Have you been feeling sad or depressed lately? You’re not alone! Depression is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. and 17.3 million adults age 18 or older in the U.S. had experienced at least one major depressive episode in the last year. We understand that for many, depression can make daily tasks extremely difficult, however it’s important to know that help is out there! Follow this guide to learn more about depression, its symptoms and causes, treatment options and how to find help.
What Is Depression?
Depression is a mental health disorder characterized by feelings of intense and prolonged sadness or loss of interest in activities that they once enjoyed. It can greatly affect all aspects of life in an individual, including their mental health,physical health and their relationships with the people around them. Depression can affect anyone at any age, however it’s more prone in teens and young adults.
Individuals that suffer from depression tend to experience social withdrawal, which means that they isolate themselves from interaction with those close to them and their community. Isolation is an important symptom to recognize as it can increase negativity in the individual and worsen the effects of depression.
Keep in mind: Depression is not the same as anxiety or feelings of grief following bereavement or loss. It usually is characterized by a prolonged period of sadness, feelings of hopelessness or withdrawal during a duration of two weeks or more.
Types of Depression
Did you know that there are many types of depression? The different types of depression are correlated with the distinct types of the symptoms experienced and their intensity. The most common types of depression are:
Major Depressive Disorder
Also known as major depression, major depressive disorder occurs when the feelings of sadness affect a person’s daily life for a prolonged period of type, typically longer than two weeks. Some of the symptoms experienced include:
- Loss of interest in once enjoyed activities
- Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt
- Insomnia or hypersomnia
- Significant weight loss (or poor appetite) or weight gain
- Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness
- Recurring suicidal thoughts or thoughts related to death
- Agitation and irritability
Also called Persistent Depressive Disorder, dysthymia is a chronic type of depression which is characterized by strong feelings of hopelessness, typically lasting for over two years. While not debilitating, some of the most common symptoms of dysthymia are:
- Feeling of hopelessness
- Insomnia or excessive sleep
- Low self-esteem
- Fatigue or lack of energy
- Poor or excessive appetite
- Lack of concentration
Other Specified or Unspecified Depressive Disorders
Other depressive disorders are generally diagnosed in cases where a person demonstrates several symptoms characteristic of depression, however are not classified as either Major Depressive Disorder or Dysthymia. Some of the more notable symptoms in these types of depressive disorders are:
- recurring periods of dysphoria;
- distress with anxiety;
- and psychotic delusions.
Keep in mind: For most of us, it’s common to want to help someone who is feeling depressed. If someone you know is suffering from depression, one of the best things you can do is show support and let them feel heard. Avoid saying things like “give it your best shot,” "cheer up,” or “try a little harder." Those phrases could make them feel guilty and powerless. Empathy and support from our family and friends is a great way to help someone overcome their depression.
Causes of Depression
Depression can be triggered by many different causes and develops from a combination of psychological, biochemical, and genetic factors. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists the following as the leading causes of depression:
- Family history of depression
- Substance abuse and alcoholism
- Experiencing a traumatic event (such as the death of a loved one, sexual abuse, or a severe financial crisis)
- Having a serious medical problem (such as a stroke) or suffering from cancer or a chronic, degenerative disease
Keep in mind: Depression can also derive from taking certain medications, such as some opioids or anxiolytics. If you’re currently under medication treatment, consult with your doctor immediately if you are experiencing any signs of depression.
Overcoming depression can be very complicated however it’s important to remember that treatment is available. If you or someone you know is experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, it's vital to seek the support of specialists that can provide you with the necessary help. Treatment options vary, however they usually consist of psychological therapy or psychiatric treatment that incorporates antidepressant medication.
The first step to treat depression is to attend therapy. Patients can receive the support of specialists who will guide them in the following aspects:
- Identify which problems contribute to developing your depressive disorder and teach you how to cope with them.
- Identify the negative thoughts that cause the hopelessness that is characteristic of depression.
- Help you acquire a more positive attitude towards your problems.
- Help you achieve interest in the activities you used to enjoy—or recover the pleasure of living.
The specialist may suggest antidepressants intended to modify the interaction of certain neurotransmitters in the brain, including dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine, all of which are helpful in overcoming your depression.
Keep in mind: Treatment with antidepressants should always be supervised by a doctor or licensed specialist, as their consumption may present some side effects such as diarrhea, nausea, weight gain, and sleeping problems. Don’t take any chances and check with your doctor before using them!
