Depression may be described as feeling sad, blue, unhappy, miserable, or down in the dumps. Most of us feel this way at one time or another for short periods, but we do usually grow out of it.
Depression is a mood disorder in which feelings of sadness, loss, anger, or frustration interfere with everyday life for an extended period of time.
Clinical depression is not just feeling grief or feeling sad. Depression a sickness that can challenge one’s ability to perform routine daily activities. At its worst, being depressed may lead you to contemplate, attempt, or even have suicidal thoughts. Depression represents a burden for both you and your family. Sometimes that burden can seem overwhelming.
There are several different types of depression (mood disorders that include depressive symptoms):
- Major depression is an episode of change in mood that lasts for weeks or months. It is one of the most severe types of depression. It usually involves a low or irritable mood and/or a loss of interest or pleasure in usual activities. It interferes with one’s normal functioning and often includes physical symptoms. A person may experience only one episode of major depression, but often there are repeated episodes over an individual’s lifetime.
- Dysthymia is less severe than major depression but usually goes on for a longer period, often several years. There are usually periods of feeling fairly normal between episodes of low mood. The symptoms usually do not completely disrupt one’s normal activities.
- Bipolar disorder involves episodes of depression, usually severe, alternating with episodes of extreme elation called mania. This condition is sometimes called by its older name, manic depression. The depression that is associated with bipolar disorder is often referred to as bipolar depression. When depression is not associated with bipolar disorder, it is called unipolar depression.
- Seasonal depression, which medical professionals call seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, is depression that occurs only at a certain time of the year, usually winter, when the number of daylight hours is lower. It is sometimes called “winter blues.” Although it is predictable, it can be very severe.
- Psychotic depression refers to the situation when depression and hallucinations or delusions are experienced at the same time (co-occur). This may be the result of depression that becomes so severe that it results in the sufferer losing touch with reality. Individuals who primarily suffer from a loss of touch with reality (for example, schizophrenia) are thought to suffer from an imbalance of dopamine activity in the brain and to be at risk of subsequently becoming depressed.
Clinical depression affects about 15 million Americans annually. It is estimated to contribute to 1/2 of all suicides. About 4%-11% of women and 3%-6% of men will experience at least one major depressive episode during their adult life. Depression affects people of all races, incomes, ages, and ethnic and religious backgrounds, but it is three to five times more common in the elderly than in young people.
If your depression symptoms indicate that you have clinical depression, your health-care provider will strongly recommend depression treatment. Depression treatment may include supportive therapy, such as changes in lifestyle and behavior, psychotherapy, complementary therapies, and may often include medication. If your symptoms of depression are severe enough to warrant depression treatment with depression medication, you are most likely to feel better faster and for longer when medication treatment is combined with psychotherapy. Without depression treatment, your symptoms of depression will last much longer and may never get better. In fact, they may get worse. With depression treatment, your chances of recovery are quite good.
Self-Care at Home
Once you are being treated for depression, you can make lifestyle changes and choices that will help you through the rough times and may prevent depression from returning.
- Try to identify and focus on activities that make you feel better. It is important to do things for yourself. Don’t isolate yourself. Take part in activities even when you may not want to. Such activity may actually make you feel better.
- Talk with your friends and family and consider joining a support group. Communicating and discussing your feelings is an integral part of your treatment and will help with your recovery.
- Try to maintain a positive outlook. Having a good attitude can be beneficial.
- Regular exercise and proper diet are essential to good health. Exercise has been found to increase the levels of the body’s own natural antidepressants called endorphins.
- Try to get enough rest and maintain a regular sleeping pattern.
- Avoid drinking alcohol or using any illicit substances.
Depression Medical Treatment:
Therapy frequently includes antidepressant medication and supportive care such as psychotherapy. Other less widely used therapies, such as electroconvulsive therapy, are used in severe cases.
Therapy may be provided by your health-care provider or by a specially trained mental-health professional.
- Psychiatrists are medical doctors who have completed specialized training in mental disorders.
- Psychologists are nonphysicians who have graduate (after college) and doctorate-level (PhD) training that includes experience in mental-health-care facilities.
- Psychotherapists may have a degree in medicine (psychiatry), psychology, social work, nursing, mental-health counseling, or couples and family therapy, as well as additional more specialized education or training.
Regardless of which treatment is used, psychotherapy, medication, or a combination, most people with depression can safely be treated in a series of office (outpatient) visits. Inpatient care (in the hospital) may be necessary for people with more serious symptoms and is required for those who are contemplating suicide or cannot care for themselves.