Depression Symptoms and Treatments

Depression is a medical condition that is said to affect as many as 13-14 million people per year. Clinical depression, the type of depression that is severe enough it requires medical treatment or intervention, can be very serious and debilitating. However, depression is often under or misdiagnosed, or worse yet, goes completely untreated.

Because of the stigma that depression has, with many people not understanding that depression is indeed a medical problem, caused by a malfunction in the brain’s ability to make or use chemicals or hormones, due to a problem with certain neurotransmitters, people who suffer from depression often live in the darkness that depression causes and never seek intervention or treatment. Well-meaning friends and family members encourage the person suffering from depression to “Cheer up and be happy! Think positive thoughts!” The truth is, if it were this easy to cure or treat depression, no one would suffer from it at all.

All human beings have moments where they are sad or depressed. Usually, these moments are relatively short lived and are usually situational, that is, something has recently happened in their lives that has resulted in feelings of sadness, melancholy, grief, or anger turned inward or repressed. When these feelings occur, chemical changes happen in the brain, and hormones and other chemicals are released. Neurotransmitters pick up and carry these hormones or chemicals, or the brain absorbs them, and thus a mood or state of emotional being is established.

Given time, most people will go through an emotional healing process, learn to move past whatever the situation was that caused the emotional depression, and will resume a normal and functional life. People who suffer from medical or clinical depression, however, may not be able to move past this. The fault is not in their thinking or their feelings, but rather there is a medical problem that does not allow the brain to properly transmit, release, or absorb certain chemicals or hormones that will allow for a change in state. The two most commonly believed culprits involved in medical depression are dopamine and serotonin.

So the question remains, how can you tell if depression is merely a situational sadness that will eventually pass or if it is actually a clinical and medical problem that may require treatment?

The truth is, there is no definitive test for depression. Diagnosis involves many factors, some of which include medical tests and others include interviewing the person to determine how their depression manifests in their lives.

That being said, there are certain warning signs, or criteria, that a person who suffers from depression may exhibit to help in determining if a diagnosis of depression can be made. Below is a list of some of the symptoms caused by depression:

Fatigue and lethargy

Inability to sleep, stay asleep, or sleeping too much

Social withdrawal

Reduced activity

Inability to find pleasure in activities that were once pleasurable

Marked decrease or increase in sexual activity or desire

Physical ailments, such as aches and pains, muscle soreness, skin rashes

Increased susceptibility to minor ailments, such as allergies or colds

Sudden or marked increase or decrease in weight

Slowed reaction times

Irrational behavior

Prolonged sadness, especially with no proceeding cause

Poor self esteem, feelings of worthlessness and self loathing

Unexplained or uncontrollable crying

Irritability or unexplained anger

Worry and anxiety, undue negativity

Memory and organization problems

And in the extreme there are:

Thoughts of death, dwelling on death and dying

Suicidal tendencies or attempts, or suicidal ideation

It’s important to note that not everyone will experience the same symptoms, and not everyone will experience them in the same way. However, if you can relate to, or know someone who experiences many or most of the items on this list, chances are there is a depression disorder that could benefit from treatment.

Depression can impair one’s ability to function and maintain healthy habits, work schedules, and friendships or relationships. If any of the symptoms listed above are severe enough to impair normal functioning in anyway, medical intervention is absolutely necessary.

Counseling and behavior modification along with lifestyle and diet changes can be effective for people who suffer from mild to moderate depression. There are many things one can do to help improve the brain’s ability to repair itself and the body from the damaging effects of depression.

First, and always most important, seek the help of your healthcare professional. In addition to this, here are some other things that have been shown to help people who suffer from depression:

Eat a Healthy and Well Balanced Diet

Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, meats, dairy products, and healthy foods can help with depression symptoms. Food contains vitamins, minerals, and enzymes that aid the body in healing, producing energy, and fighting off disease and infection. The best source of these nutritional elements comes from eating healthy foods. Nutritional supplements can help, but it’s been proven by study after study that food is the best source for nutrition. Stay away from sugars and refined or processed foods that have little of no nutritional value.

