No one is exempt from experiencing sadness. At some point in our lives, we go through situations where we feel sad or blue. In some cases, the feelings of sadness may go away after a few days.
Depression affects an estimated one in 15 adults (6.7%) in any given year. And one in six people (16.6%) will experience depression at some time in their life. Depression can strike at any time, but on average, first appears during the late teens to mid-20s. Women are more likely than men to experience depression. Some studies show that one-third of women will experience a major depressive episode in their lifetime.
Depression is more than just a feeling or a passing phase. In other words, depression should be looked at as a medical condition that can be treated. An evaluation by a professional can be done to determine a diagnosis and treatment plan. The most common treatments are therapy and medication.
Causes of depression
Depression has been studied by many researchers, which point to several factors as contributing to the development of depression. It may be caused by genetics, biological factors, environmental influences and adverse or stressful life experiences.
Depression is essentially a brain disorder. This has been confirmed by studies that used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to assess the brain of a depressed person. MRI scans revealed that the brains of people diagnosed with depression look different from those without depressive disorders. Most of the differences were found in parts of the brain associated with cognitive functions, sleeping, appetite, mood and behavior. Brain-imaging technology can’t determine the cause of depression or be used to diagnose it.
One factor that scientists continue studying is genetics. Researchers are investigating the possible contribution of genetic influences to having depression. Although some individuals have a family history of depression, other people diagnosed with depression don’t have this hereditary background.
Some other studies discovered that depression in some people may be a combination of genetics and environmental factors. In other cases, depression may be triggered by trauma, a difficult relationship, loss of work or money, death of a loved one or a stressful situation. However, others don’t need a trigger for their depressive episodes to occur.
Regardless of the cause, depression needs to be treated. With intervention, such as counseling, you can experience relief, healing and hope.
Signs and Symptoms
Feelings of persistent sadness or a depressed, low mood may be common in people with a depressive disorder, however, symptoms can differ. Some signs and symptoms include the following:
- Feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, pessimism, emptiness
- Irritability or restlessness
- Loss of interest and enjoyment in activities or hobbies that were once pleasurable
- Low energy level and increased fatigue
- Decreased motivation
- Withdrawing from others
- Difficulty with concentration, memory and decision-making
- Change in sleeping patterns, ranging from insomnia to excessive sleeping
- Change in eating habits, ranging from loss of appetite to overeating
- Suicidal thoughts or tendencies
- Major Depressive Disorder (MDD)
- Depression with Melancholic Features
- Depression with Catatonic Features
- Atypical Depression
- Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
- Postpartum Depression
- Depressive Disorder not otherwise specified (NOS)
Diagnosis and Treatment
The first step is to participate clinical diagnostic interview done by a licensed clinician. If an depressive disorder is diagnosed, the therapist will work with you on the best treatment plan. Depression is among the most treatable of mental disorders. Between 80 percent and 90 percent of people with depression eventually respond well to treatment.
Brain chemistry may contribute to an individual’s depression and may factor into their treatment. For this reason, antidepressants might be prescribed by your Doctor to help modify one’s brain chemistry.
*Dr. Mannon is a Licensed Psychologist in the state of Texas. Psychologist do not have prescribing privileges in the State of Texas. Dr. Mannon can collaborate with your doctor on a management plan that includes medication and psychotherapy.
*Mrs. Herstein M.S. is a Licensed Professional Counselor in the state of Texas. Licensed Professional Counselors do not have prescribing privileges in the State of Texas. Mrs. Herstein can collaborate with your doctor on a management plan that includes medication and psychotherapy.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy is an evidence-based psychotherapy. Its practitioners and researchers are dedicated to the scientific development of the therapy and empirical evaluation of its effects. ACT Psychotherapy is particularly helpful for handling feelings of depression because it offers people a way to develop a new relationship with pain and suffering. A basic assumption of ACT is that pain is a normal and unavoidable part of human experience, and that it is perfectly healthy to have whatever emotions arise in the presence of painful experiences. However, people’s understandable desire to control or avoid their own thoughts and feelings can actually lead to much long-term and unnecessary suffering. For example, a person may develop short-term means for coping with their emotions – such as social withdrawal, substance use, or overeating – that actually end up causing even more suffering in the long term. Worse yet, time spent struggling with thoughts and feelings is time away from the things that matter most in life. Put simply, ACT is about letting go of the struggle with difficult thoughts and feelings in order to pursue a richer, fuller, and more purposeful life.