to help patients understand how depression can sap energy levels and prompt them to give up the things they love to do.
Get Help for Depression Today at Family Recovery Specialists
If you or a loved one has symptoms of depression, please consider getting help now. You do not have to cope with this on your own. Depression is a serious condition that can worsen when left on its own. A person can battle with substance abuse, suicidal thoughts, and other forms of self-harm when trying to live day to day with this illness. Family Recovery Specialists is here to help you or your loved one take control of your health and well-being. Give us a call or reach out to us online today.