What Is The Treatment For Depression?March 21, 2018
As humans, we all encounter hard moments in life and a very natural consequence of such occurrings can be a sensation of “feeling down” or “low moods”. Although such feelings can be occasional and temporary, many fall into clinical depression, which is more commonly known as depression. Depression is a phenomenon accentuated by low moods and a long-term disinterest, which can be hard to live with.
Globally, depression is the leading reason for disability. According to the organisation Beyond Blue and the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 3 million Australians currently live with depression and anxiety with only 35% seeking help and treatment. On average, 1 in 6 women and 1 in 8 men experience depressive moods.
What Is Depression?
Depression is a common mental health state or disorder that is characterised by long periods of low mood and/or loss of interest and aversion to activities, which does not go away easily. This feeling can have a significant impact on a person’s thought, behaviour, feelings and well-being, interfering with the overall positivity and daily life.
Is Depression A Disease Or An Illness?
It is important to understand that depression is neither a disease nor an illness but a mental disorder. It affects an individual’s feelings, thought process and behaviour and can lead to emotional and physical problems.
Signs and Symptoms of Depression
The effects of depression can vary between individuals and can range from mild to severe as the causes vary. Symptoms include:
- Feeling sad or having a depressed mood;
- Loss of interest or pleasure in activities;
- Appetite changes causing weight loss or gain;
- Loss of energy;
- Increased fatigue;
- Increased unnecessary activities such as hand-wringing, pacing and fidgeting;
- Slowed movements and speech;
- Increased feelings of worthlessness and guilt;
- Difficulty thinking, concentrating or in decision-making; and
- Suicidal thoughts.
Who Is At Risk of Depression?
This mental disorder or state can affect people of all ages at any point in a person’s lifetime. However, vulnerability increases depending on various factors. These can be due to psychological distress such as big changes in life, loss of loved ones and discrimination of age, gender, ethnicity and sexual orientation.
Below are the categories of people that are the most vulnerable to the mental disorder:
- Young people (12-25 years old);
- Older people;
- People undergoing pregnancy/parenthood;
- Multicultural people;
- LGBT Community; and
- Indigenous people.
Find out more information on these categories on https://www.beyondblue.org.au/who-does-it-affect
Causes of Depression
This mental disorder can be a result of multiple causative factors such as:
The risk of developing depression can be associated to genetics, or family history. Over 30% of depressions cases arise from inherited genes that induce depression.
- Biochemical factors
Neurotransmitters are chemicals in the brain that transport signals between different parts of the organ. There are many neurotransmitters and they have different functions. The chemicals serotonin, noradrenaline and dopamine are the major neurotransmitters that affect a person’s mood and they do not function normally in a depressed person’s brain. As a result, brain signals and eventually the mental health of the individual are disrupted.
Chronic health issues, pain and medical conditions can also induce depression as they can deprive an individual from carrying out activities that bring them joy. Examples include:
- Serious injuries;
- Disorders in neurological and endocrine systems;
- Tumours and cancers; and
- Metabolic conditions such as vitamin deficiency.
Some individuals are more vulnerable to develop depression due to their personalities and temperament levels. The following personalities can have greater vulnerability to depression:
- Anxious and worrying;
- High irritability and low tolerance;
- Socially avoidant;
- Very reserved;
- Low self-esteem and highly self-critical; and
- Hypersensitive personalities.
With age, the brain function alters and neurotransmitter functions decrease in efficiency, eventually, affecting mood. The development of dementia, high blood pressure and general ageing process make the ageing population more vulnerable to depression.
- Stressful or traumatic events.
Examples include loss, family issues, work stress and many more. Such life events, stress factors and pressure can trigger a depressive feeling within the mind.
- Pressures and stress factors
Long-term pressures such as abusive relationships, bullying and other interpersonal stress factors can also trigger depression in humans, as in the case of stressful events.
- Drugs and alcohol
Increased drug use and/or alcohol consumption can potentiate depression or the likelihood of its onset.
Types of Depression
Depression can be caused by various factors and, as a result, its severity can range from minor to major. The severity can be classified into five different categories, each with different symptoms:
- Major depression
This type of depression causes low mood and/or disinterest in pleasure-giving activities and many other symptoms (listed above). This can last for days or for at least two weeks interfering with an individual’s daily life.
This is a severe form of depression where the physical symptom of slow movement and action can be seen. This mainly occurs due to the loss of interest of once pleasurable things or activities.
- Psychotic depression
This involves the escalation of depression that leads to symptoms such as hallucinations, delusions and paranoia.
- Dysthymic depression
This has very similar characteristics and symptoms as in the case of major depression, however can last for more than two years.
- Peri-, pre- and postnatal disorders
Pregnancy and childbirth can be very stressful times for women as there will be novel challenges, changes to routines and hormonal fluctuation. Increased tiredness, irritability and reduced interest in sex are common symptoms and responses after childbirth.
- Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
This commonly affects people geographically located in the Northern Hemisphere and places with low numbers of sunlight. SAD is thought to occur in conjunction with limited light exposure during winter and results in low moods. This can ease off in spring and summer.
- Bipolar disorder
This is characterised by mood swings between depressive periods, low moods and feelings of hopelessness and maniac periods, extremely high moods and activity. They can both last weeks or months and can arise due to genetics.
Treatment for Depression
Various methods exist to treat or recover from depression. It is important to get the right help for depression as the most efficient treatment is unique to each individual. There are various methods of treatment that can aid treat depression:
- Psychological treatment
This method of treatment can be used to change a person’s thought process and help with coping low moods. This treatment method can do so by helping an individual identify a negative or unwanted thought and how to navigate away from it. Examples of such therapies include:
- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), which aims to change thoughts and behaviour using a problem-solving and rational thought process;
- Interpersonal Therapy (IPT), which encourages an individual to stay away from inactivity and to undertake activities that give pleasure, satisfaction and encouragement; and
- Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), which is a form of group meditation that encourages individuals to live in the present and not be anxious about the past or future. This helps preventing the return of depression.
- Medical treatment
Upon careful assessment and discussion with a doctor, advice on the relevant intake of medication can be determined. In the case where medication is deemed necessary, the doctor can prescribe antidepressants along with psychological treatment. These are generally prescribed if the current treatment is not effective, depending on the severity of the disorder and/or if access to treatment is a challenge.
- Other sources of support
Aside from psychological and medical treatments, many other treatment options exist to recover from depression and maintain one’s mental well-being:
- Maintaining a healthy lifestyle through the consumption of a balanced diet, doing regular exercise, reducing or stopping alcohol consumption and having a good night sleep;
- Learning about the condition will aid its understanding and in developing strategies to treat oneself;
- Support groups and online forums can be extremely beneficial as they offer platforms to interact, share and connect with other people undergoing similar challenges, directing towards recovery;
- Relaxation trainings will help calm your body and mind, reducing anxious thoughts and behaviour. Examples include activities such as yoga, meditation and specific relaxation training with professionals;
- Family and friends are the people who can provide support, care, understand, listen and help. Additionally, staying connected to family and friends improves well-being and confidence, which in turn, can assist recovery; and
- Other approaches also exist, entailing different activities or actions that help treat depression. Click here to be redirected to see Beyond Blue’s suggestions.
At Ubuntu Medical, it is our utmost objective to ensure your well-being. Our friendly medical staff will happily discuss with you possible plans towards the betterment of your mental health.
Click here if you want to find more information on depression and mental health.