Depression- Everything You Need to Know
Depression is a condition that is often overlooked and misdiagnosed partly because the onset can be a bit more subtle than many other psychological disorders. Many times, it’s hard to spot the signs of depression because they appear slowly, over a period of time.
Someone will know they are not sick, but not feel “right,” and wonder what the problem is. If they understood the symptoms of depression, they would realize they had a serious problem that needed to be addressed. It’s important to recognize depression because it is a serious medical illness that won’t go away if only you would “snap out of it.” It’s a little more serious than just having a case of the blues.
According to the National Institute for Mental Health, in any given one-year period, 9.5 percent of the population or approximately 20.9 million adults in the United States suffer from a depressive illness. The condition is often hereditary, running in families, and can be triggered by stressful incidents, such as relationship problems or financial difficulties as well as physiological conditions. Unfortunately, the symptoms of depression are very similar to those caused by other illnesses, which can prevent or delay much-needed medical treatment.
Symptoms of Depression
Some of the most commonly-known symptoms of depression include feelings of emptiness or sadness, helplessness and hopelessness and feeling tired or fatigued. Other symptoms include difficulty concentrating on the task at hand, trouble making decisions, irritability or a lack of interest in former hobbies. Some of the symptoms can be confusing or contradictory. For example, the disruption of sleep patterns can result in difficulty falling asleep, difficulty in sleeping through the entire night or waking up too early in the morning. During depression, it is also common to experience unexplained changes in appetite that can result in either too much weight gain or too much weight loss.
One fact of depression that often surprises people is that the symptoms do not solely include mental issues, such as suicidal thoughts, but can also include physical symptoms such as chronic pain, headaches or digestive problems not due to another illness. As different as all these symptoms appear, they could all be signs that you are depressed.
Because the condition will vary among individuals, not everyone will experience all of the symptoms of depression or the same severity of symptoms. Depression does seem to run in families, according to many medical studies. Some differences exist, however. Women are twice as likely as men to experience depression, particularly around significant life changes such as pregnancy, the postpartum period and menopause.
Though most people believe that older people are more susceptible to experiencing the symptoms of depression as they age, this is not true. Depression is not a normal part of aging, but certain illnesses more common among senior citizens can lead to depression. Among these are heart disease, cancer, stroke, Parkinson’s disease and diabetes. As a result, the symptoms of depression among seniors can be overlooked and untreated. Some of the most common symptoms include:
Sadness and Anxiety
Most people associate depression with periods of feeling down or sadness, and in large part this is true. Early signs of depression will certainly include feelings of extreme sadness and guilt, as well as crying for no apparent reason. Many people experience these feelings in response to a specific event or situation in their lives, but depression is different. With depression, you cannot pinpoint a cause for the way you are feeling, and in many cases, this in itself can make the condition worse.
Another sign of depression is anxiety. Anxiety is usually associated with feeling jumpy or nervous. Normal anxiety is often caused by a certain event or circumstance as well, but when it accompanies depression, there is often no cause you can think of. The fact that you cannot figure out why you are so anxious makes you even more anxious, and this feeds the depression.
Lack of Energy
One of the most common signs of depression is a lack of energy and ambition. Some people compare it to how you feel when you are coming down with the flu. All you want to do is lie around, and if you do move, you are weak and achy. Some people want to do nothing but sleep when they are getting depressed. When this happens, sooner or later you will begin to have feelings of guilt because you are lying around and not doing anything. This, in turn, will worsen the overall condition you are feeling.
Lack of Interest
One of the two most common signs of depression is a decreasing interest in activities or people you once found enjoyable. If you find yourself avoiding phone calls, outings or get-togethers, it may suggest depression. Even daily activities may seem like more of a chore. This can include everything from playing with your children to cooking dinner.
Strangely enough, other signs of depression include physical ailments. Constant gastrointestinal trouble, backaches, or headaches can be a red flag. High blood pressure or anxiety is another physiological response to the hormonal changes that occur during depression.
A depressed person will most likely display behavior that is negative towards to oneself. They may call themselves a failure and make comments that “nothing ever goes right.” A poor attitude and negative or pessimistic responses to daily occurrences are common signs of depression.
Often, if the depressed person doesn’t know how to deal with their frustrations, they may take it out on themselves. Abuse of the body through cutting, overeating, drinking alcohol, doing drugs, or even engaging in risky sexual behavior are all serious signs of depression. Those who destroy their bodies are at a higher risk for suicide, and their abuse is a call for help.
Fatigue and Sleeplessness
Depression can either cause a manic state, where the person is hyper and cannot sit still or sleep well. They may have trouble falling or staying asleep due to the anxiety depression can cause. Other signs include being tired all the time, having no energy to do simple tasks, or having constant full-body aches.
If you recognize any of the above behaviors in yourself or someone you love, seek the help and advice of a doctor. He or she will prescribe the best treatment options for your situation. Don’t be afraid to admit that you need help to deal with your feelings. Depression is a serious disorder that can lead to physical ailments, even death, so it is important to recognize the signs when you see them.
Causes of Depression
There is no one cause of depression. This illness tends to run in families. Researchers have theorized that it is a combination of a certain vulnerability due to hereditary factors and environmental factors (physical illness or stress). The combination of the two is thought to trigger an imbalance in the brain’s chemistry, which leads to symptoms such as feelings of hopelessness.
It is not clear whether the illness itself is caused by or merely a symptom resulting from certain neurotransmitters out of balance. The three neurotransmitters involved are: dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine. There are several factors that can contribute to a person feeling this way:
Women experience the disorder at a far higher rate than men. Researchers have put forward the theory that hormones are a factor.
