What is Depression?
Depression is a rising epidemic in our country that has only recently begun to get the attention it deserves. While many have argued against its validity in the past, our society has finally begun to accept it as a serious medical issue that should never be taken lightly. Depression affects how you feel, think, act, and perceive the world. It is a powerful chemical imbalance in the brain that affects millions of Americans each year. Over 17 million people are diagnosed with major depressive disorder every year in the U.S., with even more that are never diagnosed.
If you believe you are suffering from depression or are beginning to feel down and unhopeful, it is important to begin treatment as soon as possible. Depression is a slippery slope, and if you put it off, it will only continue to progress. The best way to tackle treating your depression is to understand what it is, how it is affecting you, and what the best options for treatment are.
What is Major Depressive Disorder?
Depression doesn’t just come in a single form. There are multiple types that all range in severity. Symptoms of depression are known to gradually progress if left unchecked, which makes it vital to do something about it early if you are concerned. The farther along your case of depression is the more difficult it is to correct. The most serious form of depression is known as Major Depressive Disorder.
Major depressive disorder can develop slowly and without warning. Although it can be triggered by major life changes or chronic illnesses, having a genetic disposition is one of the greatest contributors to this severe form of depression. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, an estimated 17.3 million adults in the United States had at least one major depressive episode, which represents 7.1% of all U.S. adults. Also, the main age group affected are those between 18 and 25.
Persistent depressive disorder, which affects about 16 million adults in the U.S., is what most people associate with the term “depression.” It is not quite as severe as MJD (Major depressive disorder) but is nonetheless important. The symptoms of the persistent depressive disorder include:
- Loss of interest in normally enjoyable activities
- Trouble sleeping
- Avoidance of social activities
- Poor appetite
- Lack of energy
For it to be classified as persistent, these symptoms must last for at least two years. During this time, most who suffer from these symptoms also begin to show early signs of major depression. This is why it is so important to seek help immediately when you begin to experience any of the aforementioned symptoms.
The main difference between these two conditions is the severity of the symptoms. Major Depressive Disorder usually causes people to become completely disconnected from family and friends, demonstrate a complete lack of interest in social or career activities, and will most often have trouble sleeping and eating properly. No one wants their mental state to progress to this point, but even the mildest signs of depression create a slippery slope of denial. This is further evidence of how persistent depression can develop into a much more serious problem.
So, how can you better manage depression?
All hope is never lost. There are many options for those struggling with depression. The key is to understand there is no one miracle solution. Rather, effective treatment requires a combination of tools at your disposal. These tools include:
- Seeing a psychologist and talking about your experience with depression
- Taking care of your body – a healthy mind stems from good well-being
- Maintaining hope
- Being open-minded and working with a doctor
The first step on the journey to wellness is acceptance and compassion for yourself. Now more than ever, our social environment encourages people to be open about their mental health struggles. It can still be difficult to remove contempt for yourself, but understanding you are not alone and that there is real, authentic help available will set you on the right path initially.
Depression is nothing to be ashamed of, and it doesn’t make you weak. This realization can be reassuring for those who have faced criticism from family or friends who don’t understand mental health struggles. Seeking the help of a mental health professional can liberate you and halt the progression to something much more serious. Therapy offers a safe space where you can be open and honest about your thoughts without being judged. Unlike advice offered by friends and family – who despite their good intentions, can’t relate to such complex conditions. The guidance of a therapist is professional and personalized to you. Perhaps most importantly, it is a great deal healthier than commonly given advice like “just go for a run!” or “take this new supplement!”, – all of which are sometimes more harmful than helpful.
Besides, there are some simple ways you can take charge of yourself and start to fight off depression on your own before and during therapy. These include:
- Reducing stress
Studies repeatedly show how those who regularly experience stress are much more likely to develop some form of depression. Over the long term, this can cause your hormone levels to become disrupted and cause a predisposition to depression.
- Get Great Sleep
Studies show that over 80% of people with depression have experienced trouble sleeping. Getting at least 8 hours of sleep every night ensures your brain can recharge and replenish itself, your hormones are being produced and balanced properly, and mood-enhancing chemicals are in good supply.
- Clean Your Room
While this may seem trivial, cleaning your room has been proven to be a great exercise for combating negative feelings and even overcoming procrastination and attention disorders. It helps give you a small yet satisfying sense of accomplishment and control, which is great for overall brain health and proving to yourself you can take control
Which is more effective: Therapy or Medication?
The answer to this question is both.
Although each case of depression differs, therapy has been shown to be effective across the board. Being honest about how you feel with a neutral, professionally trained third-party can help trigger healthier thought patterns. Psychologists have studied thousands of cases of depression and understand how to tackle it in a realistic and healthy manner. There is no judgment, only honest and medically-backed mental therapy.
Medication alone is not as effective in the treatment of depression as it is when coupled with therapy. The medications your psychologist provides are not just for suppressing depressive feelings but are meant to help supplement your efforts. They help balance the chemical makeup of your brain to promote the more positive thoughts you are trying to adopt. However, millions of Americans still go years without being treated. The reasons for this appear to be more related to cost than to faith in the effectiveness of therapy. According to a survey conducted by the American Psychological Association, “87 percent of those polled pointed to lack of insurance coverage as a barrier to seeking treatment, and 81 percent pointed to cost concerns.”
If you are concerned about your depression, don’t let a fear of cost stop you from getting help. There are plenty of free resources and affordable healthcare plans that will help you get the treatment you deserve. Depression is not something to take lightly. Don’t justify your depression or put off getting help. Simply speaking to a therapist once can help you pinpoint what you are going through and get peace of mind knowing you understand what is happening and how to handle it. Remember, there is always hope for recovery