Depression is a difficult struggle for all those who experience it, whether that experience stems from a tragic incident or is the result of a lifelong medical condition. The intensity of someone’s depression can wane through different cycles, causing some days to feel better and others to feel unmanageably worse. However, it’s important to understand what depression is so you can protect your own mental health and wellbeing from an informed stance. While it’s very normal for someone to experience bouts of depression throughout their life and to have some rough days, this is not the same as struggling with the kind of depression that affects your mental health in the long term. Let’s explore the details of what depression truly is in order to offer insight you can use to understand whether you are struggling with serious depression or having a rough time.
While we all struggle with difficult times in our lives, depression is an issue of mental health with its own unique characteristics. Sometimes referred to as Major Depressive Disorder, this condition has far-reaching effects, from impacting our emotional state, the way we act in our day to day lives, as well as the way we think. Struggling with depression can be an all-encompassing battle, as the condition influences every part of someone’s life. What can often make any mental health struggle so pernicious is the way a condition becomes embedded into our way of thinking. Unlike with an injury, for example, a broken hand, where we can look at the injury and clearly know that this is not the normal state of our hand, with mental health struggles, it can often feel like the periods of difficulty are actually part of our normal life. Instead of being able to recognize how depression, for example, alters our thinking in ways that cause problems, we feel that our altered thinking patterns are actually a product of our own normal thinking; we’re unable to decipher thinking, actions, and emotions that are influenced by depression from those that are not.
It’s important to be aware of the symptoms that can occur with depression, which themselves can be either mild or more severe. Some people may have a few symptoms and not others, but if several of the symptoms of depression last for 2 weeks or longer, a valid diagnosis of depression can be given. Some of those symptoms to watch out for include having feelings of sadness and otherwise feeling down; feeling disinterested in the same activities you previously found joy in doing; feelings of being guilty, self-blame, and feelings of helplessness and worthlessness. These are some of the more emotional symptoms that can occur with depression. However, it’s equally important to be mindful that there are physical and biological symptoms that occur with depression as well. Some such symptoms are changes in your eating habits and appetite, often leading to weight gain or loss; changes in your sleeping patterns, whether in being unable to sleep or in oversleeping; feeling more fatigued in general and having less energy.
Keeping a watchful eye to observe yourself or a loved one if you believe they are expressing several of the above-mentioned symptoms for 2 weeks or longer can help to identify depression early on. Mental health struggles can often be difficult not only on the individual but on their family and workplaces. A depressed person generally feels less interest in participating in what they once would have, like workplace gathers or family events. Additionally, many of the symptoms of depression have a serious impact on a person’s ability to upkeep their usual performance in the workplace.
Depression is a dangerous risk to wellness because it often builds upon itself to create a more difficult situation for the struggling individual than they first had. As the symptoms begin to take a toll on the individual’s life situation, depression can create a negative feedback loop where one negative event triggers a deeper depression that goes on to trigger a subsequent negative event and so on. In this way, depression can often become progressively worse, not necessarily due to any biological differences but because of the worsening life circumstances the condition creates. For this reason, staying vigilant of mental health is an important mechanism for improving our wellbeing.
Depression is regularly treated with the usage of a few different medications and is a very treatable mental health issue. The most important first step is in approaching a healthcare provider that can begin a treatment regiment after completing a full diagnosis. A healthcare provider can help work with their patient in searching for the most approach form of treatment.
A common line of treatment for depression is the use of medication, specifically antidepressants. This type of medication can help to address the biological dysfunctions that cause depression, such as a person’s brain chemistry. These medications are usually taken daily and require a certain duration of usage, generally anywhere between 2 weeks and 2 months, depending on the specific kind of medication, before any difference will be observed. However, taking medication for depression is not always a straight forward process, as not every medication works in the same way for each individual. There is often a need to try a second medication before you can discover the medicine that best fits with your body chemistry. Once this is achieved, a person can continue with their medication regularly; some patients may need longer-term usage than others, something that needs to be determined with a healthcare provider.
Turning to medication isn’t the only line of treatment that is used when addressing a struggle with depression. For those that are experiencing a more mild version of depression or a bout of depression as brought on my a tragic external event, such as an accident or the loss of a loved one, psychotherapy is often a highly recommended line of treatment. Mental health and the issues in maintaining our wellbeing when we find ourselves with struggles like depression can often be addressed through therapy as well as medication.
There are many forms of therapy that one can choose to attend. In particular, cognitive behavioral therapy has shown promising scientific evidence of its effectiveness in treat a variety of issues, including depression. Cognitive-behavioral therapy can also be coupled with the usage of an anti-depressant in the case of a more severe level of depression. Therapy is not something that needs to be maintained indefinitely; on average, treatment of depression through therapy can yield major improvements in as few as 10 to 15 sessions. Many people continue in their usage of therapy even after they have made significant improvements in their condition to the utility and sense of wellbeing it continues to provide afterward as well.
Mental health is certainly just as vital an aspect of our wellbeing as our physical health is. Without a strong sense of mental health, we can begin to struggle in our daily lives and find that our situation continues to deteriorate along with our mental health. For this reason, it’s crucial to be proactive in identifying mental health issues as they first appear. In the case of depression, this issue is very treatable—80 to 90 percent of individuals who are diagnosed with depression make notable improvements in their condition in response to a treatment plan. By making an effort to protect our mental health at the first signs of depression, we can improve our wellbeing and live healthier, more enjoyable lives.