Research has led to the discovery of several genes that may lead to an individual being diagnosed with bipolar disorder (manic depression). Scientists are now trying working to determine what genes are linked to depression. It has been difficult to determine what genes are responsible because people with no family history of the disorder have become depressed, while not everyone with a family history of depression will, in fact, develop the disorder.
Stress and Illness
People living with a chronic illness are at increased risk of becoming depressed. It can also be caused by having an underactive thyroid. In some people, stressful life events, such as a severe loss (death of a loved one, becoming unemployed) have been known to trigger an episode.
Some prescribed medications, when used for a long period of time, can trigger the disorder in some patients. Some examples of these medications are birth control pills, sleeping pills, and high blood pressure medicines.
In addition, the use of alcohol, nicotine, or illegal substances can lead to a person becoming depressed. In the past, it was thought that patients living with the condition were using these substances in an attempt to self-medicate. It is now believed that the depression itself can be triggered by the use of these items.
Post-partum depression is a condition that affects some women in the first few months after giving birth. It has been estimated that one woman out of eight will develop symptoms of the condition. Women who have experienced pregnancy loss (miscarriage or stillbirth) or have adopted a child may also develop symptoms, which include anxiety, loss of enjoyment of life, feelings of guilt, and a change in appetite.
Types of Depression
Bipolar or Manic Depression
Bipolar depression is sometimes not given the attention it needs. Many people tend to concentrate on the manic symptoms of bipolar disorder. It could be that the manic symptoms exhibited are often more noticeable or public. When a person with bipolar disorder is in the depression stage, they may keep to themselves. Their extended family members and friends may not even realize how debilitating bipolar depression truly is to the person.
Someone with bipolar depression has very deep lows. This stage of bipolar disorder is marked by empty moods, anxiousness and/or sadness. The individual may be very pessimistic and feel a sense of hopelessness. They may have feelings of guilt, helplessness, and worthlessness. When the depression comes, the individual may lose interest in things they once enjoyed such as hobbies, friends, work and even sex. They may complain of feeling tired or fatigued and will have a marked decrease in their energy levels. Bipolar depression often makes it difficult to remember things, make decisions and concentrate. Individuals may become irritable and restless and have sleep disturbances. The person may state they feel pain in their body and thoughts of suicide or death may arise.
Manic depression is a mood disorder, a continuing disorder that requires treatment. Since it is a mood disorder it impacts a person’s energy, mood, speech, thinking, appetite, activity levels and the ability to make good judgments. Manic depression symptoms are not hard to see. Symptoms will be marked by high peaks and low valleys, and an individual can cycle in and out of these mood swings repeatedly. Some people have manic depression daily while others may only have them every few months. Many people do not know that manic depression symptoms usually first arise when a person is a young adult. They may even start to appear when a person is still a child.
Here are some of the manic depression symptoms that a person may exhibit when he or she is in the up or manic phase of the disorder:
- The person feels very optimistic about life.
- The person seems very happy.
- The person may show signs of irritability, anger or aggression.
- The person may be overly provocative.
- The person may be unpredictable and reckless.
- The person may become involved in activities that are dangerous or could hurt him or her.
- The person has a lot of energy, mentally and physically.
- The person’s creativity or intelligence may seem to peak.
- The person may talk in extremes or very fast.
- The person does not seem to sleep or he or she has a marked decrease in the amount of sleep that he or she needs.
- The person’s ego may enlarge.
- The person may have hallucinations.
- The person may be very sociable.
- The person is easily distracted from what they are doing.
- The person may seem restless.
- The person is not aware they are in a manic phase or that their behavior is out of the ordinary.
Here are the manic depression symptoms that a person may exhibit when he or she is in the down or depressive phase of the disorder:
- The person may be very sad.
- The person may cry a lot.
- The person may feel helpless.
- The person may feel hopeless.
- The person may feel worthless.
- The person seems to have a very low self-esteem.
- The person may have a “flat” mood.
- The person seems unable to find any pleasure in their life.
- The person seems tired and has a lack of energy.
- The person has a decreased interest in sex.
- The person may feel angry.
- The person may feel guilty.
- The person may feel anxious.
- The person may talk less and their speech may be slow.
- The person may be unable to make decision because he or she has a hard time concentrating.
- The person may become isolated and withdraw from people.
- The person may develop suicidal thoughts and tendencies.
What is interesting to note is that someone with bipolar is more likely to seek help during their bipolar depression stage than their manic stage. The manic stage makes someone with bipolar feel as if they are on top of the world. During the up or manic stage, individuals will feel optimistic and happy. They have high energy, both physical and mental. They do not seem to need much sleep. Their creativity seems to peak, yet they often make unpredictable, reckless or impaired decisions. Everything is in the extremes whether they are being provocative, angry, aggressive, intrusive or even excited. The individual has no idea that their mood is elevated and they feel very powerful.
Now that you have seen how the manic phase makes a person with bipolar feel, it is no surprise that when the bipolar depression hits, it hits hard. A person can go from 100 to 0. It is very important that individuals who are bipolar stay on their medications. It is very easy for a person to discontinue their medication, especially in the manic stage when they feel so good.
It is possible for people with bipolar to keep their moods stabilized with treatment. It should be understood that bipolar is not something that will go away. It reoccurs. The best treatment for bipolar is medication and psychosocial treatment. While it is true that mood changes can still occur even if someone is taking his or her medicine, it is important that the person be under the care of a doctor. Often bipolar depression and mania can be staved off by making an adjustment in medication.
