Depression is more than just a sad feeling or going through a rough patch. It's a severe mental health condition that needs understanding and proper care.
Left untreated, depression can be devastating for individuals and their families. Fortunately, with early detection, diagnosis, and a personalized treatment plan, many people can get better.
If you think you might have depression, you may feel unsure about what to do or where to begin to get help. First, it's essential to recognize the symptoms that may indicate depression, so you know what to discuss with your doctor.
Symptoms of Depression
Depression can look different in everyone. But for most people, depressive disorder symptoms include:
- Changes in sleep
- Changes in appetite
- Lack of concentration
- Loss of energy
- Lack of interest in activities
- Hopelessness or guilty thoughts
- Changes in movement (less activity or agitation)
- Physical aches and pains
- Suicidal thoughts
Two common forms of depression are:
- Major Depressive Disorder, which includes symptoms of depression for at least two weeks, typically interferes with one's ability to work, sleep, study, and eat.
- Persistent Depressive Disorder (dysthymia) often includes less severe symptoms of depression that last much longer, typically for at least two years.
Rule Out Other Conditions
If you identify with the symptoms of depression, your next step should be a visit to a mental health professional, like a counselor, social worker, or psychiatrist. They'll conduct a thorough examination and ask you about your health and family history, stressors, and other risk factors and may use questionnaires to assess your symptoms. The goal here is to arrive at a diagnosis and course of action.
How Is Depression Treated?
Depression is one of the most treatable mental health conditions. Approximately 80% to 90% of people with depression ultimately respond well to treatment. Most patients gain some relief from their symptoms.
The key is to get a specific evaluation and treatment plan. After an assessment rules out medical and other possible causes, your treatment plan can include any or a combination of the following:
Antidepressant medications may be used, often in combination with talk therapy. These medications influence the brain's chemical balance and must be prescribed by a medical professional such as your primary care doctor or a psychiatrist. They'll closely monitor you to watch for side effects and ensure that the type of medication and dose is right for you.
Psychotherapy, or "talk therapy," is at times used alone to treat depression; for moderate to severe depression, psychotherapy is often used alongside antidepressant medications. Several types of talk therapy are safe and effective for the treatment of depression.
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is effective in treating depression. CBT is a form of therapy focused on problem-solving in the present. CBT helps you recognize distorted/negative thinking to change thoughts and behaviors to respond to challenges more positively. Psychotherapy may involve you, but it can include others, such as your family or spouse.
Group therapy brings people with similar issues together in a supportive environment and can assist you in learning how others cope.
Depending on the severity of your symptoms, treatment can take up to a few weeks or months. Frequently, significant improvement can be made in 10 to 15 sessions.
How Can You Take Care of Yourself?
No matter what point you’re at in your recovery, there are things they can do to take care of themselves. Here are a few tips to help you get started:
- Try to exercise, even if it's a small amount. Anywhere from 15-30 minutes a day of walking can boost your mood.
- Maintain a regular wake-up and bedtime routine.
- Eat regularly, and do your best to eat healthy meals.
- Keep a journal of your symptoms, thoughts, and feelings. Not only can this help work with a professional, but it can also provide some relief.
- Express yourself creatively. For example, dance, draw or make music.
- Find ways to decrease stress whenever possible. Try breathing exercises or learn how to practice mindful meditation.
- Try to connect with other people, and get in touch with your support network about how you've been feeling.
- Avoid using alcohol, nicotine, or drugs, or medications not prescribed to you. These may seem like a way to make you feel better, but they can make things a lot worse and can prevent recovery in the long run.
How Can You Help a Loved One That’s Struggling?
You can play a crucial role in helping a person who is depressed:
- Practice active listening and refrain from making judgments.
- Encourage your loved one to get other help, offer to assist them in finding it.
- Stay in touch, let them know you’re there for them.
- Make plans together to do something fun.
- Stay alert for warning signs of suicidal behavior. If there is an immediate risk, get them to a hospital emergency department, or call 911 right away.
Take comments about suicide seriously, and report them to their health care provider or therapist. If they're in immediate distress or thinking about hurting themselves, call 911 for emergency services or go to the nearest hospital emergency room.
Finding Help for Depression
Coping with depression can be debilitating, and there's much more to it than feeling sad all the time. You don't need to manage your symptoms of depression alone. If you are experiencing any symptoms or signs of depression, it may be time to seek help.
At Michigan Psychological Care, our mission is to help you find the care and treatment you need. We work to put your worries about opening up to rest by providing a comfortable location and atmosphere.
Our sessions are provided in a one-on-one setting with one of our experienced therapists. If you're interested in group counseling, we also provide that. We have three convenient facilities to provide you with the compassionate care you deserve. Contact us to schedule an appointment.
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