Depression is very common, and once diagnosed, can be treated with a combination of therapy and medication. It is very common for someone to feel “blue” or down in the dumps. But if these feelings continue for a long period of time, or get progressively worse, professional help is necessary.
This disorder affects someone’s ability to concentrate or focus on daily tasks, appetite, sleep patterns, and level of daily activity, and causes feelings of overwhelming sadness. In severe cases, depression causes feelings of dejection, hopelessness, and, in some cases, suicidal thoughts. If someone doesn’t treat their depression, whether mild or severe, their symptoms can disrupt and destroy lives and relationships.
Therapy helps someone talk about his or her condition, and identify what triggers their depression in order to change behaviors that make it worse. Therapists may take a cognitive or interpersonal approach to treatment, but their goal is always to work with the client to replace negative thoughts and behaviors with positive ones, to develop positive interactions with others, find better ways to cope and solve problems, and regain a sense of satisfaction and control in life.
Medications vary and clients must first meet with a licensed psychiatrist to assess whether this is the best option. Clients will often meet with a therapist prior to making a decision to use medication, so their progress at the cognitive and interpersonal level will be taken into account, as well as lifestyle, medical condition, and any risk associated with harmful side effects. No matter what the diagnosis or treatment plan, each client must be monitored carefully by both the psychologist and psychiatrist, and understand the severe health problems that are caused by someone who abruptly stops taking their medication.
Common forms of depression
- Bipolar Disorder affects the level of energy and oftentimes leads someone to undergo extreme shifts in mood, behavior, and ability to function at a normal level. Also known as manic depressive disorder, it is common for someone suffering from Bipolar Disorder to go from being extremely happy, excited, and motivated to being irritable, sad, and hopeless in a short time. Oftentimes these episodes of “high” and “low” cycle every few hours, or may last for days, weeks, and even months with periods of that person showing “normal” behavior in between. Symptoms of a “manic” episode include an increase in energy, prolonged lack of sleep, and behaving in excess when it comes to shopping, having sex, or self-medicating with alcohol and drugs.
- Major Depressive Disorder can interfere with a person’s ability to eat, sleep, work, concentrate, enjoy activities that were once pleasurable, and in some cases, function at a normal level.
- Dysthymic Disorder is a less severe form of depression that can occur more than once over the course of someone’s life. Symptoms of this disorder can last up to two years or longer if not treated.
- Postpartum Depression often affects new mothers who have one or more major depressive episodes within the first month after giving birth. This temporary and treatable disorder is known to affect between 10 to 15 percent of new mothers.
- Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is often caused by the change in the amount of natural sunlight and is often felt during the winter months. If it is winter, someone may experience symptoms such as feeling less energetic or fatigued, an overwhelming feeling of wanting to be alone, trouble concentrating, an increase in appetite, and the need to sleep. If someone is suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder during the summer, they may experience a decrease in appetite and have trouble sleeping. The most effective treatment is known as light therapy, but therapy and sometimes medication have also proved to be beneficial.
Common signs of depression
- Feeling sad or hopeless for long periods of time
- Withdrawal from friends and family, coinciding with a loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyed
- Significant loss or increase in appetite
- Severe fatigue or lack of energy
- Slow speech
- Problems with memory, concentration, and making decisions
- Thoughts or attempts of suicide, or having a preoccupation with death