Depression is more than just feeling sad. Major depression impacts the lives of millions of people each year.
The National Institute of Mental Health states that about 17.3 million adults in the United States had at least one major depressive incident in 2017. That is about 7.1 percent of all adults in the country. Approximately 11 million of them had an episode that resulted in severe impairment that year.
What Is Depression?
As these depression statistics show, it is a common mental disorder. Globally, the World Health Organization states 300 million people from all backgrounds and demographics suffer from the condition.
It’s a leading cause of disability and a burden financially on health systems. What makes it unique is that, unlike sadness, everyday, short-lived emotional stresses a person feels seem to last longer and occur even when there doesn’t seem to be an immediate cause.
Depression is life-threatening. It is a leading cause of suicide. Though it impacts both men and women, it seems to occur more commonly in women.
But depression can be treated. If you are living with depression, you are likely to find relief in one of several treatment options.
Types of Depression Explained
Numerous types of depression exist. Each can be brought on by different factors and lead to different outcomes and treatment needs.
The most common form, major depression is severe and can have life-threatening consequences if not treated. Those with this form of depression withdraw from activities and interests.
They are in a persistent state of darkness, often with feelings of worthlessness and thoughts of suicide. Some people with major depressive disorder can remain in this place until they receive treatment.
Persistent Depressive Disorder
Sometimes called dysthymia, this depression condition is chronic, lasting two or more years. Those with a persistent depressive disorder can have intermittent periods where symptoms are less common.
However, they typically maintain significant depression symptoms long-term. You may feel stuck in a downward spiral within your life, for example.
The incredible changes in hormones immediately after giving birth can lead to postpartum depression, which typically occurs during the first two weeks after the baby’s birth. While it is a mild depressive condition, it can involve anxiety and feelings of hopelessness.
Many women feel sadness, exhaustion and emotional turmoil during this time. It is possible for women to experience a major depressive disorder period during this time as well, which can put the mother and child at high risk for suicide or psychotic breaks.
Seasonal Affective Disorder
A milder form of depression, seasonal affective disorder occurs during the winter months. There’s less available natural sunlight, which, in some people, can cause sadness and social withdrawal.
This condition can also cause significant mood swings. It tends to improve in the spring and summer months.
It is possible for people with severe depression to develop psychosis. This may include depression mixed with delusions and hallucinations. Most often, such delusions contain a depressive theme to them, such as focusing on guilt or loneliness.
Bipolar is not the same as depression, though it is very commonly linked to it. A person who has bipolar disorder has periods when they feel very happy but also periods of very low moods.
During those low periods, it’s possible to label the person as experiencing a period of bipolar depression. These “mania” and “hypomania” periods need proper treatment for the true mental health disorder they are.
What Causes Depression?
Many factors can cause depression. A report from the National Institutes of Health indicates a number of elements contribute to the mental health disorder. Specifically, those with depression often have a combination of biological, genetic, psychological and environmental factors playing a role in the development of the condition.
Genetics and Predisposition
A person with a family history of depression in any form may be more likely to have depression themselves. DNA makeup may be the single most common trait among people with depression.
A predisposition to depression can also be a factor. Genetics and other factors can make some people more likely to develop depression than others.
Major changes in a person’s life can trigger a depressive state. This may include both good and bad events, such as having a baby, divorce or the death of a loved one.
It can also involve high-stress events such as dealing with illness. In some people, trauma, both physical and mental, can lead to depression.
Hormone imbalance can create depression symptoms. This may occur as a result of changes in health, such as giving birth or having a thyroid malfunction. In other cases, medications can change a person’s chemical balance, leading to symptoms of depression.
Am I Depressed — A Depression Test
Many people try to find a simple depression test to determine if they have symptoms. But depression isn’t something you can self-diagnose.
The problem with doing so is that you need a comprehensive look at what’s happening in your life and your health that may be contributing factors. Your therapist can examine what’s occurring and determine the correct depression diagnosis, which then leads to the most beneficial treatment.
Effects of Depression
If you recognize the signs of depression, either in yourself or in your loved one, it’s important to take action. Depression doesn’t just go away. It builds. Over time, it can present a risk to the quality of life.
If left untreated, depression can cause both mild and severe outcomes. This includes:
- Excessive weight gain or loss
- Social isolation
- Social anxiety and phobias
- Substance abuse
- Difficulty with relationships
- Difficulty with work or school life
- Conflicts in day-to-day life
- Self-destructive behaviors such as reckless actions or cutting
- Suicidal feelings
- Poor health outcomes and premature death
Recognize the Signs and Symptoms of Depression
Depression develops from a wide range of aspects, leading to numerous symptoms. The most common include:
- Sadness, hopelessness
- Anger, often leading to outbursts and aggression
- Lack of energy
- Sleep problems, in some cases, too little or too much
- Loss of interest in things once enjoyed including hobbies, sex, sports or relationships
- Difficulty focusing; inability to make decisions
- Feeling worthless or having significant guilt
- Anxiety and restlessness
Treatment Options for Depression
The first step is a proper diagnosis from a licensed psychologist or other therapists. This includes a physical exam, lab tests to spot hormonal imbalances and a full psychiatric evaluation. Once the therapist diagnoses the type of depression, a comprehensive treatment plan can be developed.
Treatment for depression may include medications and counseling. Patients who are facing severe symptoms or are at risk of harming themselves may need to remain in a hospital setting until doctors can stabilize them. Most people benefit from ongoing outpatient therapy.
Medications such as antidepressants are helpful to many people. This includes SSRIs, SNRIs, MAOIs and others. Doctors may need to spend some time adjusting medications to find the right one for your needs.
Psychotherapy is nearly always a part of treatment. It involves exploring the crisis, using cognitive behavioral therapy to develop new ways of thinking and setting realistic goals. In addition, alternative treatments, such as deep brain stimulation therapy, high-frequency pulsed-electromagnetic stimulation therapy and neurofeedback, may help some people.
Your doctor works to help determine the best possible treatment for your needs. Many times, treatment plans include various forms of care to create a method that helps you.
Seeking Help from FHE Health for Depression
If you’re asking, “Do I have depression?” chances are good you can benefit from one-on-one help and support. Mental health support from FHE Health can provide you with a strong path forward by offering comprehensive treatment options.
Contact us today by calling (833) 596-3502. Our compassionate team of counselors is available 24/7 to help you.