When you hear the word "Depression," what comes to mind?
You might think of depression as a perpetual feeling of sadness, or stress, an issue that any antidepressant can help heal.
What if I tell you although these thoughts about depression may be valid to some extent, the symptoms of depression, as well as the underlying root causes, are likely more complex than you may think?
So, I'll not make false claims about tackling depression with ten simple steps or life hacks to manage your symptoms.
Honestly, a main issue is that we barely acknowledge that depression is a serious mental health disorder. Without a treatment plan by a licensed therapist, it can be much more challenging to prevent the onset of depression, let alone overcome it.
Don't be surprised when I say that more than 30 million people in the US take antidepressants, including one in seven women. Millions are tempted to try them to end chronic, unyielding distress or irritability—that feeling of being trapped by an exhausting inner agitation they just can't shake.
Let's move beyond the false narrative and take a detailed look at what depression is, what experts say about it, and how you might be suppressing the symptoms (which is like turning off the smoke alarm when during a raging fire).
Let's get the facts straight:
Is depression just a perpetual sadness, a mindset, or an often severe mental health disorder?
“Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary.” — Fred Rogers
Managing one's mental health is just as important as their physical health. All of us may experience sadness or lack of motivation from time to time. Still, if those feelings become too intense and interfere with our ability to carry out regular activities, it could be a sign of depression.
In the United States, around one in every four people experiences depression each year. Research by the National Institute of Mental Health suggests that depression affects an estimated 4.1 million teenagers between the ages of 12 and 17 and 21 million individuals aged 18 and older (10.5% of women and 6.2% of men).
And an unfortunate fact we just can’t deny is that these depression statistics are constantly rising.
Here's what experts are saying about depression:
- Depression, also known as depressive disorder or clinical depression, is usually diagnosed when a person's symptoms have lasted for two weeks and have significantly impacted their life. Symptoms may include persistent sad, anxious, or empty mood; loss of appetite and weight loss; persistent low energy and fatigue; feelings of worthlessness or inappropriate guilt; thoughts of death or suicide.
- Women are more likely to experience depression than men: a third of women experience a depressive episode at least once. Depression also tends to run in families; if you have an immediate family member with depression, you have a 40% chance of experiencing it yourself.
- According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), depression increases your risk of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases by 40%.
Ok, so facing these statistics may make you feel down. But, honestly, the most positive thing to understand is that depression is highly treatable. It's a manageable condition, and with the right help & with ample support, it can be overcome.
I am not denying that depression can be a difficult and daunting condition to tackle, but it doesn’t have to be viewed with despair. With the right help and support, depression can be managed and treated effectively. And once you get to this point, you may ask yourself, "Ok, so depression is treatable. So, what’s next? How do I move in the right direction?"
Let’s understand the symptoms of depression and what it may look like in children, men, women, and seniors.
Understanding the symptoms of depression is the first step to getting better!
There is no one way for someone to experience depression. One might have all or some of the symptoms of depression, or they might fluctuate daily or from one depressive episode to the next. If you suspect that you or someone you know may be experiencing depression, a clinically-backed depression screening process can be a significant first step in gaining clarity.
Do any of these symptoms ring a bell? If yes, be glad you’re able to identify them now rather than later! But now, more new questions might have come up in your mind. What could cause me to have depression? Does this have anything to do with my family history?
WHAT CAUSES DEPRESSION? Understanding the Causes of Depression can be a Great Next Step Toward Recovery.
Let’s look at an overview of the various factors that can lead to depression, such as genetics, environmental influences, and lifestyle choices. Also, let’s understand how these factors interact with each other and how they can lead to the development of depression.
With a sound understanding of these various factors, I'm sure you'll be able to better equip yourself with the tools needed to manage this condition, better understand common treatment goals, and also how a depression therapist may be able to help you.
Genetics: Depression is often a family trait. If a parent or sibling is diagnosed with depression, there is a risk that a child may also develop it. This is because depression often runs in families, and genetics can cause multiple mental illness traits to be expressed in one individual. It has also been found that depression shares many common genes with other disorders, such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
Environmental Influences: Many environmental factors can contribute to depression, including chronic stress, severe life events like losses or abuse, and inherited genes from parents.
Cognitive Theories of Depression: The cognitive theory of depression argues that depressed individuals have faulty beliefs and thoughts that prevent understanding and using positive coping mechanisms. The thinking process is believed to be the cause or a contributing factor in the onset of depression. Theories such as this have led to many treatment practices like cognitive behavioral therapy, which attempt to change these negative thought patterns so that depressive symptoms can improve or be eliminated.
The Chemistry behind Neurotransmitters: Our brains contain a variety of neurotransmitters that have various functions. Chemicals called neurotransmitters transport information or impulses from one brain area to another. Recent studies suggest that alterations in these neurotransmitters affect the interactions with the neural circuit responsible for preserving mood stability during depression and its treatment.
A person's mood is influenced by three important neurotransmitters: dopamine, serotonin, and noradrenaline. Various studies found that these three neurotransmitters do not function properly for someone experiencing depression.
In people with depression, it is often serotonin, whose levels are reduced. In more severe cases, the levels of noradrenaline (or norepinephrine) and dopamine are also found to be affected.
Brain and Emotions: Although we often think of emotions as coming from our hearts, it may be fairly obvious that science has some other theories altogether. According to scientific studies, emotions are controlled by certain parts of our brains. Yes, we have discussed the mood changes that are caused due to specific brain chemicals, but here researchers believe that chemicals are not the only factors; but also nerve cell connection, growth, and function have a lot to do with mood changes in humans.
Drugs and their Effects: Alcohol and recreational drugs can adversely affect your mental health, and often contribute to depression. Initially, consuming these substances might feel good, but eventually, they can make you feel far worse than before you started.
