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Depression

Depressive disorder, also known as depression, is more than just feeling sad sometimes. It’s a serious mental health condition that needs attention and medical help. If left untreated, it can have serious consequences. However, many people can get better with the right treatment, which often includes medication, talking to a therapist, and making healthy lifestyle choices.

Depression can come and go in episodes, and for most people, it tends to come back if not treated. In some cases, these episodes can last for months or even years.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), an estimated 8.8% of adults in the United States experienced at least one major depressive episode in 2022. This means that around 22 million adults in the US were affected by depression in 2022.

Recognizing the Signs
Depression can show up differently in each person, but it usually disrupts daily life for more than two weeks. Common symptoms include:

  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Appetite changes
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Low energy
  • Losing interest in things you used to enjoy
  • Feeling hopeless or guilty
  • Being more or less active than usual
  • Physical pain or discomfort
  • Thoughts of suicide

Understanding the Causes
Depression doesn’t have one single cause. It can be triggered by a life crisis, a physical illness, or other factors, but it can also come on without an obvious reason. Scientists believe many things can contribute to depression:

  • Trauma: Early-life trauma can change how the brain reacts to fear and stress, which might lead to depression.
  • Genetics: Mood disorders, including depression, can run in families.
  • Life Situations: Marital status, changes in relationships, money, and where you live can make you more likely to get depressed.
  • Brain Changes: Brain scans show that the front part of the brain is less active during depressive episodes. Depression also affects how the pituitary gland and hypothalamus respond to hormones.
  • Other Health Issues: If you have a history of sleep problems, other illnesses, chronic pain, anxiety, or ADHD, you might be more likely to get depression. Some medical conditions, like hypothyroidism, can look like depression. Some medications can also make you feel depressed.
  • Substance Abuse: If you have a problem with drugs or alcohol, you’re more likely to have a major depressive episode. When both problems happen at the same time, it’s important to treat them together because drugs and alcohol can make depression worse.

Getting a Diagnosis
To be diagnosed with depressive disorder, you need to have a depressive episode that lasts more than two weeks. The main signs of a depressive episode are:

  • Not enjoying things you usually like
  • Changes in eating or weight
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Feeling restless or slow
  • Feeling tired
  • Feeling bad about yourself
  • Not being able to think clearly
  • Thinking about suicide

Ways to treat Depression
Depressive disorder can be very tough, but it usually gets better with the right treatment. It’s important to have a thorough evaluation and a personalized treatment plan. If you’re thinking about suicide, it’s crucial to have a safety plan in place. After checking for any medical causes, treatment can include:

Talking to a therapist might involve cognitive-behavioral therapy, family-focused therapy, or interpersonal therapy to help manage emotions.
Medications like antidepressants, mood stabilizers, or antipsychotic drugs to address specific symptoms. Regular exercise can help prevent and relieve mild to moderate symptoms.

Brain stimulation therapies like electroconvulsive therapy or repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation if therapy and medication don’t work. Alternative approaches like acupuncture, meditation, faith-based practices, and nutrition as part of a holistic treatment plan.