Awareness of mental health conditions are on the rise, which is important for helping everyone to feel emotionally strong. While people have been dealing with depression since the beginning of time, we now know so much more about how to help people overcome symptoms such as severe exhaustion and apathy.
Sadly, the symptoms of depression affect more than just the person with the condition. More than half of all families with a loved one living with depression in their home report having trouble maintaining healthy functioning. Untreated depression can also lead to a person losing their job, ending relationships and making unhealthy choices that limit their future. Fortunately, no one has to sit idly by and let depression take over. Instead, understanding this important information about depression helps a person to make the best choices for their mental health.
Know That Depression is Different From Sadness
People who are unfamiliar with depression tend to wonder why it is such a big deal when everyone is sad sometimes. The difference with depression and sadness is that the symptoms of major depressive disorder tend to last far longer than a couple of weeks. With regular sadness, a person is usually just responding to a recent disappointment such as a breakup. They may also be able to snap out of their bad mood by doing something fun. Depression can often have no obvious cause since it involves chemical changes within the brain that require treatment before a person can feel better.
Watch Out for These Risk Factors
There is not a single factor that causes depression to develop. Instead, genetics and brain chemistry play a heavy role in a person’s risk for developing the condition. Certain types of life events are also associated with the development of depression. For instance, a person is at higher risk for developing the condition after losing a loved one or experiencing a trauma. For people that have experienced depression in the past, going through a major life change such as having a baby or losing a job are signs that it may be best to seek mental health counseling to prevent the symptoms of depression from getting worse.
Recognize the Symptoms of Depression
The most well-known symptom of depression is persistent sadness that typically lasts for longer than two weeks and does not respond to self-care. It is also important to be alert for the other symptoms of depression that can include some or all of the following:
- withdrawal from one’s previous favorite activities
- changes in eating habits-some people eat more while others eat less
- feelings of guilt or worthlessness
- sleep difficulties such as insomnia or oversleeping
- difficulty concentrating on tasks
- making poor decisions
- increased reliance on substances such as alcohol
- thoughts or statements about suicide or just giving up
- feeling exhausted or weighed down by life
- physical complaints such as headaches, muscle pain and nausea
Understand That Depression is Different for Everyone
Although there are certain symptoms that are common among people with depression, it is important to note that not everyone feels or expresses them the same. In fact, there are some notable differences in how men and women experience depression. A person’s age may also affect how they deal with their symptoms.
- Women-Women make up the largest group of people who suffer from depression, and approximately seven percent of women will experience some form of the condition in their lifetime. The current understanding regarding the reason this occurs is that women have more risk factors such as hormonal fluctuations that make them more likely to experience mood changes.
Women who are depressed tend to feel more of the emotional symptoms such as feelings of worthlessness. They may even feel guilty about their inability to just snap out of it or that they are not managing all of their responsibilities well. On the upside, women are more likely to reach out to their loved ones for help, and they are usually the first to seek treatment for depression when they notice the symptoms.
- Men-When a man is depressed, they tend to feel more anger than guilt. They may also be irritable and lash out at their loved ones. Some men also withdraw or begin to use drugs or alcohol in an effort to mask their symptoms. Although things are changing, man men still feel stigmatized about being depressed, and they may need additional encouragement from their support network to seek treatment.
- Teens-Depression often first appears during the teen years, and it may be due to changes in their risk factors such as going through puberty and dealing with new types of stress such as social pressure. Since teenagers are often unaware that their feelings are not normal, they rely upon their parents, teachers and other trusted adults to call attention to the need for treatment.
Parents often miss the early warning signs of depression in teens by simply thinking that it is just part of them growing up. However, a simple way to determine if a teen needs mental health counseling is to check to see if their symptoms are affecting their life. For instance, a teen who is oversleeping and skipping school needs help treating their symptoms so that they can manage their responsibilities.
- Children-Younger children can also develop depression. This often occurs after a major life event such as moving to a new home or losing a loved one. Children this age may become clingy, whiny or experience developmental regressions such as wetting their bed.
Learn About the Different Types of Depression
These are the main types of depression that a person may be diagnosed with, and knowing which type they have makes it easier to create a personalized treatment plan that helps them feel better.
- postpartum depression
- major depression
- persistent depressive disorder
- psychotic depression
- bipolar disorder
- seasonal affective disorder
Be Willing to Reach Out for Help
One of the most important things to know about depression is that every type is treatable. While some types, such as major depressive disorder, may require more intensive counseling to treat, it is possible to feel better. Anyone who recognizes the symptoms of depression in themselves or a loved one can start by talking to their doctor. When doing so, it is important to be open about all of the symptoms that one is dealing with in their life. A doctor may also ask patients about their current life situation to find out if there are any changes that could be contributing to the symptoms. After checking for physical causes of the symptoms, a doctor may then refer the person to a mental health professional such as a counselor
For those who do not currently have a primary care doctor, it is still possible to seek help by reaching out for mental health counseling on their own. Many counselors and therapists are open to new patients who simply call and explain how they are feeling.
Explore Treatment Options
Professional treatment for depression is the best way to find relief from the symptoms. A person’s treatment plan may include one or all of the following types of care.
- psychotherapy, or talk therapy
- cognitive behavioral therapy
- interpersonal therapy
Depression is one of the most common mental health conditions that is known today, and it is important to know that there is hope when a person feels hopeless. In fact, no one with depression is ever alone since professional counselors are available to help them ease their symptoms and learn how to move forward with a greater sense of mental wellbeing.