What is Major Depression
Sometimes referred to as depression, sometimes referred to as depressive disorder or major depression, clinical depression is one of the most widely shared mental health disorders in the world, affecting 300 million people internationally and 15 percent of the adults in the US.
When someone has clinical depression, they lose interest in their lives, have trouble falling or staying asleep, and are overwhelmed with feelings of sadness. Anyone experiencing what they believe to be the symptoms of depression should reach out to us to discuss their treatment options.
We all experience sadness. In fact, it is a normal and healthy thing to experience, allowing us to process certain events. In major depression, however, general sadness is so profound that it prevents the individual from going about their day and having a healthy life.
In healthy episodes of sadness, the sadness typically won’t last longer than a day or two. In depression, that sadness remains for days or weeks. This state can prevent people from getting even the most basic tasks accomplished, including bathing, cleaning the house, or even eating.
The diagnostic criteria for major depression requires that patients have five or more of the following symptoms for two weeks at least:
- Suicidal ideation
- Significant weight fluctuations
- Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
- Inability to concentrate
- Poor sleep habits
- Fatigue and exhaustion
- Losing interest in once enjoyed activities
Suicidal ideation should always be taken seriously. If you or anyone you know has thoughts of suicide, seek emergency medical assistance immediately by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255.
The Causes of Depression
While there is no single cause, there are several things that can increase a person’s risk of developing depression. Issues such as genetics, illness, traumatic experiences, and even biochemistry can all add to a patient developing depression.
Trauma as a Trigger of Depression
Experiencing a significant trauma such as a death in the family, receiving a chronic diagnosis, or living through an accident can lead to depression. Chronic traumas, too, such as abuse, can also cause depression. Depression can begin in the immediate aftermath of an event or develop over time.
Physical Triggers of Depression
Physical disease can also cause depression, as is the case with some autoimmune diseases. Medications prescribed for other mental health disorders or to treat physical illnesses, including corticosteroids and medications, can also be triggers. Effective medication management is the best way to prevent or limit depression caused by medication.
Genetic Triggers of Depression
When compared to individuals with no first-degree familial relation with depression, individuals with a parent or sibling who has depression experience depression three times more often. There is still some disagreement as to whether this is due to genetic factors or shared living conditions in a family.
Biochemical Triggers of Depression
Some scientists believe that the human body goes through billions of chemical reactions per day. Every one of these reactions changes something in the body, including the person’s mood. When the chemical reactions become imbalanced, it can cause mood disorders like depression.
How Long Can Depression Last?
There is no known cure for depression. Advancements in therapy and medication, however, have allowed many patients to experience remission of their symptoms. In fact, most patients (around 80 percent) who seek out the help of a mental health professional experience improvement in their depression within six weeks. Unfortunately, many do not seek help in the first place; only half of those with depression reach out for help from an MHP.
Stopping the Stigma
Unfortunately, social stigma plagues those with depression, as it does many people with mental health disorders. Depression is a disease, and someone with depression deserves nothing but compassion and understanding. It is also not a “sign of weakness” as some might categorize it. If you believe you may have depression, it is important to reach out and get the help you need and deserve.
Seek Emergency Care
When depressed people have suicidal thoughts, it can be dangerous. If you are having thoughts of suicide, reach out to one of the following emergency care options:
- The Crisis Text Line: text CONNECT to 741741
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
- A local ER
Getting Therapy for Depression
If you are not having an emergency, getting therapy is one of the best things you can do for depression. Options that you can consider include:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
- Group therapy
- Experiential therapy
- Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)
- Couples’ therapy or family therapy
Seeing a Psychiatrist
Medication can be very effective in treating some cases of depression. In these cases, treatment by a psychiatrist is necessary. A psychiatrist can provide therapy, too, in addition to alternative interventions such as TMS or ECT therapies.
Lifestyle Changes That Can Help
A well-balanced treatment plan can often include recommended lifestyle changes for the patient, including:
- Spending quality time with loved ones
- Exercising often
- Resting and sleeping well
- Eating a balanced and healthy diet
- Avoiding caffeine or alcohol
Your therapist can also make recommendations based on the particular circumstances of your life.
Is it Bipolar Disorder?
Commonly referred to as manic depression, bipolar disorder is sometimes confused with depression, and vice versa. These are two very distinct disorders. While both involve depression, bipolar disorder also involves long periods of mania.