Depression (major depressive disorder or clinical depression) is a common but serious mood disorder. It causes severe symptoms that affect how you think, feel, and handle daily activities, such as sleeping, eating, or working. To be diagnosed with depression, the symptoms must be present for at least two weeks. Some forms of depression are slightly different, or they may develop under unique circumstances, such as:
Signs & Symptoms:
If you have been experiencing some of the following signs and symptoms most of the day, nearly every day, for at least two weeks, you may be suffering from depression:
Depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the U.S. Current research suggests that depression is caused by a combination of genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors. Depression can happen at any age, but often begins in adulthood. Depression is now recognized as occurring in children and adolescents, although it sometimes presents with more prominent irritability than low mood. Many chronic mood and anxiety disorders in adults begin as high levels of anxiety in children. Depression, especially in midlife or older adults, can co-occur with other serious medical illnesses, such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and Parkinson's disease. These conditions are often worse when depression is present. Sometimes medications taken for these physical illnesses may cause side effects that contribute to depression. A doctor experienced in treating these complicated illnesses can help work out the best treatment strategy.
Risk Factors Include:
Depression, even in the most severe cases, can be treated. The earlier that treatment can begin, the more effective it is. Depression is usually treated with medications, psychotherapy, or a combination of the two. If these treatments do not reduce symptoms, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and other brain simulation therapies may be options to explore.
Antidepressants are medications that treat depression. They may help improve the way your brain uses certain chemicals that control mood or stress. You may need to try several different antidepressant medications before finding the one that improves your symptoms and has manageable side effects. A medication that has helped your or a close family member in the past will often be considered. Antidepressants take time - usually 2 to 4 weeks- to work, and often, symptoms such as sleep, appetite, and concentration problems improve before mood lifts, so it is important to give the medication a chance before reaching a conclusion about its effectiveness. If you being taking antidepressants, do not stop taking them without the help of a doctor. Sometimes people taking antidepressants feel better and then stop taking the medication on their own, and the depression returns. When you and your doctor have decided it is time to stop the medication, usually after a course of 6 to 12 months, the doctor will help you slowly and safely decrease your dose. Stopping them abruptly can cause withdrawal symptoms. You may have heard about an herbal medication called St. John's wort. Although it is a top selling botanical product, the FDA has not approved its use as an over-the-counter or prescription medicine for depression, and there are serious concerns about its safety (it should never be combined with a prescription antidepressant) and effectiveness. Do not use St. John's wort before talking to your health care provider. Other natural products such as dietary supplements, including omega-3 fatty acids and S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe), remain under study but have not yet been proven safe and effective for routine use. For more information on herbal and other complementary approaches and current research, please visit the National Center For Complementary and Integrative Health website.
Several types of psychotherapy (also called "talk therapy", or in a less specific form, counseling) can help people with depression. Examples of evidence based approaches specific to the treatment of depression include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), interpersonal therapy (IPT), and problem-solving therapy. More information about psychotherapy is available on the NIMH website and in the NIMH publication Depression: What You Need To Know.
Brain Stimulation Therapies
If medication does not reduce the symptoms of depression, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) may be an option to explore. Based on the latest research:
Beyond Treatment: Things You Can Do
Here are other tips to help you or a loved one during treatment for depression:
Stress , in everyday terms, is a feeling that people have when they are overloaded and struggling to cope with demands. These demands can be related to finances, work, relationships, and other situations, but anything that poses a real or perceived threat or challenge to a person's well-being can cause stress.
Stress can be a motivator. It can be essential to survive. The "Fight or Flight" mechanism can tell us when and how to respond to danger. However, if this mechanism is triggered to easily, or when there are to many stressors at one time, it can undermine a persons mental and physical health and become harmful. According to the annual stress survey conducted by the American Psychological Association (APA), average stress levels in the US rose from 4.9 to 5.1 on a scale from 1 to 10 in 2015. The main reasons given were employment and money.