People with bipolar are often asked to keep a daily mood chart. These charts include monitoring sleep patterns, medication, life events and so on to help the person see how he or she is doing. In addition, these charts give doctors an inside peek into the person’s illness so that patterns, if any, can be recognized.
If someone in your circle has symtpms, you should could an eye out for bipolar depression. If you notice that your loved one has symptoms of bipolar depression, keep in mind that it is a very difficult time for them. Your loved one could probably use some extra support, love and encouragement. If your loved one is having an especially difficult time, you may want to contact their doctor.
You are a great person; you have a wonderful family, a great career and a nice life. In other words, you are a regular successful human being. However, unexplainably you find that you feel at the bottom of the world and wish you were dead. One moment you feel on top of the world, and the next you are scrapping the bottom of the ocean. What is happening, you wonder? Why are you swinging from high to low?
Manic depression, unfortunately, is incurable and people who suffer from it will have to deal with it throughout their lives. Of course, medication and therapy help to a great extent as is the continuous and unstinted support of spouses, family, and friends. However, do not be kidded about it. Manic depression is tough to handle and will take a lot of courage and strength to keep yourself on the right track.
The good news is that it is possible. There are millions of people out there, who know they are suffering from manic depression and are making the best of their lives with the right medication, meditation, and therapy. The problem is when the person does not know they are suffering from this malady.
It is important that people who have manic depression are surrounded by a loving support system. It is crucial that people are watchful of a person’s manic depression symptoms so that help can be given if needed. It is important for individuals with manic depression to be routinely seen by their physician and stay on their medications. Many times, people will get off of their medications if there is a lull between their mood swings or if they are in the manic phase of the disorder and they believe all is well with them.
Clinical or Major Depression
Clinical or Major depression, also known as Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), is defined as a persistent state so severe that a person requires the assistance of a mental health professional. While everyone’s physical makeup is different, generally a person suffering from five or more symptoms of depression that persist for at least two weeks is considered to be a major depressive disorder or clinical depression. The severity of these symptoms and other individual factors of the patient’s experience are also taken into consideration by doctors before diagnosis.
Mental health experts estimate that approximately 19 million people in the United States suffer from clinical depression and that 17 percent of people will experience depression at some time in their lives. Women are more likely than men to experience depression, and approximately 25 percent of all women experience symptoms severe enough to require medical treatment. Major depression can strike anyone at any age. However, it usually afflicts people between 25 and 44. Major depression can last up to nine months and linger on and off throughout a person’s lifetime if left untreated.
People who have a family history of clinical depression – a parent or grandparent or even a cousin or aunt has experienced depression – are more likely to experience the condition. While there is a hereditary basis to depression, if it has occurred in your family, it does not necessarily mean you will become depressed at some point in your life. Medical experts believe that depression is anywhere from 40 to 70 percent hereditary, but that environmental factors play a significant role in triggering it. Traumatic or extremely stressful events, such as the death of a loved one or divorce, can trigger depression, especially if a person has a family history of the condition.
No one is immune from depression. It can affect anyone. Learning how to identify depression is the key to getting help and diagnosed. Sadly, it is believed that nearly 2/3 of individuals who suffer from mental depression do not get the treatment they need. These people are living a life of misery and agony. Many times people do not seek help because they do not recognize that they are depressed. They may think the way they feel is due to an illness or a misdiagnosed physical problem. Other people do not seek help for their depression because they think it is a sign of weakness. This is especially relevant in men.
Men are less likely to seek treatment for depression than women, but they are four times more likely to commit suicide than women who are depressed. This could be due in part to a man’s attempt to mask the condition through alcohol and drug abuse which can intensify it. The elderly can also have bouts of major depression. Illness and the death of loved ones can trigger major depression. Many elderly individuals do not talk about what they are feeling, and as a result may not get the treatment they need to overcome their depression.
No one knows for sure what causes mental depression. However, here is a list of possible things that can trigger it:
- Changes in the seasons
- The death or loss of a loved one
- Loss of employment
- Family Crisis or Conflicts
- Physical Illness
- Marital Problems/Divorce
- Drug and Alcohol Abuse
- Being the victim of a crime
- Traumatic Life Event
Many people who develop major depression cannot pinpoint an event or trauma in their life that might have triggered it. Other people may have battled bouts of minor depression throughout their lives and when they are faced with a traumatic event, they are plunged into major depression. Some individuals can have a bout of major depression and never have itagain. Other people may have recurring bouts. The time in between bouts may last for years.
Mental depression affects people on every level. It can interfere with a person’s normal day-to-day activities, their career, social interactions and family life. It can cause a tremendous amount of pain and suffering and can even lead to suicide. To put it simply, depression changes how a person feels and thinks. It affects social behavior and feelings of self-worth and it can harm them on a physical level. Many people experience down moods on occasion. It is important that people become educated to understand that mental depression is not simply a case of the blues. The blues will pass within a day or so: mental depression can linger and intensify over time.
Included among the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health’s list of the symptoms of depressions that doctors look for when making a diagnosis of depression are persistent sadness, thoughts of death or suicide, anxiety, pessimism, worthlessness, helplessness, fatigue, and irritability. Depressed people often experience insomnia, oversleep or fail to sleep throughout the night. They may experience difficulty making decisions or concentrating, as well as appetite changes, which can result in significant weight gain or loss. It is very common for people experiencing depression to lose interest in the activities and hobbies they used to enjoy or to retreat from relationships with friends and family.
