Depression is more than just feeling sad or down. It's a common but serious mood disorder that affects how individuals feel, think, behave, and handle their daily activities. Depression is a disorder with a biological basis which has psychological and social implications. It can impact many different aspects of an individual's life, including their sleep, appetite, and work.
Research shows that approximately 6.7% of adults experience depression in any given year, and about 16.6% of people experience depression at one point in their lives. These are significant numbers and depression is more common than you might think. Typically, depression first arises during teenage years to mid-20s, but it can occur at any age.
There are many different forms of depression, each with its own characteristics, and some types can develop in specific circumstances.
- Major depression involves experiencing depressed mood or loss of interest nearly everyday for most of the day for at least 2 weeks. This makes it very difficult to enjoy life and carry out daily tasks.
- Persistent depressive disorder, also known as dysthymic disorder, is milder but longer lasting, typically lasting for at least 2 years.
- Perinatal depression is depression that occurs during or after pregnancy. Prenatal depression refers to depression during the pregnancy, while postpartum depression refers to depression after the baby is born.
- Seasonal affective disorder is a form of depression that follows a seasonal pattern. The symptoms typically start around late fall or early winter and go away during spring and summer.
Even though depression may happen only once in a person's lifetime, it typically has multiple episodes. These episodes involve numerous symptoms that persist through most of the day, almost every day. These symptoms include:
- Feelings of sadness, emptiness, and hopelessness
- Crying often
- Easily being angered, irritated, and frustrated, even over small things
- Prolonged periods of having no motivation or interest in any activities, even the ones you once enjoyed
- Changes in appetite, often resulting in weight fluctuations
- Having trouble sleeping, either sleeping too much or not enough
- Experiencing feelings of worthlessness or guilt
- Feeling anxious, restless, and agitated
- Experiencing slower thinking, speaking, or body movements
- Constant dwelling on past failures and blaming yourself for everything
- Struggling with thinking, decision-making, concentration, and memory
- Having low energy to the point where even small tasks require lots of effort
- Avoiding social interactions
- recurring thoughts of self-harm and suicide
- Experiencing unexplained physical problems like headaches
The good news is that depression can be treated, even in severe cases, and the sooner the treatment begins, the more effective it can be. There are many different ways that can help treat depression such as therapy, medication, lifestyle changes, joining a support group, and even communicating with supportive and trusted loved ones.
The most common treatment approaches for depression are medication, psychotherapy, or a combination of both.
Antidepressant medications are commonly used for treating depression. They work by affecting chemicals in the brain that are involved in mood regulation. They can take several weeks to work, and during this time, improvements with sleep, appetite, and concentration may occur before mood lifts.
Sometimes, it may take some trial and error to find the right medication and dosage that works best for a person. In some cases, when depression doesn't respond well to traditional medications, other options such as intranasal esketamine or combining different types of medication may be considered. It's very important to work closely with a healthcare provider to determine the best medication approach.
Psychotherapy or counselling is another effective and common treatment for depression. It involves working with a skilled therapist to learn new ways of thinking, behaving, decision-making, and addressing habits that contrite to your depression.
Evidence based therapies like cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and interpersonal therapy (IPT) are commonly used. The duration of treatment can vary depending on the severity of the depression. Many individuals experience significant improvements within 10 to 15 therapy sessions.
Brain Stimulation Therapies
Brain stimulation therapies may be considered if medication and psychotherapy don't help with reducing depressive symptoms. These therapies involve stimulating the brain directly or indirectly with brief electrical currents or magnetic fields while the individual is under anesthesia.
The most commonly used brain stimulation therapies are electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS).
It's important to remember that there is no one size fits all approach to treating depression. Each person may respond different to different treatments, and what works for one person may not work for the other. Working closely with a healthcare provider is key to finding the most effective treatment plan!