Commonly categorized as depression, “depressive disorders” vary in both length and triggers. Keep in mind that occasionally feeling blue or sad is normal. When that sadness begins to interfere with daily life, and causes you and your loved ones pain, it is time to seek help for depression.
Depressive disorders are a common but serious line of illnesses. Many people who suffer don’t seek treatment. It is important to know that treatment will provide the relief needed to live a happy and productive life. Treatment can include medication, psychotherapy or both. If you are diagnosed with a depressive disorder, you have to seek treatment to get better. You cannot treat it on your own.
There are several types of depressive disorders. Some are more common than others. Most people suffer from either major depression or persistent depressive disorder. Yet others are diagnosed with more specific depressive disorders including psychotic depression, postpartum depression, seasonal affective disorder and bipolar disorder.
Depressive disorders are believed to be caused by a combination of factors. Scientists have found that neurotransmitters, the chemicals used by brain cells to communicate, are out of balance in people dealing with depression. In addition, MRI’s of these people reveal a brain that looks slightly different than normal. Specifically, the parts of the brain that control mood, thinking, sleep, appetite and behavior can look slightly abnormal. An MRI, however, cannot be used to diagnose depression.
Some types of depression run in families. Scientists have found genetic links. In some cases, however, there is no familial history of depression. Scientists are still studying the genetic links to get a better picture of why and how it passes from one generation to another.
As you may guess, a person’s personal environment can also trigger depression. Events or trauma in a person’s life, like abuse or a loss of a family member can put a person into a depressive state.
Signs & Symptoms
Catching depression early is key to treating the long-term symptoms. There is no cure but there are extremely effective treatments available for the illness. If you suspect that you or someone you love is suffering from depression, watch for the following signs and seek help for this depression.
- Persistent sad, anxious or empty feelings
- Hopelessness and pessimism
- Guilt, worthlessness and helplessness
- Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities
- Decreased energy level
- Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
- Appetite or weight changes
- Restlessness and irritability
Depression that interferes with work, sleep, study, eating and the ability to enjoy life can occur only once or there can be several episodes over a lifetime.
Persistent Depressive Disorder
- Depression that lasts more than 2 years
- Episodes might be minor or major depression
- Severe depression mixed with psychosis
- Psychosis includes delusions and hallucinations
- Hormonal and physical changes felt by a new mother
- Overwhelmed feeling that is paralyzing
- 10 to 15% of mothers experience Postpartum Depression
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
- Depression during the winter months
- Depression lifts or goes away during the spring and summer
- Cycling mood changes
- Periods of drastic depression
- See full definition by clicking here
Who is at Risk?
Depression is one of the most common mental health illnesses in the world. Almost anyone is at risk. However, there are specific groups of people who have a higher risk than the general population. These groups include:
- People who have a history of other mental health disorders (ex: anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder)
- People who abuse alcohol or drugs
- People with low self-esteem or who are self-critical
- People with chronic illnesses like cancer, diabetes or heart disease
- People who have endured stressful events (ex: loss of a loved one, sexual abuse)
- People who have a family member with depression
There are several types of medication that doctors can prescribe to help people dealing with depression. These medications are known as antidepressants. They improve the function of the brain chemicals serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine – all of which regulate mood. Although antidepressants are extremely effective, scientists are still studying how and why that is the case.
There are several subtypes of antidepressants that doctors can prescribe depending on the type and severity of the illness. Serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, are quite common, have few side effects and are easily adjusted to rid the patient of any side effects that might occur. Tricyclic is a more powerful category of drug that is not used as often because of its potential side effects. But it is still the most effective drug for some people suffering from depression. It is not recommended for people with pre-existing heart conditions. It can cause dizziness, dry mouth and weight gain. Lastly, Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs) are especially affective in “atypical” cases of depression. Depression that causes a client to have an increase in appetite and to sleep more do well on this type of drug. It can help with feelings of anxiousness or panic. But this is a sensitive drug. Clients taking MAOIs must stay away from foods that contain tyramine (ex: cheese and red wine) and must avoid certain types of birth control, pain relievers, cold and allergy medications and herbal supplements.
Psychotherapy can help alleviate some of the symptoms of depression, too. In fact, doctors often prescribe a mixture of psychotherapy and medication to help those living with depression lead happy, healthy lives.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy is the most common form of psychotherapy used with clients who suffer from depression. This type of therapy helps clients reframe their negative thoughts and instead, create positive and realistic thoughts instead. In addition, it teaches clients to identify factors that contribute to their depression so that they may be conscious of them and avoid them.
Interpersonal Therapy (IPT) is used less often but can help clients with relationship issues. IPT can help clients understand and work through troubled relationships that may be causing depression.
If you suspect that you are suffering from depression, call Horizon today at (434) 477-5000.