How is Depression Treated? Exploring Effective Options

How is Depression Treated? Exploring Effective Options
Written By: Clinical Psychologist
Reviewed By: Counselling Psychologist
MA Psychology Pennsylvania State University, USA
Last Updated: 15-03-2024

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What is depression?

Depression is one of the most common psychiatric disorders and, from a societal perspective, is perhaps the most costly. Depression is also a highly recurrent disorder with an increasingly younger age of onset for the initial episode. 

Since we all feel sad, moody or low from time to time, some people experience these emotions deeply, for long periods of time - weeks, months or even years and even for any identifiable reason. Depression is more than just a bad mood – a severe illness that affects your physical and mental health. Depression is a common but serious mental health condition that can significantly impact your daily life, relationships, and overall well-being.  While it s normal to feel down or sad sometimes, depression goes beyond temporary emotional states and persists for longer periods, affecting various aspects of your life. 

A prolonged sense of melancholy and a loss of interest in things and activities you used to enjoy are symptoms of the mood disorder depression. It may also make it difficult to eat, sleep, remember things, or think clearly.

It s acceptable to experience sadness or mourning about trying circumstances in life, including losing your job or getting divorced. However, depression differs in that it contains more symptoms than just sorrow and lasts almost every day for at least two weeks.

In the past several decades, we have gained an increasing understanding of the course of depression. Previously viewed as an acute and self-limiting illness, it is now clear that, for many individuals, depression is a lifelong illness. Furthermore, we now increasingly appreciate the importance of course in affecting associated psychosocial outcomes, comorbidities, and treatment.

Depressive disorders come in various forms. Major depressive illness, often known as clinical depression, is sometimes referred to as "depression." This kind of despair is the worst.

In the absence of therapy, depression may worsen and persist longer. In extreme circumstances, it may result in suicide or self-harm. The good news is that symptoms can be significantly improved by therapies.

What are the different types of depression?

Depressive disorders are categorized as follows in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) published by the American Psychiatric Association:

Major depressive disorder, also known as clinical depression, is diagnosed when a person has experienced daily feelings of sadness, worthlessness, or disillusionment for at least two weeks. Additional symptoms that may accompany this illness include altered eating, difficulty sleeping, and loss of interest in activities. This is one of the most prevalent and severe types of depression.

Mild to moderate depression that lasts for two years or longer is referred to as persistent depressive disorder (PDD). Compared to major depressive illness, the symptoms are not as severe. PDD dysthymia was the term used by medical professionals.

Children with disruptive mood dysregulation disorder (DMDD) frequently experience frequent outbursts of anger as well as chronic, acute agitation. By age 10, symptoms typically start to appear.

Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD): PMDD is characterized by mood symptoms like severe irritability, anxiety, or depression in addition to the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS). After your period begins, these symptoms usually go away in a few days, but sometimes they might be so bad that they interfere with your daily activities.

Additionally, there are particular variations of major depressive disorder, such as:

Seasonal depression, also known as seasonal affective disorder, is a type of major depressive disease that usually appears in the fall and winter and disappears in the spring and summer.

Depression that occurs during pregnancy is referred to as prenatal depression, as opposed to postpartum depression. Depression known as postpartum depression appears four weeks after giving birth. "Major depressive disorder (MDD) with peripartum onset" is how the DSM describes these conditions.

Major depressive disorder with atypical features, another name for this illness, is characterized by symptoms that are marginally different from those of "typical" depression. The primary distinction is a transient uptick in mood brought on by favorable occurrences (mood reactivity). Rejection sensitivity and increased hunger are two more important symptoms.

How does depression affect Your Mental Health?

This is how mental health is impacted by depression:

Impact on Emotion:

  • persistent melancholy, emptiness, and poor spirits.
  • emotions of remorse, pessimism, and worthlessness.
  • heightened agitation, rage, or irritation.
  • loss of enjoyment or interest in pastimes and interests.

Effect on Cognition:

  • inability to focus, recall details, or make decisions.
  • invasive ideas and negative mental patterns.
  • weariness and a sense of indecision.

Effect on Behavior:

  • Modifications in sleep habits (insomnia or oversleeping)
  • Appetite changes (weight increase or reduction)
  • seclusion and withdrawal from social interactions.
  • disregarding one s hygiene and personal care.

