How to Know If You Have Depression
Life is full of ups and downs, and everyone goes through periods of grief, sadness and loneliness. However, some people find themselves struggling with a persistent bad mood they can’t seem to break free from. These periods of depression can last for weeks or months, with no apparent end in sight. As we continue observing Mental Illness Awareness Week, how can you educate yourself about signs of depression so you can recognize them in yourself or a loved one?
What Is Depression?
There are several different types of depression, with symptoms that can vary in intensity from day to day. With mild depression, you may lose interest in your favorite activities or consistently feel sad and lethargic. Meanwhile, severe depression can make even the simplest daily tasks seem like a monumental challenge. At its worst, depression can cause people to believe life is no longer worth living.
If you suspect you may be depressed, the first thing you should know is that depression doesn’t result from a lack of mental toughness, and it isn’t something you can quickly shake off or snap out of. As mental illnesses, all forms of depression are genuine health concerns. By affecting your thoughts and feelings, depression can significantly detract from your quality of life, undermine your relationships and interfere with your everyday responsibilities.
What Causes Depression?
Despite being one of the most prevalent mental disorders in the U.S. and a leading cause of disability worldwide, depression remains a poorly understood condition. For example, it remains unclear why some people develop depressive disorders while others remain unaffected. However, researchers believe several factors may contribute to depression, such as genetics, lifestyle choices, chronic stress, brain chemistry and specific medical conditions.
Some people have a specific trigger for their depression, including life-changing events such as an unexpected job loss or the death of a loved one. Other people may become depressed for no apparent reason. Another factor that can complicate some depression diagnoses is the presence of a co-occurring disorder, such as anxiety, PTSD or substance abuse.
The Importance of Depression Screenings
Thursday, Oct. 7, is National Depression Screening Day. If you think you might currently be depressed or have dealt with depression symptoms in the past, a screening can be a helpful starting point. Though screening tools are not a replacement for an official medical diagnosis, they are valuable in helping you decide if you need to make a doctor’s appointment to discuss possible next steps.
Since some depression symptoms – such as body aches and digestive issues – are similar to warning signs of various illnesses, you can start by talking with your general practitioner. They can rule out other conditions with a physical exam and lab tests. They may also ask you questions about your family history of mental illness and your specific symptoms, including how long you’ve had them, their severity and how they are affecting your life.
How to Treat Depression
Depression will not go away by itself, and may get worse without any intervention. These facts can make you feel helpless, but you aren’t. You can take many proactive steps to change your behavior and improve your outlook.
While there is no known cure for depression, your doctor or therapist can suggest some treatments to help manage your symptoms and regulate your mood. For example, many people with depression find relief through antidepressant medications such as Wellbutrin, Prozac, Zoloft and Paxil, which work by affecting the neurotransmitters that send messages between brain cells.
Your depression treatment regimen may also involve sensible self-care strategies like exercise, mindfulness practices, journaling, improving your sleep hygiene and eating a balanced diet.
Dual-Diagnosis Treatment at Beach House
Co-occurring disorders such as depression and substance abuse may combine to magnify each other’s symptoms. In these cases, it’s essential to have a treatment plan that simultaneously addresses all facets of your mental health. At Beach House, we combine clinically excellent treatment practices with a unique culture of love, acceptance and compassion. Contact our admissions counselors today to learn more about what we provide.