Depression is a mood disorder that causes a constant feeling of sadness, hopelessness, anger, and loss of interest in everyday life for a long period. The exact cause of depression is unknown; however, many researchers believe that depression is caused by chemical imbalances in the brain. Norepinephrine, serotonin and dopamine are neurotransmitters (chemical messengers that transmit electrical signals between brain cells) thought to be involved with major depression. It is believed that there is an increased risk for developing depression if there is a family history of the illness. However, people who do not have a family history of depression can still develop this mood disorder.
About 19 million Americans battle depression annually. Depression is estimated to contribute to half of all suicides. About 5%-10% of women and 2%-5% 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.
Factors That Play a Role in Depression:
- Life events or situations, such as: Breaking up with a significant other, illness or death in the family, or parents divorcing (for adolescents)
- Repetitive traumatic calls
- Childhood events, such as abuse or neglect
- Divorce, death of a friend or relative, or loss of a job (for adults)
- Social isolation (common in the elderly)
- Medical conditions such as hypothyroidism, medications (such as sedatives and high blood pressure medications), cancer, major illness, or prolonged pain
- Sleeping problems, Sleep deprivation
- Alcohol or drug abuse
Signs and Symptoms of Depression:
- Persistent sadness, anxiety, or “empty” feelings.
- Feeling hopeless or negative.
- Feeling guilty, worthless, or helpless.
- Overall feelings of irritability or restlessness.
- A loss of interest in activities or hobbies that you once enjoyed, and can include sexual activities.
- A lingering fatigue and decreased energy.
- Having difficulty concentrating, remembering details of activities, and making decisions.
- Sleep issues which can include insomnia (not sleeping), hypersomnia (sleeping too much), and/or early-morning wakefulness.
- A change in eating habits.
- Body aches or pains, headaches, and/or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment.
- Active or passive thoughts of suicide.
Depression treatment options
Exercise – Regular exercise can be as effective at treating depression as medication. Not only does exercise boost serotonin, endorphins, and other feel-good brain chemicals, it triggers the growth of new brain cells and connections, just like antidepressants do
Social support – Strong social networks reduce isolation, a key risk factor for depression. Keep in regular contact with friends and family, or consider joining a class or group
Nutrition – Eating well is important for both your physical and mental health. Eating small, well-balanced meals throughout the day will help you keep your energy up and minimize mood swings
Sleep – Sleep has a strong effect on mood. When you do not get enough sleep, your depression symptoms will be worse. Sleep deprivation exacerbates irritability, moodiness, sadness, and fatigue
Medication – If you suspect that you may be depressed, and lifestyle changes have not worked, make an appointment to see your primary care doctor for a thorough checkup. Depression medication may be the most advertised treatment for depression, but that does not mean it is the most effective
Acupuncture – Acupuncture, the technique of using fine needles on specific points on the body for therapeutic purposes, is increasingly being investigated as a treatment for depression, with some research studies showing promising results. If you decide to try acupuncture, make sure that you find a licensed qualified professional.
Relaxation techniques – As well as helping to relieve symptoms of depression. Relaxation techniques may also reduce stress and boost feelings of joy and well-being. Try yoga, deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or meditation.
Other Issues to Consider:
- Women’s depression tends to appear more withdrawn and often looks more like an “inward” expression of sadness. This can include feelings of sadness, worthlessness and excessive guilt. Women’s depression is more often, what we think of with a “traditional” depression. Some women may seek out others, especially close family or friends to talk to or withdraw altogether.
- Men’s depression tends to appear more irritable and often looks more like an “outward” expression of anger. This can include moodiness, a loss interest in once-pleasurable activities, and difficulty sleeping. Men may also be more likely than women to turn to alcohol or drugs when they are depressed. They may become frustrated, discouraged, and sometimes abusive. Some men throw themselves into their work to avoid talking about their depression with family or friends, or behave recklessly.
Thought Goal: I am depressed or sad because I think… (Insert problematic thought here)… I can stop or lessen my depression or sadness by thinking… (i.e., about important upcoming events, your children, family or close friends, that these tough times will pass, etc.).
Feeling Goal: I am depressed or sad because I feel… (Insert problematic feeling here)…. I can stop or lessen my depression or sadness by feeling… (More hopeful as you can handle difficulties and have done so in the past, supported when you reach out to your family or friends, etc.) .
Behavior Goal: I am depressed or sad because my behavior… (Insert problematic behavior here)…. I can stop or lessen my depression or sadness by behaving… (In ways that make you feel more like you (exercising, eating better, engaging with your loved ones, etc.), reaching out when you need someone to talk to, etc.).
These goals are only examples; use them as guide not an absolute. You know if there is a problem, let NOW be the time to fix it.
Reaching out for help is never a sign of weakness, but rather one of strength.
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The information provided is just a resource and should never be substituted for professional help.
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