Tips on How to Overcome Depression
In conjunction with mental health therapy, certain lifestyle changes can help you reduce the symptoms of depression and create positive mental health effects. Here are a few professional recommendations:
Exercise is a great way to help cope with the symptoms of depression. Maintaining an exercise routine can not only help you have more energy, but it also helps to release dopamine, a hormone that stimulates happiness and reduces stress. And you don't need to start with long, tiring routines! Just 15 to 30 minutes of daily exercise can make all the difference in helping you manage the symptoms of depression.
Keep in mind: Studies show that aerobic exercise is one of the best ways to help reduce depression. A few great aerobic exercises you can incorporate into your weekly routine are: swimming, cycling, jogging or simply going for a walk.
Did you know that what we eat can influence our energy level and mood? A few healthy changes you can make are: 1) adapt a healthy diet, rich in fruits and vegetables, 2) create a daily eating schedule and 3) be consistent! Follow a diet rich in nutrients that can help improve your symptoms of depression and boost your mood.
Keep in mind: Consider scheduling a consultation with a nutritionist. They can help create a personalized dietary plan that best fits your health needs.
Break A Downward Spiral
For many that experience depression, it can be easy to contemplate negative thoughts and emotions that unknowingly create a downward spiral of sadness. However, don't lose hope! There are ways to help break this spiral and encourage positive thinking, such as spending more time with your pet, taking a long shower, or watching your favorite comedies again.
In other words, do things that make you feel good! Once you recognize that you’re entering a downward spiral, take action and do things that make you happy to break the cycle.
Set Small Goals First
Working towards and achieving small goals each day is a great way to feel a sense of accomplishment and build positive feelings. Avoid setting big goals or making long-term plans, such as moving to a new city or starting a new business. Start your day with small goals you can perform easily, such as making breakfast, cleaning your room, fixing a broken appliance, or setting time out of your day to talk to a loved one!
Explore Your Creativity
How do you express yourself? Studies show that performing creative activities can help reduce the symptoms of depression and allow individuals a positive outlet to express their feelings and emotions. Not sure where to start? Here are a few fun activities that can help you develop your creative side: painting, writing, sculpting, singing, or playing a musical instrument.
Seek Social Support
Positive social support is important in mental health. If you are currently in treatment for depression, we recommend that you seek emotional support from positive individuals in your life, such as friends and family.
Here are a few ways you can strengthen your current social relationships and seek social support:
- Make a list of all the positive people, places, and activities you enjoy in your life. Reach out to those individuals and schedule a day to spend time together.
- If you still don't feel like going out, make the extra effort to stay in contact with your loved ones, whether it be through phone calls, e-mails or text messages.
- If you feel like going out, spend some time outdoors or visit one of your favorite places.
- Get the people close to you involved and ask for additional support in reaching your personal goals.
- Reach out to your local community! Find a mental health support group or offer to be a volunteer at an organization that you care about, such as an animal shelter.
Spend Time Outside
A little sunlight can do a body good! If you’re feeling depressed, try going outside and getting at least 15 minutes of sunlight. Natural sunlight can help increase serotonin levels and improve your mood. Go for a walk around your neighborhood or to the nearest park. If you’re at home or the office, open your curtains or blinds and brighten your mood with the beautiful and relaxing sun rays.
Accept Your Emotions
One of the biggest obstacles in depression is overcoming the sensation of persistent negative thoughts. While we understand that it may feel difficult at times, it’s important to accept these emotions and realize that it’s ok to not feel positive all the time! Understand that coming to terms with this can help you avoid any feelings of guilt and accept that everything you are feeling is part of the process of healing. With proper treatment and consistency, it will become manageable over time.
Keep in mind: Be true to your feelings. While we’d all like to be optimistic at all times, it’s important to accept that there will be moments where we might look at the glass half empty. The ability to recognize this and better understand our emotions is a key part in helping manage depression and grow as an individual.
Ask For Help
If you suspect that you may have depression, seek help. One of the most recommended methods for treating depression is through treatment from a licensed mental health therapist, which can be done in-person or online. You can also seek assistance from mental health support groups in your area and get tips for overcoming depression from peers.
Keep in mind: There are many treatment options for depression, however the first step is being able to recognize it and accept that help is out there.
We understand that overcoming depression can be complicated, however it’s important to remember that you are not alone. Follow the advice we’ve shared in this article and don’t be afraid to seek help from your doctor, therapist or psychiatrist. There’s always light at the end of the tunnel!
If you have any questions about this or any other topics, please feel free to contact our experts at SABEResPODER through our helpful chat.