Depression, (Part Two)
To be diagnosed with major depression, an indivdual must meet the symptom criteria spelled out in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). This manual is published by the American Psychiatric Association and is used by mental health providers to diagnose mental conditions
Diagnostic criteria for depression include:
•Symptoms that occur nearly every day for two or more weeks
•A depressed mood
•Loss of interest or pleasure in most activities
•Significant unintentional weight loss or weight gain
•Sleeping difficulties, whether sleeping too much, too little or frequent waking episodes while trying to sleep
•Feelings of restlessness and agitation
•Feelings of sluggishness
•Fatigue or lack of energy
•Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
•Problems thinking, concentrating or making decisions
•Thoughts of death or suicideYour symptoms cause you distress or impair your ability to function in your daily life
Depression is a serious illness that can have a serious impact in every area of the lives of an individual and their family. Untreated, depression can lead to a downward spiral of disability, dependency and suicide. Complications that depression may cause or be associated with include:
•Heart disease and other medical conditions
- Work or school problems
- Family conflicts
- Relationship difficulties
- Social isolation
Treatments and Medications
Numerous treatments for depression are available. The two standard depression treatment options include Medication and psychotherapy.
Dozens of medications are available to treat depression. Most people find the best relief of depression symptoms by combining medications and psychotherapy. Some medications for depression are antidepressants that have been specifically approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat depression.
There are several different types of antidepressants. Antidepressants are generally categorized by how they affect the naturally occurring biochemicals in your brain to change your mood. Factors that are considered when choosing an antidepressant are your symptoms, your family history of depression, and other conditions you may have.
A very effective treatment strategy for treating depression is following a team approach whereby all of the participants including the family physician, a qualified mental health provider and family members work together to ensure that treatment strategies are cohesive.
For optimal results it is important for the depressed individual to be an active participant in their treatment. Working collaboratively, the depressed individual, their physician and therapist can decide which treatment options may be best for the specific situation. In some cases, though, the severity of the depression dictates that the care may need to be guided by the physician or POA until the depressed person’s condition improves to the extent that they can participate in the decision making process.
Psychotherapy, another key depression treatment, is often used along with medication treatment. Psychotherapy is a psychoemotional method of treating depression via discusion with a mental health provider about how the condition and other related issues impact the person’s life. Psychotherapy is also known as therapy, talk therapy, counseling or psychosocial therapy.
These talk sessions teach the individual about the causes of depression to improve their understanding of how it impacts their life. Therapy also assist in the identification and changing unhealthy behavior patterns or thoughts, exploring relationships and experiences, finding better ways to cope and solve problems, and setting realistic life goals. Psychotherapy can assist in regaining a sense of personal empowerment, happiness and control in your life while alleviating depression symptoms, such as hopelessness and anger. It also provides necessary skills to navigate through crisis situations or other current difficulties.
There are several types talk therapy that are effective for depression. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is often used in conjunction with psychotherapy and the combination of these two therapies are typically the most beneficial for depression. CBT assists in identifying pessimistic, negative beliefs and behaviors. Through a variety of strategies, these negative beliefs are replaced with healthy, positive beliefs that then improve a person’s self image and esteem. CBT is based on the concept that an individual’s own thoughts — not other people or situations — determine how they behave. Even if an unwanted situation stays the same, the way a person thinks about it and therefore responds to it can become positive and optimistic.
There’s no consistently effective way to prevent depression. However, when a person assumes better control of their personal life they work at controlling their stress levels that can lead to burnout. When they implement strategies to increase their resilience and boost low self esteem they are focusing on self care which is essential to emotional wellbeing. Friendship and social support, especially in times of crisis, can help an individual weather rough spells. In addition, treatment at the earliest sign of a problem can help prevent depression from worsening. Long-term maintenance treatment also may help prevent a relapse of depression symptoms.
Lifestyle and Home Remedies
Depression generally isn’t an illness that can be treated without assistance. However, there are specific strategies that a person can implement that will build on their treatment plan. In addition to professional treatment, follow these self-care steps for depression:
• Stick to the treatment plan. Attendance at therapy sessions on a regular basis is essential even when the person doesn’t feel like going.
• Take medications as directed. even once an individual’s mood improves it is essential that they maintain their medication regime. If they stop their medications, depression symptoms may come back, and there could be adverse withdrawal-like symptoms.
• Learn about depression. The more a person learns about their condition the more empowered they become which can be a motivational factor to sticking with a treatment plan.
• Pay attention to warning signs. A depressed individual can work collaboratively with the physician, family member, friend or therapist to identify triggers to their depression and to develop a plan should the symptoms re-emerge.
- Get active. Physical activity and exercise have been identified as successful ways to reduce depression symptoms.
- Avoid drugs and alcohol. Alcohol and illicit drugs can worsen depression symptoms.
Coping and Support
Coping with depression can be challenging since it is more difficult to engage in the behavior and activities that may help an individual feel better. A therapist or physician can offer strategies for improving coping skills. The following are tips to cope with depression:
•Simplify life. Reduce obligations when possible, and set reasonable schedules for goals.
• write in a journal to express pain, anger, fear or other emotions.
•Read reputable self-help books and talk about them to therapist.
•Avoid isolation. Try to participate in normal activities and socialize with family or friends regularly.
•Complete self care tasks by eating a healthy diet and getting sufficient sleep.
•Join a support group for people with depression to connect with others facing similar challenges.
•Stay focused on goals in order to stay motivated during the ongoing process of recovery. Stay focused on assuming responsibility for managing the illness and working toward goals.
•Learn relaxation and stress management such as meditation, yoga or tai chi.
•Structure time by following a schedule to plan the day and activities. Try to stay organized by making a list of daily tasks.
- Avoid making important decisions when in the depths of depression, since thoughts may not be clear.
The connection between mind and body has been studied for centuries. Many individuals who have depression experience physical symptoms even more than mood-related symptoms. For instance, they may experience frequent fatigue, headache, backache, or vague aches and pains.
There are a number of mind-body techniques that seem to strengthen the connection between a person’s mind and body. Complementary and alternative medicine practitioners believe these two systems must be in harmony for an individual to stay healthy or to heal.
Mind-body techniques used to improve depression symptoms include:
Alternative treatment options such as dietary supplements should be used with the input of the physician who can determine with the person if their sole use is effective enough to treat the depression. If mind-body techniques are tried first to treat depression but the symptoms worsen or don’t improve, it is essential for the person to consult with their health care providers.