While most people associate moodiness and other mental experiences as signs of depression, MDD also manifests itself physically. Chronic pain, headaches or digestive disorders that can’t be attributed to other illnesses but that persist for long periods of time without responding to treatment can also be signs of depression.
Unfortunately, many people feel that it is a sign of weakness to seek treatment for depression or are ashamed of being depressed and hide their condition from their family and their friends. This is potentially dangerous thinking, however, because if clinical depression is left untreated, it usually worsens significantly.
The signs and symptoms of major depression include the following:
- Persistent sadness
- Lack of interest in activities that were once enjoyed
- Loss of appetite
- Sleep problems
- Unable to concentrate
- Memory problems
- Weight loss
- Weight gain
- Suicidal thoughts
Medical professionals determine a course of treatment for each patient individually, based on their symptoms and medical history. Generally, however, medications designed to treat the condition combined with psychotherapy or “talk” therapy have been found to be most effective in helping patients address their depression.
The first course of treatment for depression is usually medications called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs that act on neurotransmitters in the brain. For persons suffering from mild forms of depression, a family doctor will often prescribe this medication. For this reason, seeking the advice of your family physician as soon as you believe you might be suffering from clinical depression is so important.
People who suffer from major depression usually respond best when they take anti- depression medication and undergo psychotherapy. The medication prescribed will treat the symptoms they are feeling. The treatment will help them learn to cope and deal with things that can aggravate the depression.
Reports show that nearly one-quarter of all people in the hospital for depression have psychotic depression. Psychotic depression not only has the usual symptoms that accompany depression, but the person also has hallucinations or delusions. This means a person with psychotic depression may hear or see things that are not real and/or they have irrational fears and thoughts. Many people who have psychotic depression are very paranoid. They may think that people are putting thoughts into their minds or that their thoughts are being heard by others.
The difference between psychotic depression and other illnesses, such as schizophrenia, where hallucinations and delusions are also symptoms, is that people with psychotic depression know that what they are thinking is not actually true. Often, people who suffer from psychotic depression try to hide it making it quite difficult to diagnose. No one is exactly sure what makes a person have psychotic depression. It is thought that hormones may play a part, especially cortisol. It is also believed that people who have depression or psychotic illnesses in their family history may be more susceptible.
The cause of psychotic depression is not yet identified, but research shows that it is linked to a certain hormone named cortical; which your body produces in large volumes especially when you are stressed out. Unlike other kinds of depression, there are no specific risk factors for the incidence of psychotic depression.
The common symptoms of psychotic depression are anxiety, hypochondria, and agitation. You may have difficulty sleeping and develop insomnia. There are times when you become sedentary. You also tend to have digestion problems, especially constipation. Your cognitive skills are affected greatly to the point of impairment.
Then you start having hallucinations where you start seeing surreal things like flying objects and talking non-living things. You develop delusional thoughts, like paranoia and other unreasonable fears.
Here are some of the symptoms that generally accompany psychotic depression:
- The person may experience a high amount of anxiety.
- The person may be easily agitated.
- The person may seem like a hypochondriac.
- The person may have sleeping problems and/or insomnia.
- The person may become constipated.
- The person may become physically immobile.
- The person’s perception is impaired.
- The person may have hallucinations or delusions.
- The person may be paranoid.
A person who has psychotic depression requires a longer stay in the hospital than someone who is hospitalized for depression who does not suffer from hallucinations or delusions. Close monitoring is required to help an individual through psychotic depression. Treatment generally consists of a combination of medications. Usually, a person will be given an antipsychotic medication and a tricyclic antidepressant. Individuals who have bipolar may also be given the drug lithium.
With treatment, a person can recover from psychotic depression. However, it is important that the person continue to have medical follow up. The person should be monitored for signs of depression so that steps can be taken before the individual finds himself or herself dealing with psychotic depression again.
If someone you know is suffering from psychotic depression and you think that he or she is suicidal, you should take it very seriously. Reports show that nearly three-fourths of individuals who commit suicide do things to let the people around them know they were feeling despair. If someone tells you they are thinking about suicide, it is a cry for help. Suicide prevention requires that you be willing to give of yourself and help a person immediately.
Helping someone who has suicidal thoughts is not something you can put off. It should be noted that if someone comes to you and says they are contemplating suicide, you should not criticize the person. The person has come to you because he or she trusts you. If you reject them, tell them they are foolish or you do not take it seriously, they may never reach out for help again. Allow the person to talk about how they feel. Show your concern through your manner and voice. Let the person know that he or she is not alone.
You should suggest professional help to someone who has psychotic depression. If the person refuses to seek help, you should seek outside help and try to protect that person as much as possible from the feeling that you have breached his or her privacy. However, remember that getting help is the most important thing you can do for someone who is suicidal.
Seeing flying purple elephants, dead people or talking objects are some of the side effects of psychotic depression. Entertaining, as it may seem, having psychotic depression is a very serious condition. It is a type of depression accompanied by delusions, irrational thoughts and fears and hallucinations during which you see and hear non-existent things. However, there are other types of depression that are accompanied by hallucinations. The difference is that people with psychotic depression know that their thoughts are not true.
When you are being treated for psychotic depression, it may require a long hospital stay. You will have to undergo close check-ups and follow-ups with a mental health care professional.
Antidepressant drugs alone are not enough to treat this kind of depression. Usually, a combination of antipsychotic medications and tricyclic antidepressants work best. For cases of bipolar disorder, lithium is added to the drugs to attain optimal results.
Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is often the last resort, used to treat extreme cases. Although this kind of therapy has good results, it is never used without due consideration. The whole treatment process should be administered and done by a trained professional, usually a psychiatrist.
