Everyone gets blue now and then in response to life’s disappointments, but when feelings such as sadness, loneliness, exhaustion, hopelessness, and irritability persist and prevent a person from functioning normally, they may be suffering from depression. Depression can be devastating to all areas of a person’s everyday life, affecting their relationships with family and friends, impeding their ability to work or go to school, and even disrupting their normal eating and sleeping patterns. If left untreated, symptoms can last for weeks, months, or even years, causing needless pain and suffering, not only to the person who is depressed, but also to those who care about them. Untreated, depression can even lead to suicide. Depression can afflict anyone, regardless of age, race, class, or gender. Nearly 20 million Americans suffer from depression each year, but only one out of ten seeks out and receives adequate treatment, even though the great majority of people with depression—including those whose illness is extremely severe—can be helped to full recovery.
Types of Depression
Depressive disorders come in different forms, just as in the case of many other illnesses. Two of the most common depressive disorders—major depressive disorder and dysthymia—are detailed below.
- Major Depressive Disorder (often referred to as clinical depression) is manifested by a combination of symptoms that severely interfere with the ability to work, sleep, eat, and enjoy once pleasurable activities. A diagnosis of major depressive disorder is made if an individual has five or more of the depression symptoms listed below, and at least one of the first two, during the same two-week period. Disabling episodes of major depression affect 15% of Americans and can occur one or more times in a person’s lifetime.
- Dysthymia (sometimes called minor or chronic depression) does not strike in episodes like major depression; rather it is characterized by less intense, more persistent symptoms that may last for years (at least two years in adults, and at least one year in children or adolescents). Typically, there are no disturbances in appetite or sexual drive. Severe agitation, sedentary behavior, and suicidal thoughts are also not usually present in dysthymia. While the symptoms of dysthymia are not as disabling as those for major depression, people who suffer from this depressive disorder do experience decreased energy, general negativity, and an overall sense of dissatisfaction and hopelessness that pervades most, if not all, areas of their life. Many people with dysthymia also experience major depressive episodes; in such cases, the condition is known as double depression. Almost 10 million Americans suffer from dysthymia each year.
While major depressive disorder and dysthymia are considered the two most common depressive disorders, there are other types of depression, including adjustment disorder, complicated grief, and seasonal affective disorder.
Symptoms of Depression
Not everyone who is depressed experiences every symptom listed below. The severity of symptoms also varies with individuals. A person’s diagnosis depends on the number of symptoms they have, how strong those symptoms are, and how long they last.
- Persistent sad, anxious, or empty mood.
- Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities that were once enjoyed, even sex.
- Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism.
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness.
- Insomnia, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping.
- Significant change in appetite or body weight.
- Decreased energy, fatigue, feeling “slowed down.”
- Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide; suicide attempts.
- Restlessness, irritability.
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions.
- Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders, and chronic pain.
Causes of Depression
There are many possible factors that can contribute to depression. For some people, depression is the result of a combination of factors, while for others, a single cause can be responsible for the onset of depression. Common contributing factors include the following:
- Stressful Life Events
- Severe or Chronic Illness
- Medication Side-Effects
- Biological Factors
- Co-Occurrence of Depression and Anxiety
- Substance Abuse and Addictions
- Family History
Exclusive Treatment for Depression
The sooner depression is treated, the sooner recovery can begin. The American Psychiatric Association reports that “80% to 90% of all people with depression-even those with the severest cases-improve once they receive appropriate treatment.” Basic ways to treat depression include therapy, medication, and a combination of the two.
There are therapists who are especially skilled at helping people who are suffering from depression. Therapy provides a safe, comforting, and confidential setting in which to receive the kind of help and understanding that can best assist in first relieving, then understanding, and finally recovering from the effects of depression. It can take as few as one to two weeks for people to begin to receive noticeable relief from their symptoms with therapy.
Antidepressant medication is often the first step in treating cases of depression because of the relatively quick relief it can bring to physical symptoms. Once medication treatment begins, minor improvement is usually seen in one to two weeks and the full effect of relief becomes evident approximately three to four weeks later.
Combination of Therapy and Medication
In some cases, neither therapy alone nor medication alone may treat depression as quickly or thoroughly as the patient or the therapist would like. For these cases, both types of treatment used together can have very successful results. For those who suffer from chronic depression, combination therapy is especially helpful in dealing with the condition and how it affects their lives.
If you or a loved one are having a difficult time with alcohol, drugs, or behavior disorders, please give us a call at 877.235.6131. Our treatment specialists are available to discuss your concerns and answer your questions 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
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