Spend Time in the Sun

As simple as this might sound, we live in a world of computers and technology. Therefore, we spend a lot of our time indoors, and very little time outdoors anymore. It’s been shown that depression often worsens during the winter months, and there is a conditional known as Seasonal Affective Disorder. This is due in part to the gloomy and overcast days of winter or the rainy seasons, when the sun is not as present and people do not get outside as often as they should.

Sunlight is important for producing melatonin, which aids in healthy and restful sleep, as well as helping the body manufacture vitamin D and sunlight helps us set our internal clocks. Sunlight has also been proven to aid in clearing acne and some other skin rash conditions. Now, we have all heard the horror stories of how bad the sun can be for you, but this is only true in excess. Small amounts of time in the sun are vitally important, and if we lived on a planet with no sunlight at all, we would die, literally.

Find some time to go outside for a few minutes every day. Work in the yard, take a short walk, and breath the fresh air and bask in the sunlight. Not only will the sun help you on a biological level, but just getting up and doing something, some small activity, can help improve your mood drastically.

Sleep Enough For Your Body

Everyone requires different amounts of sleep. If you sleep too long, you will feel groggy and lethargic. If you do not sleep enough, you may have trouble concentrating and be tired all the time. Your body heals itself during the sleep cycle, and muscle repair and healing usually requires at least 6 hours of sleep each day. If you sleep more than 10 hours, for most people, your body has slept too long, and you may find you have trouble waking or feeling fully awake.

Research suggests that sleeping at least 6 hours, but no more than 9 hours is optimal for most people. You can experiment with yourself to see what works best for you to keep you at your peak. If you are having trouble falling asleep, try to add a bit more physical activity to your day. Learning to relax and meditate before bedtime can also help quiet the mind and aid in falling asleep.

If sleeping too much is a problem for you, set an alarm clock and force yourself to wake after you have slept the proper amount of time. Do not let yourself oversleep, and try to keep the same schedule, even on the weekends when we are tempted to sleep in to ‘catch up’ on sleep.

Keep Positive

While depression is not something that just being positive and thinking positive thoughts can prevent or even cure, staying as positive as possible can indeed help lessen the effects of depression. Surround yourself with positive things and people. If you have a job that really gets you down, consider changing jobs. If you have friends who constantly bring negativity into your life, try to avoid that negativity or even consider changing friends.

Read positive things, watch funny movies, say positive affirmations, and try to keep yourself in as good of an emotional state as possible. Know that if you suffer from depression, letting yourself get down emotionally means you may not be able to bring yourself back up out of that darkness. The best bet is to try to prevent ever letting yourself get to that point.

Talk About It

Depression is nothing of which to be ashamed, and therefore, it’s nothing you should have to hide or keep to yourself. You are not alone. Many people suffer from depression, and those who don’t surely have had moments of depression in their lives. Talk about your feelings. If you are sad, tell someone. If you are feeling depressed, talk about how you are feeling with someone you trust.

Tell your health care and/or mental health professional about your thoughts and feelings. Work through them best you can and let others help when you are not able to work through them yourself. Asking for help is a sign of strength, and it can lead to healing.

These are just some minor suggestions to get you started on healing yourself from depression. They are not exhaustive, and you can find a lot of information about depression by searching the internet or reading. Your health care professional is best equipped to assist you in finding the solutions that will be best for you.

In the end, there is no actual cure for depression, and some people will struggle with depression for much of their lives. However, there are treatments, including medication and lifestyle changes, available that can help you live a normal and fully functional life free from many of the symptoms of depression.

If you suffer from the symptoms listed above, seek help today. Life doesn’t have to be lost to depression. There are solutions and options available to you – seek them!

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