There are few conditions misunderstood more than Depression. Most of the public have no idea what Depression is beyond what they see in movies and television. Most think it is just sadness experienced by weak individuals or by crazy people who are far removed from sanity. These misconceptions are harmful, as Depression is a medical condition anyone can experience.
Depression can happen to anyone. While some are born with genes that allow them to be more susceptible, anyone can get Depression by having too much stress in their lives. In reality, there are two different types of Depression: Depression you are born with (Recurrent Depression that occurs off and on in life), and situational based Depression caused by stress. To be clear, if you experience massive amounts of stress over an extended period, you can become depressed.
Most born with Major Depression begin to experience it in their teens or young adulthood and experience it in cycles throughout their lives. For people with Recurrent Depression, it is important to manage stress, practice self-care, and note when you are beginning to enter into a depressive cycle. Therapy and support groups are good, as they can help provide you with tools to manage, and in some instances prevent a depressive cycle.
Depression is a Medical Condition
In the past, many have thought depression was a choice or condition weak people came down with. I have heard people argue that people with Depression are “drug seekers” who just want a high from medications. Anyone who has taken anti-depressive medication will note the irony in that statement. However, science has proven Depression is a medical condition, just like cancer, or high blood pressure.
Depression has been shown to be localized in the brain, specifically in the Limbic System. The Limbic System is a collection of brain structures that regulate appetite, mood, energy levels, and sleep. This system is highly important, as damage causes Depression. To be clear, damage to the Limbic System results in Depression. If the Limbic has been damaged, depression systems appear.
What can damage the Limbic System? Stress. Stress has been shown to damage the Limbic system in brain scans. People with Limbic System damage experience Depression symptoms, while those who’s Limbic systems were intact did not.
To break it down: excessive stress causes damage to the Limbic System and leads to Brain Damage.
This is a new finding within the past ten years. Most before this did not tie in a medical cause with Depression. Most thought it Depression was a purely psychological condition. This is why medications help treat depression, as they help in time boost neurotransmitter production which helps the Limbic system function.
Symptoms of Depression
Below is a list of the most common symptoms of Depression. Depression does not have to look the same from one person to the next. People can have different symptoms in different severity.
Hopeless and Helplessness
Low energy, tiredness
Appetite disruption: too much or too little
Sleep disruption: too much or too little
Lack of pleasure
There are more rare symptoms, including delusional thoughts and hallucinations, but those are not common for many. Most who have Depression experience many of the symptoms listed above for a period greater than a month.
Can Depression be Cured?
Depression is a difficult condition to treat, as it can respond differently per individual. For people who have Recurrent Depression, it will most likely be a life-long battle. They will often be on medications for the rest of their lives and will need to monitor their mood carefully. Therapy is often introduced to help teach coping skills and methods to reduce stress. Those who have too much stress and develop Depression; they often are placed on medications for 1-2 years, and are slowly tapered off. Therapy is often included, designed to reduce stress. If stress is reduced, and behaviors are changed, Depression can be cured, and may never return.
In any event, reducing stress will help in the treatment of Depression. Those who have burned themselves with too much stress will need to change their lives, so they are not as stressed. This could mean changing jobs, friends, and even how they raise their family.
Studies have shown if stress is reduced over a long period, the Limbic system can be repaired. It often takes years, but the Limbic can be restored to near previous levels, resulting in the remission of Depression.
Can Depression be cured? In short, yes, but it depends on reducing stress, and if you are born with Recurrent Depression.
What do I do if I think I may be Depressed?
If you have many of the symptoms listed above, you may be depressed. You should not ignore this, and think it will just go away. Depression rarely does unless you change your behaviors. Reduce your stress, limit negative thoughts, and see if your symptoms reduce. If they do not, you may need professional help. There is no shame in this; you see the doctor if you break your arm, or got the flu, right? Why not for Depression? At this stage you have two choices: if you feel your depression is slight, you can see a therapist first, and try therapy before medications, to see if changing behaviors alone will work. If your depression is severe, especially if you are having suicidal thoughts, then you need to see a doctor first, to be put on medication. You never ignore suicidal thoughts; they are NOT normal and need to be treated right away.
If you choose to see a professional, studies have shown a combination of medication and therapy yield the best results, especially for Recurrent Depression. The easiest method is to get a Psychiatrist for the medication, and a therapist for therapy and have them communicate for the best treatment. As a therapist, I refer to a Psychiatrist for medication management, while I provide therapy to teach coping skills and how to change behaviors.
If you need to find a professional to help treat depression, Psychology Today has a good list of professionals around the US, including Doctors and Therapists. If you are in the Houston or Cypress area, I can help provide therapy to treat Depression and can assist in finding a Psychologist. I have helped patients recover from Severe Depression. To learn more about Depression, Depressive Illness: The Curse of the Strong, is an excellent book. Do not give up hope, and know you are not alone.
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