For far too many people, depression poses a serious risk to overall health and wellbeing. People who suffer from major depression often deny themselves the opportunity to get help, choosing to wait it out and hope for the best. Meanwhile, every aspect of their life is negatively impacted as the often debilitating symptoms continue to impair the ability to function normally.
There are several types of depression that can develop, including:
Major depressive disorder (MDD).MDD affects over 16 million Americans each year, and features persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or despair, fatigue, weight gain or loss, change in sleeping habits, loss of interest in usual activities or hobbies, slowed motor movements, and suicidal thought or attempts.
Post-partum depression. Post-partum depression affects 3 million new mothers per year and tends to last about three months. This form of depression affects a mother’s ability to bond with her baby due to feelings of sadness, intense irritability, insomnia, loss of appetite, mood swings, and thoughts of harming baby or self.
Dysthymia. Dysthymia, or persistent depressive disorder, is a milder but chronic form of MDD that lasts more than two years. Dysthymia features low mood, loss of interest in activities, reduced appetite, feelings of low self-esteem, problems concentrating, hopelessness, and sleep disturbance.
Mood disorders. Bipolar disorder II is an affective, or mood, disorder that features extreme and unpredictable shifts between depressive periods and manic periods, with milder manic periods but more severe depressive periods.
What Causes a Depressive Disorder?
The root causes of depression are still not completely understood, although research and advanced imaging continue to offer clues into this complex mental health disorder. Presently, it is believed that five factors play a pivotal role in someone developing a depressive disorder. These include:
Family history. There is a genetic feature to depression, as it is found that people with a strong family history of depression are more prone to it themselves.
Brain chemistry. Ongoing study into the role of neural activity and brain chemistry imbalances shows these to be factors in mood regulation.
Personality. Our individual temperaments play a part in how we process and manage stressful life events.
Life events. Trauma, physical or sexual abuse, sudden loss of a loved one, divorce, or a serious financial setback can trigger a depressive disorder.
Health conditions. Certain medical conditions may trigger a depressive disorder, such as cancer, lupus, stroke, dementia, HIV, or Parkinson’s disease. The drugs used to manage medical conditions can also have side effects of depressed mood.
Treatment For a Depressive Disorder
Treatment for a depressive disorder will be determined by the individual’s specific type of depression. However, there is a standard treatment protocol that involves a combination of antidepressant drug therapy and psychotherapy. In addition, some patients may benefit from adjunctive therapies that can be complimentary to these traditional forms of depression treatment.
Antidepressants. There are currently about thirty different antidepressants on the market, including SSRIs, SNRIs, tricyclics, and MAOIs, which aim to adjust brain chemistry.
Psychotherapy. Individual and group therapy is helpful for individuals to examine and process underlying emotional issues, as well as learning to change distorted thought and behavior patterns.
Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR). A process that involves the individual using their eyes to follow a prompt or stimulus while discussing the distressing topic.
TMS therapy. A brain stimulation technique that uses electromagnetic energy to stimulate sluggish brain neurons located in the mood center of the brain.
Holistic therapies. Therapeutic activities that help induce relaxation, self-discovery, and reduce stress, including mindfulness meditation, yoga, massage therapy, art therapy, equine therapy, journaling, and gardening therapy.
Residential and Outpatient Treatment Programs for Depressive Disorders