It has been found that, especially in older adults, drugs like barbiturates, benzodiazepines, and isotretinoin have been related to depression. Similarly, certain drugs like codeine, morphine, and anticholinergics used to treat stomach cramps can occasionally alter and fluctuate moods. Beta-blockers, used to treat high blood pressure, have been connected to depression as well.
Chronic Illness: Your chance of experiencing depression may increase if your health is compromised, especially in an ongoing way. Depression may result from a chronic illness in certain people. Numerous health issues can be challenging to manage, potentially leading to severe negative impacts on mood.
A chronic illness lasts an extended period and typically cannot be fully cured. Diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, kidney disease, HIV & AIDS, and multiple sclerosis are a few examples of chronic conditions that can sometimes result in depression.
Pregnancy: Pregnancy is a topic far less discussed when it comes to depression factors, but it without a doubt deserves mention.Every 1 out of 5 pregnant women experiences depression before or after pregnancy. Stress, such as that brought on by becoming a parent for the first time, having to take care of the life of another person, experiencing significant physical changes during and after pregnancy, experiencing labor pains, etc., are associated with the start of depression.
Finding the reasons behind depression is not always straightforward. Most of the time, depression can have several causes.
Reach out to a therapist as soon as possible if you notice any depression symptoms. The earlier you get help, the better.
Other major causes of depression
Depression can strike anyone at any age, but it typically starts in a person's teens, 20s, or 30s. Studies tell us that more women than males have been diagnosed with depression and that women are more likely to participate in therapy more frequently.
Although many of the significant causes of depression have been discussed above, various other factors can also cause depression:
- Some character qualities, such as having low self-esteem and being too reliant, self-critical, or negative
- Circumstances that are traumatic or distressing, such as physical or sexual abuse, the loss of a loved one, the end of a relationship, or financial difficulties
- Being intersex or having differences in the development of genital organs that aren't male or female (lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender) in an unsupportive environment
- Other mental health conditions such as anxiety disorders, eating disorders, or post-traumatic stress disorder in the past
- One's temperament and personality can significantly influence depression. Some personality types like anxious worrying, socially avoidant, and rejection sensitivity are more at risk of suffering from depression than others are
- According to research, a diet deficient in some crucial nutrients may increase a person's risk of developing depression
- Aging is surprisingly a potential risk factor for depression. After you reach a certain age, the neurotransmitter can get mixed up, which leads the serotonin level to go down, leading to depression in older adults
If you are reading this and identifying with one or more of the symptoms or causes of depression, you or your loved one might be suffering from this complex disorder. By now, I hope it’s been made clear that there isn't one specific cause for depression; but rather a wide variety of depression causes exist, many less obvious than you may have expected.
Next, let’s discuss some of the best available treatment options for depression.
This is an important step! Don’t skip it!
How to get help for depression: Treatment option for depression
Note: If you are experiencing an emergency, please call 911 and seek emergency help right away. None of these treatment options are intended here to immediately address any emergency situations.
There is hope for even the most severe cases of depression. According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), 80-90% of people seeking treatment for depression respond positively. Almost all people treated find relief or reduced symptoms.
Depression can give you the impression that nothing will change for the better or that any comfort will only last a moment. It can also start a vicious cycle of unhelpful thinking, feeling, and acting.
Depression is an increasingly common mental health condition that can significantly impact a person's life. Fortunately, there are a variety of treatments available to help those who suffer from depression. From therapy to lifestyle changes and alternative therapies, there are many options for treating depression.
Psychotherapy. Therapy is one of the most effective ways to manage your depression. Having an experienced, licensed therapist or counselor to talk to — someone who will listen and advise without judgment — can make a huge difference as you begin the recovery journey. A depression therapist can help you understand the origins of your depressive feelings, offer a safe place to express your thoughts and emotions, and help you devise practical ways to cope. These days, therapists work both in-person and virtually; there is a way to fit therapy into almost any lifestyle.
The therapy approaches most often used to treat depression include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), Psychodynamic Therapy, and Interpersonal Therapy.
In some cases, therapy alone can treat depression, but often severe cases of depression are best treated with psychotherapy and medication.
Talk about it. The first step in getting help is to admit to yourself—and perhaps to a family member or friend—that you may be depressed. Quite often, people around you may see signs but hesitate to say anything. "Once you're open to the possibility of diagnosis, there are many ways to get help," says Dr. Leuchter.
Find the right therapist who helps you make realistic goals: Finding the right therapist can be incredibly daunting, but taking the time to do so is worth it. A good therapist should be not only knowledgeable but also compassionate and patient. Ask questions about their experience and specialty areas before entering into a therapeutic relationship and whether they offer in-person and teletherapy sessions. Finding someone you feel comfortable discussing your life with and willing to work with to solve any issues or goals you want to accomplish within the therapy process is essential.
The Bottom line.
Depression is a debilitating and sometimes life-altering condition that can leave us feeling hopeless and helpless. The good news is that, for the vast majority of people, depression can be treated. With the proper care, we can regain quality of life, develop new ways to manage difficult emotions, and relationships can once again become truly enjoyable.
As I mentioned above, treatment for depression often involves both psychotherapy and medication, and it is essential to seek professional help rather than trying to battle the condition alone. Although there are no quick fixes when treating depression effectively, those who have suffered through its dark cloud know how life-changing therapeutic help truly is.
At Lifebulb, we do our best to offer various resources, flexible availability, insurance coverage options, and affordable self-pay rates. If you reach out to us, whether we're the best match for you or not, we'll do our best to point you in the right direction or get you connected with the resource for you.
Call us today. We’re ready to help!