“Cheer up.” Those two simple words are an example of one of the misunderstandings surrounding depression today. Depression is not a matter of being happy or unhappy. It’s a real, chronic health issue that affects 1 in 10 Americans at any point in time. But unlike the physical ailments medical doctors treat daily, mental health issues such as depression don’t always receive the attention they deserve – both in the field and among the general public.
While knowledge about depression is growing, patients dealing with the condition still face a stigma, as well as challenges obtaining treatment. Unfortunately, this stigma and the lack of education means that 80% of those living with the condition are not receiving the medical help they need. This is a number that not only deserves to change, but that needs to change.
Quick Facts: Understanding Depression
Understanding depression is the first key to identifying and treating it, either in yourself or in loved ones who may not realize they’re dealing with a serious health issue. The following are just a handful of the sorts of things people may not know about depression:
- Depression is the most common mental illness.
- Depression is a true medical condition. It’s not a weakness in character, and not a case of being “overly sad”.
- Depression affects how we feel, think, and handle daily activities. Our sleep habits, diets, and even our work can all be affected by depression and its symptoms. Most of all, depression affects the way we view ourselves and the world around us – and creates strong feelings of low worth.
- Depression is treatable. A combination of therapy and antidepressant medication can make it easier for patients to manage their symptoms, and can contribute to recovery as well.
Watching For The Symptoms Of Depression
How can we identify the signs of depression? While we tend to associate suicide with depression, there are a number of other symptoms we can watch for and use to identify depression. The most common symptoms and signs of trouble include dips in energy, heightened anxiety, and an increased feeling of helplessness or hopelessness. Many sufferers also experience changes in their mood, appetite, or sleep patterns.
Should any of these symptoms present individually or in combination with the other symptoms for a period of at least two weeks, they should be considered a sign of depression. At this point, one should begin looking for assistance in addressing their symptoms. Doing this can help ensure that they do not worsen dramatically, and can also help patients live a more normal life where their symptoms are being managed.
Identifying The Cause Of Depression
“Complex” is the best word to use when describing the causes of depression. Different individuals experience depression for different reasons. Some find themselves living with it after dealing with a serious medical illness. Others struggle with it after a major life change, or after they lose a loved one. It’s also believed that genetics play a major role in the development of depression.
Ultimately, as depression develops, it’s likely to affect the body’s hormone levels, hormone production, and reactions to its own naturally occurring chemicals. These reactions are what ultimately create the altered moods and feelings often associated with depression. For example, deficiency of norepinephrine, serotonin and dopamine are commonly associated with depression.
Because of this, most antidepressants aim to stabilize the levels of the chemicals within our bodies associated with depression and mood. However, it’s important to note that simply giving a patient a pill won’t be the end of their treatment journey.
Treating Depression: How We Help Those In Our Care
Studies show that over 80% of the people diagnosed with depression improve with a combination of psychopharmacology and psychotherapy – that is, a combination of medicine and therapy. These treatment options, along with genetic testing, are all available at the Center for Integrative Wellness.
However, an illness as complex as depression requires a very personalized approach. Depression that’s been influenced by a recent loss, for example, will likely require a very different intervention than the treatment that would be given to someone with a family history of the disease. That’s why Dr. Samoon Ahmad of the Integrative Center For Wellness considers multiple different factors when forming a diagnosis of depression. These include emotionally traumatic events (i.e., losing a parent, spouse or child), genetics and family history, and environmental stressors (such as unemployment). Ultimately, any treatments delivered will be tailored specifically to your personal needs and preferences as a patient.
Looking for more information about depression and how it’s treated here at the Center? You can learn more about it by visiting this section of our website – and you can contact us here to learn more or to set up your own appointment and begin your journey to recovery.