It’s natural to have anxiety in certain situations, like before a test in school or a blind date, but these feelings normally go away on their own pretty quickly. But if sadness, low moods, sleep or eating problems, or other symptoms hinder daily living, you may be suffering from depression.
WHAT IS DEPRESSION?
Anxiety means you’re fearful and experience sensations of dread and uneasiness – but it normally subsides on its own. Depression, on the other hand, is different. Its symptoms are more severe and long-lasting but can be treated.
“Depression is a medical condition that affects your mood and ability to function. Depression types include clinical depression, bipolar depression, dysthymia, seasonal affective disorder and others. Treatment options range from counseling to medications to brain stimulation and complementary therapies.”
WHAT CAUSES DEPRESSION?
Depression is like other mental illnesses in how it doesn’t have a single cause but, rather, many influencers which trigger it. Depression may be linked to any of the following:
- People with depression often have physical and biological differences in their brains compared to people not diagnosed with depression.
- If you’re depressed, chemicals in your brain (neurotransmitters called glutamate) may be weakened or damaged, resulting in mood changes and depressive episodes.
- Hormones and inherited traits like personality.
WHAT HELPS DEPRESSION
People who suffer from depression can be treated, but the key is recognizing symptoms in yourself and a willingness to get help. Help, of course, can involve seeing a medical doctor or psychiatric specialist, but people sometimes choose to treat their symptoms on their own as a first step.
Here’s what you can try
- Establish a routine and try to add structure to your life. You don’t have to go overboard, either. Start small with a daily morning routine and go from there.
- Recognize what’s happening in your life, and don’t be overly harsh with self-criticism. Saying to yourself, “Ok, this is what’s going on and I’m trying to get better,” is better than ignoring the symptoms.
- Set goals, even if they’re small. If you’re depressed, try setting this goal: Call a family member or friend, even for a short conversation.
- You can accept self-pity – but only for a brief time. Wallowing in despair can only make things worse.
- Our bodies produce feel-good chemicals called endorphins, but depression does its best to suppress them. The solution? Try some rigorous exercise and get your heart pumping. What constitutes exercise is different for everyone, so you don’t need a gym membership for this one. Go for a jog, ride a bike or, if you want, lift weights or try a treadmill.
- Understand that your mood today has no bearing on your mood tomorrow. If you’re sad today, tomorrow can be different.
- Doctors and clinicians may also recommend healthier eating habits. Add foods that are rich in omega-3 fats (salmon, algae, pumpkin seeds, sardines, mackerel, pilchards, herring, and trout), B3 vitamins (whole grains, meat, poultry, and dark green leafy vegetables), and amino acids and serotonin (fish, beans, eggs, lentils, nuts, and seeds). Talk to your doctor or a dietician for specific meal planning tips.
- Depression often speaks in a negative, irrational voice and tells you things that bring you down. But fight back with logic by handling each bad thought as it happens and replacing it with an opposite, healthier thought.
- Get a good night’s sleep. According to the Sleep Foundation, most adults younger than 65 need seven to nine hours of uninterrupted sleep in a 24-hour period. If you’re older than 65, you should get seven to eight hours per night.
Remember, what works for one person may not work for you. But any of the tips mentioned may be worth the effort.
HOW TO DIAGNOSE & TREAT DEPRESSION
Diagnosing a mental illness like depression involves:
- A physical examination by a medical doctor to see if an underlying medical condition is causing your symptoms. This may involve blood tests and other diagnostic procedures.
- A psychiatric assessment by a mental health specialist to evaluate your thoughts, feelings, and behavior as a basis for your symptoms. You’ll be asked for details about personal and family history of mental illness and whether family and acquaintances can be contacted on your behalf.
- Compare your symptoms to criteria in the DSM-5.
Treatment for depression can involve medicine like ketamine or different kinds of psychotherapy.
If you experience depression, the symptoms are treatable. There is no single cure, but doctors and psychiatric professionals recognize that several approaches – sometimes in tandem – could relieve warning signs and restore normalcy to your life. Contact us today for more information about whether ketamine is right for you.