It usually takes for up to a year for a psychotic depressive patient to recover. The psychotic symptoms may not return after you are treated, but you can still have some visitations from symptoms of depression. That’s why it is very important to have regular check-ups even after treatment and continued medication for depression if your doctor advises you to do so.
Postpartum depression is a condition that affects millions of women. Many people refer to this often dangerous and debilitating disease as the baby blues. Basically, it involves a period of depression that sets in after childbirth.
Any woman who has ever given birth knows what a life-changing experience it is, and it often comes with a wide range of feelings and emotions. Given the hormonal changes that occur at this time, it’s easy to see why there are often problems after the child is born.
Many women will experience some type of depression after childbirth. Thoughts of how their life has changed and worries about the child’s health are often the cause, especially if it is the first child. In many cases, these feelings will subside after a couple of weeks, once the routine of parenting sets in. It’s usually not considered postpartum depression unless the symptoms continue for longer than two or three weeks.
If things seem like they are not getting back to normal after this period of time, there are signs to watch for that may indicate the existence of a problem. The first major symptom you should look for is when the feelings of depression actually get worse instead of better over time. This should be the first indication that something is wrong.
Some of the more common symptoms of postpartum depression include a lack of interest in daily activities, constant lack of energy or oversleeping, and a change in appetite. This can show up as not wanting to eat or overeating. Unusual feelings of sadness and hopelessness, or crying for no apparent reason are other signs to note.
Besides the usual depressed mood and fatigue, symptoms specific to postpartum depression include:
- Feelings of numbness. Not feeling the range of emotions that come with having a baby is a red flag. Having neither joy or elation, sadness or baby blues is abnormal and should be seen as a sign of a bigger problem.
- A lack of interest in the baby. It is hard to imagine that a new mother would have no interest in her newborn baby, but a lack of interest in anything is a hallmark sign of depression. The new mom with postpartum depression may feel inadequate to care for the baby, leading to disinterest.
- Excessive concern for the baby. On the opposite spectrum, a depressed mother may be overly worried or obsessively-compulsive about raising the new baby. This may include not letting friends or family near the child.
- Severe mood swings. Women with postpartum depression often have swings of emotion greater than the usual experience of women during stressful times. If a friend or family member is affected by such swings, they should be considered severe.
It may be possible to predict postpartum depression in some women, as there are certain risk factors associated with the disorder. These may include:
- A history of depression. A tendency to have depressive episodes, including after having a baby, raises the risk of it reoccurring during the first year after birth.
- A history of severe premenstrual syndrome. Episodes of severe PMS may signal that a woman’s body is unable to effectively deal with large shifts of hormonal adjustments. These hormonal changes are thought to contribute to postpartum depression.
- A particularly stressful pregnancy. A troubled pregnancy, including an early delivery or complications, may create an even more stressful environment for the new mother once she returns home to care for her baby.
- Marriage or pregnancy issues. Marriage trouble, or an unsupportive spouse, may contribute to stress after the birth of a new baby. Also, having an unplanned or unwanted pregnancy is a risk factor for postpartum depression.
In some cases, the symptoms of postpartum depression can be much more dangerous. Some women exhibit the desire to harm themselves, and/or their children. There have been cases of postpartum depression so severe that women have committed suicide, and even killed their own children. For this reason, it’s extremely important to be aware of the warning signs and pay close attention to them. Many of these women were not violent or aggressive people normally, but the depression became so bad that they thought they had no other option.
If you notice the presence of one or more of these signs after about two weeks, chances are it’s not going to get better on its own. If this is the case, consult a doctor as soon as possible. If you are diagnosed with postpartum depression, your doctor can give you advice on the various treatment options available. This will depend on a number of factors, including the severity of the symptoms. Postpartum depression is treated in much the same way as other types of depression. The most common treatments are medications and therapy.
There are things a woman can do to combat this condition before it becomes an issue. If possible, taking short breaks from the baby can be helpful in allowing you to sort through the flood of thoughts and emotions you are experiencing. It’s not possible in all cases, but having help during the early stages of motherhood can prevent you from feeling overwhelmed as well. The most important thing is to seek treatment as soon as you recognize a problem.
Postpartum depression (PPD) is often referred to as the “baby blues” and it is not understood by the majority of society, least of all the new mother! More than 50 percent of women who give birth experience this form of depression to some degree. The length of time that postpartum depression lasts can vary from a few weeks to months or longer. A woman’s body is going through immense hormonal changes and this may one of the factors that initiates postpartum depression. Add to this, the new mother is sleep deprived, the baby is crying and requires what seems like non-stop attention, and normal reasoning can be thrown right out the window. Usually the new mother’s body rebounds, the hormones level out, the routines are figured out and everyone is smiling and hopefully sleeping again.
There are some new mothers and even mothers who have had more than one child who do not follow this pattern, and they will experience a severe form of postpartum depression. Along with the normal new mother experiences, the new mother will also experience anxiety, insomnia, and irritability along with difficulty concentrating and a deep, overwhelming sadness that she can’t seem to explain. Of course, this will magnify all the other symptoms over again and she is now in a horrible cycle of depression. Other factors that contribute to this form of depression include a lack of family support, a possible history of depression either in herself or other members of her family and negative life experiences. The new mother will respond well if she takes antidepressants, which will help balance those hormones once again.
