Are you lacking energy and motivation? Having a hard time getting out of bed in the morning? Getting angry over the smallest things? These feelings can sneak up on us until one day we realize that it has been a long-time since we experienced anything close to happiness or joy. What a miserable way to feel! Depressive symptoms, at times, can get better on their own. Sometimes our circumstances improve, the weather may improve, we might start getting more sleep…and sometimes they don’t get better or it takes a long time. Research shows that talk therapy can help reduce depression by offering a safe place to share your feelings and frustrations. Therapy can also teach you tools that you can use to help battle the depression when you feel it smothering you. Read more about depression below or call for a free consultation, 608-628-7147.
What is Depression?
Depression is a common but serious condition that can involve feelings of sadness, lack of energy or motivation, or general unhappiness. Everyone occasionally feels this way but if it doesn’t pass in a few days and it interferes with daily life then it may by more serious.
Types of Depression:
Major Depressive Disorder is characterized by a combination of symptoms that interfere with a person’s ability to work, sleep, study, eat, and enjoy once pleasurable activities. Major depression is disabling and prevents a person from functioning normally. Some people may experience only a single episode within their lifetime, but more often a person may have multiple episodes.
Dysthymia, is characterized by long-term (2 years or longer) symptoms that may not be severe enough to disable a person but can prevent normal functioning or feeling well. People with dysthymia may also experience one or more episodes of major depression during their lifetimes.
Minor depression is characterized by having symptoms for 2 weeks or longer that do not meet full criteria for major depression. Without treatment, people with minor depression are at high risk for developing major depressive disorder.
Postpartum depression, which is much more serious than the “baby blues” that many women experience after giving birth, when hormonal and physical changes and the new responsibility of caring for a newborn can be overwhelming. It is estimated that 10 to 15 percent of women experience postpartum depression after giving birth.
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which is characterized by the onset of depression during the winter months, when there is less natural sunlight. The depression generally lifts during spring and summer. SAD may be effectively treated with light therapy, but nearly half of those with SAD do not get better with light therapy alone.
Signs & Symptoms of Depression
No two people experience depression in the same exact way. The severity, frequency, and duration of symptoms vary. Some signs and symptoms may include:
· Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings
· Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
· Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
· Irritability, restlessness
· Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
· Fatigue and decreased energy
· Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
· Overeating, or appetite loss
· Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
· Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment.
Women—Depression is more common among women than among men. Biological, life cycle, hormonal, and psychosocial factors that women experience may be linked to women’s higher depression rate. Researchers have shown that hormones directly affect the brain chemistry that controls emotions and mood (postpartum depression, severe premenstrual syndrome (PMS) called premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), and menopause all might increase depression in women). Many women also face the additional stresses of work and home responsibilities, caring for children and aging parents, abuse, poverty, and relationship strains. It is still unclear, though, why some women faced with enormous challenges develop depression, while others with similar challenges do not.
Men—Men often experience depression differently than women. While women with depression are more likely to have feelings of sadness, worthlessness, and excessive guilt, men are more likely to be very tired, irritable, lose interest in once pleasurable activities, and have difficulty sleeping. Men may be more likely than women to turn to alcohol or drugs when they are depressed and may become frustrated, discouraged, irritable, angry, and sometimes abusive. Some men throw themselves into their work to avoid talking about their depression with family or friends, or behave recklessly.
Teens—According to the National Institute of Mental Health, a depressed teen will experience the same symptoms of depression as adults (profound feelings of unhappiness, loss of interest in pleasurable activities, relentless fatigue, etc.), but those symptoms may look different than what an adult experiences and it can be hard distinguish from normal teenage behavior. Older children and teens may sulk, get into trouble at school, be negitive or grouchy, or feel misunderstood. Between the ages of 12-15, depression triples in girls. Depression peeks around age 16 and 1:5 teens experience depression. These numbers are higher for LGBTQ children & teens. Depression in adolescence frequently co-occurs with other disorders such as anxiety, eating disorders, or substance abuse.
Children—may complain of feeling sick, refuse to go to school, cling to a parents or caregiver, or worry excessively that a parent may die.
Older Adults—Depression is not a normal part of aging. Studies show that most seniors feel satisfied with their lives, despite having more illnesses or physical problems. However, when older adults do have depression, it may be overlooked because seniors may show different, less obvious symptoms. They may be less likely to experience or admit to feelings of sadness or grief. Sometimes it can be difficult to distinguish grief from major depression. Grief after loss of a loved one is a normal reaction to the loss and generally does not require professional mental health treatment. However, grief that is complicated and lasts for a very long time following a loss may require treatment. Older adults also may have more medical conditions such as heart disease, stroke, or cancer, which may cause depressive symptoms. Or they may be taking medications with side effects that contribute to depression. Most older adults with depression improve when they receive treatment with an antidepressant, psychotherapy, or a combination of both.
Causes of Depression
Most likely, depression is caused by a combination of genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors. Depressive illnesses are considered disorders of the brain because it is believed that the chemicals in the brain are out of balance in people with depression. Some types of depression tend to run in families. However, depression can occur in people without family histories of depression too. In addition, trauma, loss of a loved one, a difficult relationship, or any stressful situation may trigger a depressive episode. Other depressive episodes may occur with or without an obvious trigger.
Teens—although doctors aren’t 100% sure, it is thought that the increase in depression among teens is brought about by the increase in hormones & peer pressure. Research has also shown that the increase use of social media and overall screen time has led to an increase in both anxiety and depression in teens.
How I Treat Depression
Depression, even the most severe cases, can be effectively treated. The earlier treatment begins, the more effective it is. The first step to getting appropriate treatment is to visit a doctor or therapist. If the doctor can find no medical condition that may be causing the depression, the next step is a psychological evaluation. A therapist will discuss with you any family history of depression or other mental disorder, and get a complete history of your symptoms. You should discuss when your symptoms started, how long they have lasted, how severe they are, and whether they have occurred before and if so, how they were treated. The therapist may also ask if you are using alcohol or drugs, and if you are thinking about death or suicide. Once diagnosed, a person with depression can be treated in several ways. The most common treatments are psychotherapy and/or medication.
One of the main types of talk therapy—cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)—is effective in treating depression. CBT helps people with depression restructure negative thought patterns. Doing so helps people interpret their environment and interactions with others in a positive and realistic way. It may also help you recognize things that may be contributing to the depression and help you change behaviors that may be making the depression worse.
Sandtray therapy is also used to treat depression. There are often issues that are buried in the subconscious can be hard to reach using traditional talk therapy. Creating your world in the sandtray can often lead to quicker and more lasting results than talk therapy alone.
Call now for a free, 15 minute phone consultation or to book an appointment, 608-628-7147.
Information on this page is from the National Institute of Mental Health.