Effect on the body:

  • headaches, cramps, aches, and pains without a discernible physical source.
  • weariness and a decrease in energy.
  • alterations in sex desire.

What are the signs and symptoms of depression?

Depending on the kind, depression symptoms might differ slightly and range from moderate to severe. Generally speaking, symptoms consist of:

  • feeling extremely depressed, lost, or anxious. Depression in children and teenagers might cause irritability instead of sadness.
  • not finding joy in things that once brought me joy.
  • prone to getting angry or annoyed easily.
  • Overeating or undereating can lead to either weight gain or reduction.
  • Sleeping too much (hypersomnia) or having trouble falling asleep (insomnia).
  • feeling worn out or lacking on energy.
  • having trouble focusing, choosing what to do, or recalling details.
  • suffering from bodily problems such as dyspepsia, headaches, or stomachaches.
  • contemplating suicide or self-harm.

How is depression diagnosed?

Medical professionals make a diagnosis of depression after carefully reviewing your medical and mental health histories, as well as your symptoms. Depending on the context of your symptoms, they can diagnose you with a particular kind of depression, like postpartum depression or seasonal affective disorder.

You must experience five symptoms of depression almost every day for at least two weeks in order to be diagnosed with the illness.

To determine whether any underlying medical disorders are the cause of your depression symptoms, your provider may prescribe diagnostic procedures, such as blood testing.

How is depression treated?

One of the most easily treated mental health issues is depression. Eighty to ninety percent of depressed individuals who seek treatment eventually get well.

Options for treatment consist of:

Psychotherapy: Speaking with a mental health professional is the goal of psychotherapy, sometimes known as talk therapy. Your therapist assists you in recognizing and altering negative feelings, ideas, and actions. Psychotherapy comes in numerous forms, the most popular of which is cognitive behavioral treatment, or CBT. Sometimes you just need short-term counseling. Some people stay in therapy for a few months or even years. 

Psychotherapy types. There are various kinds, but they all aim to help you feel more in control of your life, comprehend the reasons behind your depression, and learn coping mechanisms for dealing with its symptoms. The goal is to monitor your emotional state and experiment with different responses to situations and individuals.

Individual Therapy: It s just the clients and their therapist during individual treatment.
Group Therapy: In group therapy, two or more patients participate. Knowing that there are people with similar issues to you can be beneficial.
Couples Therapy: Couples Therapy facilitates understanding of depression among partners. They discover the benefits of their words and deeds.
Family Therapy: It teaches close ones how to support you and how depression impacts you.

Medication: Antidepressants, a class of prescription drugs, can help alter the brain chemistry that underlies depression. Finding the antidepressant that works best for you may take some time because there are various varieties. The side effects of several antidepressants frequently go better over time. Speak with your healthcare provider if they don t. You might benefit more from taking a different drug.

Treatments that you might receive in addition to conventional Western medicine are referred to as complementary medicine. Biofeedback, acupuncture, massage, hypnosis, and other therapies can help people who are suffering from persistent symptoms of mild depression or enhance their overall well-being.

Brain stimulation therapy: Individuals with severe depression or psychotic depression may benefit from brain stimulation therapy. Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) and electroconvulsive treatment (ECT) are forms of brain stimulation therapy.

Additionally, there are activities you may do at home to lessen the symptoms of depression, such as:

  • exercising on a regular basis.
  • Sleeping well—not too little, not too much.
  • consuming a balanced diet.
  • staying away from alcohol, which depresses.
  • interacting with those that are important to you.

Reference

  • HelpGuide.org. (2023, October 11). Depression Treatment. https://www.helpguide.org/home-pages/depression.htm
  • National Prescribing Service (NPS) MedicineWise. (2021, July 21). Exploring non-drug options in depression. https://www.nps.org.au/professionals/depression-re-examining-the-management-options
  • Psych Central. (2022, April 6). Depression Remedies: Is Therapy or Medication Better?. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2748674/
  • Choosing Therapy. (2023, February 15). Depression Therapy: 4 Effective Options to Consider. https://www.choosingtherapy.com/depression/

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