Along with mild to moderate forms of postpartum depression, approximately one percent of women will experience postpartum psychosis which, as the name suggests, is depression with psychotic tendencies. Women diagnosed with a bipolar disorder or schizophrenia have a risk for this type of postpartum depression. This type of postpartum depression is what most people hear about in the news and receives the greatest attention. Women who suffer from this form of depression are more likely to cause harm to their children and/or themselves because they have hallucinations that their child/children are evil in some manner and they are trying to save them. Prompt treatment is imperative in these situations.
Coping strategies for the new mother dealing with postpartum depression:
- Ask for help in cooking, cleaning – don’t be afraid to get help so you can spend time with your baby.
- When your baby is sleeping don’t stay up and read; you lie down also and get some much needed and deserved rest.
- Expectations that you must do everything now – throw that out the window.
- Have someone watch your baby and you take some time for yourself or with someone special
- If you are on medications that do not allow you to breastfeed, remember that if you don’t take care of yourself, you will not be able to take care of your baby.
When your baby is sleeping through the night, which means you will too, this is the perfect opportunity to begin an exercise program to get your body into shape; this will give your self-esteem a great boost.
There are three phases for the treatment of postpartum depression:
- Acute – the goal is to bring the symptoms into remission
- Remission – symptoms are no longer bothersome
- Continuation – the goal is to stabilize your mood and hormones, aid in recovery, and prepare a long-term plan to prevent repeat occurrences.
Get help as soon as feel the baby blues have lasted too long or are getting worse. There is nothing to be ashamed about and treatment will help you regain control quickly. Do what is best for you and the bond with your new baby. The medications and resources available today have greatly improved. Getting quick and aggressive treatment in the beginning will bring you to a better place, and then it is about maintenance. Make sure you take time for you, eat right, get adequate rest, and don’t undergo too much stress. All these things along with medication and therapy can make the difference on how you enjoy your baby, your life, and most importantly you. Postpartum doesn’t have to take over your life.
It is important to remember that becoming depressed is not a sign of inadequacy or failure, but a physiological reaction in your body caused by the combination of giving birth and raising a child. If you properly understand the risks, causes, and symptoms of the disorder, getting your life back to normal will be much easier than living a life suffering from postpartum depression.
There are countless people across the world who suffer from holiday depression or a more depressed mood during the winter months. While depression is a very real and serious condition that most often requires medical treatment, many of the afflicted are of the mindset that holiday depression is all in the mind. However, others believe that while the holidays are a time of merriment and happy memories, they can also, unfortunately, be a time of sadness and anxiety for a great number of people.
So what exactly causes holiday depression? It truly does vary from person to person when it comes to sadness and depression-related issues. Generally, when it comes to the causes of depression during the holidays, those suffering normally are experiencing any one or combination of the following symptoms.
They could be seriously stressed out from having to deal with things like shopping for Christmas gifts, planning family gatherings and other holiday festivities. These potential stressors can cause fatigue, which often ends up increasing a person’s stress level.
When someone has very unrealistic expectations of how the holidays can be, it can bring about holiday depression when things do not turn out that way. For instance, say you have been counting on a loved one you have not seen in some time. If something should come up and prevent them from being with you at what should be a joyous time, it would certainly bring about feelings of sadness and loneliness.
The over-commercialization of the holidays is another common cause of holiday depression. Many believe that the holidays should be about enjoying the simple things in life and the loved ones around you. It is very hard to balance and deal with things like the media that make it seem like the only way to really enjoy the holidays is to spend huge amounts of money on gifts, decorations and other material items that are only useable once a year.
Many suffering from holiday depression give into the over-commercialization. This can lead to bad financial situations. Poor spending habits around the holidays can lead to excessive stress and anxiety when it comes to figuring out how to pay for everything. In addition, overspending during the holiday season can lead many to not being able to afford to travel home to be with friends and family. This may cause them to experience a real feeling of isolation.
What can you do to help cope with holiday depression? There are a great many things that can help ease the potential causes for depression that arise during the holidays. First of all, you should not take on more tasks than you can realistically handle. Let your friends and family help plan holiday get-togethers. Split up the holiday shopping duties with your spouse. Little things like this can really lessen the chances of the onset of holiday depression.
Other things you can do to avoid a bout of depression during the holidays include volunteering your time to help those less fortunate. Taking some time out to relax and enjoy what is going on around you without having high expectations is another good relaxation technique.
Whether or not you choose to believe that holiday depression is a real condition, it is important to take into account the potential stressors that can come up during the holidays. This way, you can relieve them. This will make things better for yourself and all those around you during the holiday season. It will make your holidays truly enjoyable, and you can avoid going through holiday depression.
Many people have never heard of seasonal depression. Seasonal depression is a depression that strikes a person at roughly the same time each year. Most people with seasonal depression find that they have bouts of depression during the fall and winter. This is known as winter depression. Seasonal depression can occur in the spring and summer, although it is rare. This form of seasonal depression is known as summer depression.
People who suffer from seasonal depression exhibit the usual symptoms of depression as follows:
- Persistent sadness
- Lack of interest in activities that were once enjoyed
- Loss of appetite
- Sleep problems
- Unable to concentrate
- Memory problems
- Weight loss
- Weight gain
- Suicidal thoughts
People who suffer from seasonal depression in the winter may have the following symptoms:
- Carbohydrate cravings
- Increased appetite
- Weight gain
People who suffer from seasonal depression in the summer may have the following symptoms:
- Decrease in appetite
- Weight loss
- Insomnia or sleep problems
It is believed that approximately five percent of Americans suffer from seasonal depression. Seasonal depression is more common in women between the ages of 20-50. However, seasonal depression can affect anyone, even children.