Fast Facts on Stress:
1. Stress helps the body to prepare to face danger.
2. The symptoms can be both physical and psychological.
3. Short-term stress can be helpful, but long-term stress is linked to various health conditions.
4. We can prepare for stress by learning some self-management tips.
What is Stress?
Stress is the body's natural defense against predators and danger. It flushes the body with hormones to prepare systems to evade or confront danger. This is known as the "Fight or Flight" mechanism. When we are faced with a challenge, part of our response is physical. The body activates resources to protect us by preparing us either to stay and fight or get away as fast as possible.
The body produces large quantities of the chemical cortisol, adrenaline, and nor-adrenaline. These trigger and increased heart rate, heightened muscle preparedness, sweating, and alertness. All these factors improve the ability to respond to a hazardous or challenging situation. Factors of the environment that trigger this reaction are called stressors. Examples include noises, aggressive behavior, a speeding car, scary moments in movies, or even going out on a first date. The more stressors we experience, the more stressed we tend to feel.
Changes to the Body
Stress slows normal bodily function, such as digestive and immune systems. All resources can then be focused on rapid breathing, blood flow, alertness, and muscle use. The body changes the following ways during stress:
1. Blood pressure and pulse rate rise
2. Breathing is faster
3. Digestive system slows down
4. Immune activity decreases
5. Muscles become tense
6. Heightened state of alertness prevents sleep
How we react to a difficult situation will affect how stress affects us and our health. A person who feels they do not have enough resources to cope will be more likely to have a stronger reaction, and one that can trigger health problems. Stressors affect individuals in different ways. Some experiences that are generally considered positive can lead to stress, such as having a baby, going on a trip, moving to a nicer house, and being promoted.
This is because they often involve a major change, extra effort, new responsibilities, and a need for adaptation. They are also steps into the unknown. The person wonders if they will cope. A persistently negative response to challenges can have a detrimental effect on health and happiness. However, being aware of how you react to stressors can help reduce the negative feeling and effects of stress, and to manage it more effectively. The APA recognizes three different types of stress that require different levels of management.
This type of stress is short-term and is the most common way that stress occurs. Acute Stress is often caused by thinking about the pressures of events that have recently occurred, or up coming demands in the near future. For example, if you have recently been involved in an argument that has caused upset or have an up coming deadline, you may feel stress about these triggers. However, the stress will be removed or reduced once these are resolved.
It does not cause the same amount of damage as long-term, chronic stress. Short-term effects include tension headaches and an upset stomach, as well as a moderate amount of distress. However, repeated instances of acute stress over a longer period of time can become chronic and harmful.
Episodic Acute Stress
People who frequently experience acute stress, or whose lives present frequent triggers of stress, have Episodic Acute stress. A person with too many commitments and poor organization can find themselves displaying Episodic Acute stress symptoms. These include a tendency to be irritable and tense, and this irritability can affect relationships. Individuals that worry too much on a constant basis can also find themselves facing this type of stress. This type of stress can also lead to high blood pressure and heart diseases.
This is the most harmful type of stress and grinds away after a long period of time. Ongoing poverty, dysfunctional family, or an unhappy marriage can cause Chronic stress. It occurs when the person never sees an escape from the stress and stops seeking solutions. Sometimes, it can be cause by a traumatic experience early in life.
Chronic stress can continue unnoticed, as people can become used to it, unlike Acute stress that it's new and often has an immediate solution. It can become apart of an individual's personality, making them constantly prone to the effects of stress regardless of the scenarios they come up against. People with Chronic stress are likely to have a final breakdown that can lead to suicide, violent actions, heart attacks, and strokes.
We all react differently to stressful situations. What is stressful to one person may not be stressful to another. Almost anything can cause stress. For some people, just thinking about things or several small things can cause stress. Common major life events that can trigger stress include:
1. Job issues or retirement
2. Lack of time or money
4. Family problems
6. Moving home
7. Relationships, marriage, divorce