Don’t feel like getting out of bed in the morning? Have you lost interest in the activities you used to enjoy? Have you experienced feelings of sadness and worthlessness for days on end? If so, you may be depressed.
More than just feeling sad or blue, depression is a long-term medical illness that is brought on by an imbalance of chemicals in the brain. Depression has many different causes and symptoms, but there is good news for people who suffer with depression. That good news? It’s disheartening, but it’s treatable.
Everyone, at some point in his or her life, experiences feelings of sadness and lack of energy for short periods of time. That includes you.
But when these feelings persist and begin to interfere with everyday life, it may be more than just a passing emotion. Depression distorts the way you view life, yourself, and those around you.
Symptoms of depression can include the following:
The exact reason why any individual gets depressed is unknown. The reasons vary person to person and may be genetic, biochemical, environmental, or psychological. Many scientists believe changes in the delicate balance of chemicals in the brain are to blame. This may be the result of genetics, experiencing stressful life events, or a combination.
Difficult as it can be to determine the root cause of depression, it can often be linked to a certain event, lifestyle, or drug. Certain medications, drug or alcohol abuse, and medical conditions such as cancer or pain can lead to depression. As can dealing with a divorce or death, having trouble as school, suffering childhood abuse or trauma, losing a job, or being lonely.
Despite the trigger, depression can affect anyone at any age, though it typically strikes between the late teens to age 30. For some reason, women are more susceptible to be stricken with depression, whether long-term depression, seasonal depression (known as seasonal affective disorder or SAD), postpartum depression - which occurs after giving birth.
Many people view depression as a sign of weakness, a spiritual problem, or something they just have to work through on their own. But depression is none of these. When life is no longer enjoyable or when depression is affecting your relationships or job, it’s time to get help.
There are two ways depression is treated: antidepressant medications and talk therapy, also known as psychotherapy. Mild depression usually responds to only one of these treatments. Those with more severe depression benefit most by taking medication combined with talk therapy. Extremely depressed people or those with suicidal thoughts may need treatment in a psychiatric hospital.
Antidepressant medications work by balancing serotonin and norepinephrine, two chemicals in the brain that determine your mood. These medications include Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, Luvox, Celexa, Lexapro, Pristiq, Effexor, Cymbalta, Wellbutrin, among others. In the event you require medical therapy, your doctor will work with you to find the right dose to treat your depression with the fewest side effects. Most people feel relieved of their depression after a few weeks of taking medication. Others take several months or longer.
The second part of treatment involves counseling. Psychotherapy helps you understand the reasons behind your depression and equips you to deal with your negative thoughts and feelings.
Other effective treatments may include electroconvulsive therapy (transmitting electric currents through the brain to improve depressive symptoms), transcranial magnetic stimulation (use of magnetic fields to affect the brain’s nerve cells and improve depressive symptoms), and light therapy (use of artificial light to battle seasonal depression).