What is Depression?
Depression is a mental disorder characterized by sad mood—you feel sad most of the time– and the loss of pleasure in normally enjoyable activities—fun things don’t seem fun anymore. Sometimes the word “depression” refers to Major Depression, a psychiatric syndrome with a formal definition. Other times, depression refers to a sustained period of unhappy feeling that doesn’t improve even when good things happen. In either case, depression can be a very disabling condition that harms: a person’s sense of self, their relationships with family and friends, their physical health, and their functioning in work or school. In severe cases, patients with Depression can become hopeless and can start to question whether their lives are worth living.
Doctors have recognized the symptoms of depression and its dangers since ancient times. The ancient Greeks described the syndrome of “Melancholia” and believed that it was caused by an excess of black bile in the gall bladder. While our understanding of the biological and psychological causes of depression has improved since then, depression remains a difficult problem to treat and a high-risk problem to address.
Depression is a major cause of illness and disability around the world. In most countries the number of people who would suffer from depression is around ten percent, but the numbers are higher throughout North America. About one out of every five people in the United States will suffer an episode of major depression during their lifetime.
Symptoms of Depression
Major Depression significantly affects a person’s family and personal relationships, work or school life, sleeping and eating habits, and general health.
People with depression feel sad or down nearly all of the time, and do not enjoy activities that they used to find fun. Depressed people may feel that they are worthless. They may experience excessive guilt, helplessness, hopelessness, and self-hatred. Other symptoms of depression include poor concentration, withdrawal from social situations and activities, reduced sex drive, and thoughts of death or suicide. Additionally, disturbances in sleep and appetite are common among the depressed.
A depressed person may experience physical symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, or digestion changes. These symptoms are the result of the toll that the stress of depression is taking on the body. Family and friends may notice a significant change within the person’s behavior, movements, and thinking.
Depression frequently occurs in addition to other psychiatric problems. Anxiety symptoms can have a major impact on the course of a depressive illness, with delayed recovery, increased risk of relapse, and difficulty returning to a normal level of functioning. There are significantly increased rates of alcohol and drug abuse among people with depression. There are also increased rates of Depression in persons who have syndromes that cause them chronic pain. In addition, many individuals diagnosed with ADHD comorbid depression as do individuals who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Subtypes of Depression
Major Depression is a condition in which depressed mood lasts for two weeks or more and patients exhibit a variety of emotional, behavioral, and other mental signs and symptoms. There are several subtypes of Major Depression: Melancholic Depression in which patients awaken too early, exhibit low energy, feel excessively guilty, and lose weight; Atypical Depression in which patients are sensitive to interpersonal rejection, sleep excessively, gain weight, and avoid social activities; Post-partum Depression, which occurs in the mothers shortly after giving birth; and Seasonal Depression, in which patients experience depression symptoms with a change in the seasons and the amount of sunlight, usually during the winter.
Dysthymia is a chronic form of depression lasting a minimum of two years which has symptoms that are less severe but more difficult to treat than Major depression.
Minor depression is a less severe diagnosis of Depression than Major depression, though both often require treatment.
Adjustment disorder is a psychological reaction to a recent event that may result in persistent or even prolonged depressed mood.
Treatment Options for Depression
Two common treatments for depression are psychotherapy and medications. As current research consistently demonstrates, a combined approach to treatment is more likely to reduce symptoms than a single treatment approach.
True psychotherapy can only be delivered, to individuals, groups, or families by licensed mental health professionals. Bridges to Recovery specializes in a particular form of psychotherapy called psychodynamic therapy. In psychodynamic therapy, the psychotherapist and the patient work together to identify current sources of stress, and to examine whether current stressors may be linked to events from early life history and development.
Psychotherapy seeks not only to bring relief from current suffering, but also to provide insights into how the individual came to feel the way they do about themselves and about their relationships with other people
Medications for Depression
Many individuals choose to receive Antidepressant medications in order to treat the symptoms of Depression, with or without also entering psychotherapy. There are a very wide variety of medication options for treatment with depression. Often a primary care doctor will prescribe an Antidepressant to a depressed individual. However, if there is no response, it may be beneficial to consult with a licenced psychiatrist, who will have expertise in the use and combination of Antidepressant medications. Most Antidepressants target one or more neurotransmitters in the brain, such as serotonin, dopamine, or norepinephrine. Like psychotherapy, medication treatments for depression do not work immediately, and may take one or two months to begin to have positive effects combating depressive signs and symptoms.
Here are some of the most common questions that arise from people who receive a diagnosis of depression:
How common is depression?
Depression is an extremely common illness, which affects nearly one in five Americans at some point during the course of their lives. One of the most debilitating aspects of depression can be the fear that no one else will understand how it feels to be depressed, though it is important to realize that you are not alone, as many people have endured symptoms and difficulties similar to yours.
Can my primary physician treat depression?
A family doctor or a general practitioner is often the first line of defense when it comes to treating depression. Primary care doctors may recommend medication or psychotherapy to provide relief of symptoms. In fact, primary care doctors write more prescriptions for Antidepressants than psychiatrists do. But if the treatments from the family doctor do not work, patients may benefit from personal consultation with a depression expert, such as a psychiatrist, a psychologist, or both.
How long will it take for recovery?
It’s difficult to predict how long it will take to relieve the symptoms of depression. Neither medications nor psychotherapy will provide an immediate relief of symptoms, which is more likely to take a few weeks or even a couple of months. Unfortunately, the symptoms of depression are likely to improve more slowly than anyone would want for themselves or for their loved ones. The good news is, there are many safe and effective treatments.
How will other people react to my depression?
Some people are doubtful that depression is a “real” problem that causes suffering and dysfunction for real people. It is possible that you will have family and friends who are skeptical about your symptoms or believe that “you just need to snap out of it.” Fortunately, with new scientific findings about the neurochemical basis of depression, there is irrefutable evidence that depression results from a combination of biological and psychological factors; factors that are responsive to treatment.
Depression Treatment at Bridges to Recovery
Bridges to Recovery is an adult residential treatment center with specialized expertise in the treatment of depression. Our staff utilizes an intensive treatment approach to depression in which all aspects of physical, spiritual, and mental functioning are evaluated. While personalized changes are tailored and recommended to return individuals back to a normal mood state and improved health. For people with treatment-resistant depression who do not physically need hospitalization, rehab at Bridges to Recovery is an ideal option.
The Bridges to Recovery facilities, located in Bel Air, Holmby Hills, and Pacific Palisades, California, offer hope to people suffering from all types of depression. Bridges employs a trained multi-disciplinary staff with expertise in multiple forms of healing. Individuals who enter treatment at Bridges receive individualized treatment plans that promote healthy living patterns, boosting their physical, emotional and spiritual health,.
Non-traditional forms of depression treatment are integrated into the Bridges approach, including nutritional assessment and modification, yoga, acupuncture, somatic therapies such as EMDR, and art therapy. The residential treatment setting offers individuals an opportunity to heal in a beautiful and supportive environment away from the pressures and circumstances of home life. The opportunity for respite from the difficulties of contemporary life can offer individual with depression a very special opportunity to focus exclusively on their own health and recovery. Call us to today to find out more about how Bridges can help you or someone you care about with the debilitating problem of clinical depression.