It appears that seasonal depression is more likely to occur in people who live in high latitudes where the changes of seasons are more extreme. While no one knows for sure what causes seasonal depression, seeing as more people who live in high altitudes have it, it is believed to be a result of changes in sunlight.
Light therapy often works for those who have seasonal depression. Light therapy, or phototherapy, involves sitting in front of a light for an extended amount of time each day. Light therapy is best done in the mornings as evening light therapy treatments may cause insomnia. If light therapy and spending more time outdoors does not help, anti-depression medication may be given.
If you think you have seasonal depression, talk with your doctor to rule out other forms of depression. Here are some steps you can take to prevent and/or help seasonal depression once you have been diagnosed:
- Spend more time outdoors, even if it is cloudy.
- Start your light therapy in the early fall.
- Eat properly and get enough minerals and vitamins.
- Try to exercise at least three times per week.
- Try to socialize during the fall and winter.
- Seek professional help if you feel your seasonal depression coming back.
If you have seasonal depression and thoughts of suicide, seek medical help immediately.
Depression in the Elderly
Depression is a biologically based illness just like diabetes or high blood pressure, with real physical consequences. In recognition of this, there is a growing movement of mental health practitioners and primary care physicians teaming up to identify medical patients in need of mental health treatment and to offer such treatment in the physician’s office.
In most states, insurance companies are now required to cover the costs of treating biologically based mental health disorders like depression, the same as they would cover treatment for other physical illness.
Depression in the elderly leads to poorer health and slower recovery from physical illness. It also leads to increased death rates from other illnesses, increased physical pain, higher health care costs and lower quality of life.
The suicide rate among those age 65 and older is higher than in any other age group. According to the Centers for Disease Control, in those 85 and older it is twice the national average. This affects mostly men, whose suicide risk increases as they age. Women’s risk for suicide peaks at middle age and then declines.
Stigma has prevented elderly people who are depressed from seeking help for depression. Because of the attitudes of the culture they grew up in, it is often difficult for some elderly people to believe that depression is not a sign of weakness or a reason for shame. Only 1/3 of older persons who need mental health services actually receive them.
Depression often shows up in the elderly as:
- memory loss
- chronic pain
- vague physical symptoms and medical complaints
- irritability and restlessness
- feeling like one is going to die
- increased use of medical services
The following section may be reasons why the elderly become depressed. Each person is different so there may be different reasons. The following is just a brief list.
- Body Changes: Self-image is important to most people. As we age, we begin to lose our hair, our teeth may fall out, and we may get wrinkles. However, you can try to uplift your loved one by a special beauty salon treatment. Or, you can apply makeup to your loved one, shave your male loved one, anything that will help make them feel good about themselves.
- Loss of Family & Friends: It is inevitable that when we age, there comes a possibility of losing those close to us. Many of our loved ones may have experienced losing close friends and family. I have heard of loved ones who only have a son or daughter alive, while others have no living relatives.
- Loneliness: Loved ones may feel lonely because they do not have as many family and friends as they once had in the past. This can be especially seen in nursing home residents. This worsens when a resident does not receive any visitors. This is why it is so very important to pay attention to our loved ones.
- Illness: Our loved one may have received a notice of an illness they have. Learning that we have Alzheimer’s, for example, can be very difficult. Be supportive and reassure your loved one that you will be there for them.
Elderly patients with depression respond as well to medication as the general population. Because of possible drug interactions, care must be taken in prescribing. Treating the depression, whether through drugs or psychotherapy is critical because of all of the medical complications of depression, including suicide.
Various forms of psychotherapy are also proven to be effective with the elderly including:
- cognitive-behavioral therapy
- brief therapy
- group therapy
- and psychodynamic psychotherapies
- Seek out a practitioner who has experience with the elderly.
Caregiver support groups and services, as well as faith-based peer support groups, have been proven to be effective with those who are caregiving family members or experiencing loss. Results are improved caregiver mental and physical health including increased ability to manage stress and lower blood pressure. Attendance at caregiver support groups is associated with enabling family caregivers to delay placing their loved ones in nursing homes by more than a year.
Clinical depression is not “normal” in any age group. It has serious physical, financial, emotional and quality of life implications. Just as a broken leg, depression can and should be treated at any age.
Treatment of Depression
There are several different types of depression medication on the market. The best way to treat depression is with a combination of depression medication and psychotherapy. The role of medication is not to “cure” the depression but to help control the symptoms. A person seeking treatment can then use the talk therapy as a way to learn strategies to combat the disorder.
Depression is a lot more than feeling sad, going through a rough time, or feeling “blue”. To be diagnosed with depression, the individual must have been experiencing symptoms for a minimum of two weeks. The condition must be diagnosed by a health care professional, who will determine whether and which depression medication should be used to treat it. The symptoms must be affecting the individual to the extent that he or she is finding day-to-day living difficult.
Depression can be mild to severe. Some people have an episode of depression at a given time and then may not experience symptoms for years. Other people experience symptoms for an extended period of time, perhaps years.
A physician will prescribe a depression medication based on the individual’s symptoms. It is important to understand that there will not be an immediate relief of symptoms. The person taking the depression medication may not know for approximately six weeks how well the particular medication is working to relieve the symptoms of depression. It may take a while to find out which medication is best.
It is hard to come up with effective depression drugs since it is rooted in a variety of causes. A number of physiological and social/environmental factors collectively cause depression, making it is hard to come up with a single drug that can cure all cases. Still, some depression drugs have been found effective in treating a large number of similar cases of depression.
Drugs used for depression are collectively called antidepressants. Appearing in the late 1950s, these drugs are now of three main types: tricyclic drugs, elective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, and Monoamine oxidase inhibitors.
