Depression: Warning Signs, Symptoms, and Treatment

Depression is one of the most common mental health conditions across the United States. Although everyone experiences some days that are worse than others, depression is a serious mood disorder that produces a variety of unpleasant symptoms. When depression is left untreated, people are left susceptible to an array of health complications that might interfere with their quality of life. Fortunately, there are many types of depression treatment.

 

Depression is so common that experts estimate that 6.7%, or 16.2 million American adults, suffer at least one depressive episode each year. Furthermore, 5% of the U.S. population experiences seasonal depression while as many as 10-15% of new mothers experience postpartum depression.[1] As a result, it’s important to understand the different types of depression, what the warning signs are, and which treatment options are available.

 

Types of Depression

While depression typically describes an array of symptoms, there are various types of depression. Some of the most common include:

  • Major depressive disorder – a chronic condition that causes sadness, low energy, lack of appetite, and loss of interest in activities.
  • Persistent depressive disorder – characterized by chronic, low-level depression that isn’t as severe as major depressive disorder, but lasts for at least two years.
  • Seasonal depression – depression triggered by the onset of the fall season and lasts until the end of winter. People with seasonal depression typically don’t experience symptoms during the spring or summer.
  • Postpartum depression – symptoms are caused by hormonal changes that occur after childbirth and last for varying lengths of time. Postpartum depression is more common among women but may occur in men as well.
  • Psychotic depression – also known as major depressive disorder with psychotic features that are commonly seen in people with bipolar disorder or major depressive disorder who experience paranoia or hallucinations.

Statistics show that depression is most common in people between the ages of 18-25 and is twice more common in women than it is in men.[1]

 

In addition to the several different types of depression, there are several risk factors that make some people more susceptible to developing depression. For example, biological factors like family history, brain structure, and medical conditions can cause depression. People who have a family history of mental illness are more likely to suffer themselves, but in some people, their brain simply develops differently and lacks certain regulatory functions.

 

Furthermore, medical conditions, such as chronic pain or chronic illness, may eventually provoke depression. On the other hand, environmental factors such as childhood trauma or neglect can be a precursor to depression and other mental health conditions. Lastly, people who suffer from drug or alcohol addiction are significantly more likely to suffer from depression than those who do not. Other risk factors may include low self-esteem, side effects of certain medications, and long-term stressful events.

 

Still, some people develop symptoms of depression without any of these causes or risk factors. Whatever the case may be, if you’re experiencing symptoms of depression, it’s crucial to get help as soon as possible. When left untreated, people who suffer from depression might turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as drug or alcohol abuse, or even suicidal thoughts.

 

Warning Signs and Symptoms of Depression

Depression involves more than just feeling down. In fact, the symptoms of depression can be so crippling that it’s hard to complete minor day to day tasks. The symptoms affect not only the mind but the body as well, posing additional challenges to people suffering from the condition. Although each type of depression is different in the ways and lengths of time in which symptoms manifest, the symptoms themselves are similar.

Common signs and symptoms of depression include:[2]

  • Mood changes ranging from anger and restlessness to irritability
  • Emotional struggles such as feeling sad, empty, hopeless, or anxious
  • Loss of interest in activities one once enjoyed
  • Isolating from friends, family, and social engagements
  • Experiencing suicidal thoughts
  • Impulsive or risky behaviors, such as drug or alcohol use or other high-risk activities
  • Reduced interest in sex
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Not being able to sleep or sleeping too much
  • Fatigue
  • Digestive problems
  • Aches and pains in the body

Sadly, depression is a risk factor for suicide due to the extreme symptoms that individuals deal with. If you or a loved one is considering suicide, it’s important that you seek professional help immediately.

 

Treatment Methods for Depression

Whether you’re suffering from mild to severe depression, it can significantly affect your overall quality of life. If left untreated, depression can become chronic and symptoms are likely to worsen. Fortunately, there are many things people with depression can do to feel better and actively treat their condition.

 

Coping at Home

Although it’s always important to seek professional treatment for any mental health condition, there are also ways you can cope with depression at home. It’s important to note that none of these methods should serve as your primary treatment method. Instead, they are supplemental to therapy and medication.

The following activities are sometimes recommended to help people cope with symptoms of depression.

  • Avoid alcohol and drugs
  • Spend time outside
  • Stay connected with family, friends, and a support group
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Follow a regular sleep schedule
  • Get some exercise
  • Set aside time for yourself

While these suggestions sound like minor lifestyle changes, they can be extremely helpful in reducing depressive episodes and symptoms.[3]

 

Therapy for Depression

The most important thing about mental health counseling is that the therapy provided is customized to meet the individual patient’s needs. When you seek treatment, you should always speak with a mental health professional about which type of treatment is best for you.[4] Some types of therapies that are used to treat depression include:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • Interpersonal therapy
  • Social skills therapy
  • Psychodynamic therapy
  • Problem-solving therapy
  • Behavioral activation
  • Supportive counseling

In many cases, counseling sessions will combine a variety of these techniques to help their patients. Some individuals with severe symptoms or suicidal ideologies may require inpatient treatment, but most depression treatment is conducted on an outpatient basis.

 

Medications

Finding the right medication is sometimes a long process. Not only do antidepressants take some time to start working, but many people have to try various prescriptions before finding one that works for them. For this reason, there are numerous types of antidepressant medications out there. A few of the most common include:

  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) – some of the most common depression medications like Lexapro, Prozac, and Zoloft
  • Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) – a newer type of antidepressant including medications like Effexor and Cymbalta
  • Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) – the original depression medications such as Elavil, Adapin, and Aventyl
  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) – a highly effective type of antidepressant that has serious interactions with many medications and foods, so it isn’t prescribed often.

When taking any kind of antidepressant, it’s crucial to maintain a healthy lifestyle and follow your doctor’s instructions.

 

Finding Mental Health Treatment for Depression

Depression can feel hopeless and isolating. You might feel as though there is no way out. However, we’re here to tell you that simply isn’t true. We’ve helped people just like you take back control of their lives and learn to cope with depression. Our mental health professionals are only a phone call away and can connect you with the most experienced treatment providers in the nation. If you or a loved one is suffering from depression, pick up the phone and contact us today.

 

References:

  1. https://www.healthline.com/health/depression/facts-statistics-infographic#5
  2. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/8933#symptoms
  3. https://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/adjusting-life-recovery
  4. https://www.verywellmind.com/treatments-for-depression-1065502

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