Depression is treated by a combination of various techniques and medications including antidepressant drugs, electroshock therapy (ECT), diet therapy, and exercise and relaxation techniques. Depression medications or antidepressants are still the most widely used form of treatment for depression because they provide quick relief from symptoms.
Depression medications can be divided into three main types: Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors, Tricyclic Antidepressants, and Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors. More recently, Serotonin and Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors have also been included into the clinically prescribed categories of antidepressants.
Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors or SSRIs
Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, or SSRIs, came in use as depression medications in the late 1980s. These antidepressants work by blocking specific sites (receptors) on nerve cells that reabsorb (reuptake) the neurotransmitter serotonin, the low supply of which induces depressive symptoms. By blocking these receptors selectively, SSRIs cause a longer availability of serotonin in the brain, thereby relieving depression. While these are considered safer than other types of antidepressants like MAOIs and TCAs.
SSRI’s are sold under the brand names Zoloft, Celexa, Prozac, Paxil, Luvox, Bupropion and others. This medication affects the brain’s neurotransmitters, such as dopamine. The advantage of prescribing an SSRI medication is that this type tends to have fewer side effects than either the tricyclics or the monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), which are older forms of depression medication and may not be a physician’s first choice.
All these reuptake inhibitors alleviate the symptoms of depression by inhibiting the reuptake of certain neurotransmitters, especially of serotonin and norepinephrine. Bupropion (sold as Wellbutrin) is another one of the SSRIs. It acts by blocking the reuptake of dopamine and norepinephrine. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors generally have fewer side effects than other types of antidepressants and hence are more popular prescription for depression.
It is very important for patients to take their medication as prescribed. Some people start feeling better and assume that they don’t need to keep on taking the medication and they stop. Other patients become discouraged at the amount of time it seems to be taking to get relief and go off their medication. Both of these courses of action are ill-advised, to say the least.
One of the more common side effects of SSRI medications is dry mouth. It may be helpful to drink plenty of fluids, chew sugarless gum, and brush your teeth daily. Another side effect is constipation, and increasing the amount of fiber in the diet should help to combat this problem. Some patients feel drowsy or dizzy while taking the medication. If drowsiness is a problem, it is best to avoid driving or operating heavy equipment.
Headaches and nausea can also be a problem. These side effects are generally short-lived. Some people report feeling nervous or having difficulty falling asleep. Nervousness is usually a temporary problem. People who experience sleep disruptions (waking up during the night) or have trouble getting to sleep may find that changing the time of day they take their medication (i.e. take it earlier in the evening) helpful.
Tricyclic Drugs (TCAs)
These drugs are commonly available as Amitriptyline and Imipramine. They are used for treating depression and other disorders like panic, obsessive-compulsive, post-traumatic stress, and chronic pain.
Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs)
MAOIs can be prescribed for any type of depression, especially for those cases where certain symptoms like anxiety, overeating, and excessive need of sleeping are present. Three types of Monoamine oxidase inhibitors are prescribed for depression: (1) Phenelzine, sold as Nardil, (2) Isocarboxazid and Tranylcypromine sold as Parnate, and (3) Moclobemide.
Tricyclic Antidepressants (TCAs)
Some of the earliest depression medications, still widely used for treating depressive disorders, are the Tricyclic Antidepressants, or TCAs. These drugs act by making the anti-depressant neurotransmitters (serotonin and norepinephrine) stay longer in the brain by preventing them from reabsorbing into nerve cells.
Lately, TCAs have come under serious criticism by health professionals due to the many side effects. A serious adverse effect of TCAs has been the increased suicidal tendency in users. Hence, these are not the first choice of psychiatrists today to prescribe for patients of depression.
Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs)
Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors, or MAOIs, relieve depressive symptoms by blocking the activity of monoamine oxidase, an enzyme-cum-neurotransmitter that burns up monoamines (serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine), which results in the depletion of these natural antidepressant chemicals.
By preventing monoamine oxidase from destroying these neurotransmitters, MAOIs allow a greater supply of monoamines to the brain, providing relief from depression. The main problem with MAOIs is that they also raise blood pressure, posing the risk of bursting blood vessels in the brain. Also, people taking MAOIs are expected to practice restraint in the diet with cheese, cream, liver, some forms of meat, and sausage, etc.
Serotonin and Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs)
Serotonin and Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors, or SNRIs, are a newer type of depression medications. They are very similar to SSRIs except that they also prevent the reuptake of norepinephrine in addition to that of serotonin. The side effects of SNRIs are similar to SSRIs, although users of SNRIs may also experience tremors, gas, blurred or double vision and any other unusual effects.
Efficacy of Depression Drugs & Relapse
So far, studies reveal that antidepressants are effective in treating depression in one third of people who take them. In one third of cases, partial success is reported, and in the same number of people, antidepressants fail to bring about any relief. On the other hand, cognitive therapy for depression is reported to be successful in 70 % cases, curbing depression for good.
While antidepressants bring relief for some time, they are not the ultimate cure for depression. To do away with depression altogether, the patient must learn ways to avoid depression in the first place rather than depending on depression drugs which, when stopped, lead to a relapse.
St. John’s Wort can be used to treat depression. The compound contained in the plant responsible for relieving symptoms of depression is called hyperforin. The hyperforin works by increasing the levels of the brain’s neurotransmitters, thereby improving mood and bringing about a feeling of emotional balance.
Even with the risk of side effects, it is very important for people with depression to seek treatment and get on the right medication to start feeling better soon.