WHAT IS DEPRESSION?
Depression is a mental health condition that affects the way a person feels about themselves, the way they think as well as the way they sleep and eat.
The term depression is often misused in daily language, however, there is a difference between sadness and depression. Sadness is one of the emotions we experience as humans. A normal response to loss, disappointment, problems and other challenging situations. Whereas depression is an actual health condition, that affects a personas overall functioning. People with depression cannot ‘snap out of it’ because you tell them so.
Without the appropriate clinical treatment, symptoms can last for weeks, months, or even years.
WHAT ARE THE COMMON SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF DEPRESSION?
People with depression will experience various types of symptoms. The frequency, severity and duration of symptoms will vary depending on each person. Symptoms may include the following:
⦁ A persistently sad, anxious or empty mood
⦁ Feelings of helplessness, pessimism, guilt, worthlessness, or hopelessness
⦁ Loss of emotional expression (lethargic, flat)
⦁ Social withdrawal
⦁ Loss of energy
⦁ Difficulties concentrating, making decisions or trouble remembering things
⦁ Loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyable
⦁ Loss of appetite with weight loss or overeating with weight gain
⦁ Sleep disturbance with insomnia, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
⦁ Irritability, restlessness
⦁ Physical discomforts such as headaches, chronic pain, indigestion
⦁ Thoughts of death or suicide or suicide attempts
⦁ Alcohol or drug use
HOW TO DIAGNOSE DEPRESSION?
The first step is to have a family doctor or GP checkup. The medical doctor will be able to rule out whether your symptoms are those of a mood disorder or those related to another medical condition such as vitamin and mineral deficiencies, female hormonal changes and/ or thyroid conditions. There are also some medications that can have ‘depression’ as a side-effect. If these possibilities are ruled out, you will then be referred to a mental health specialist / psychologist for further evaluation.
A diagnosis of depression is based on:
⦁ Your symptoms
⦁ Signs observed by your doctor
⦁ Your medical history
⦁ Family history
Below are a few questions you may be asked:
⦁ What are your symptoms?
⦁ Have you had these symptoms before?
⦁ How long have you had these symptoms?
⦁ How severe are your symptoms?
⦁ Have you been treated for depression before?
⦁ If yes, what treatments?
⦁ Does anyone in your family have depression?
⦁ If yes, were they treated and how?
⦁ Do you drink alcohol?
⦁ Do you use drugs?
⦁ Do you have thoughts of ending your life?
WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF DEPRESSION?
Common types of depression include:
⦁ Major Depressive Disorder: This type of depression is characterized by a severe lack of interest of anything that was once enjoyable or a chronic feeling of sadness.
⦁ Bipolar Disorder: Also known as ‘Manic depression’, is a spectrum of mood disorders occurring on a continuum. These will be characterized by periods of depression with or without periods of elevated moods known as mania or hypomania, or in some cases symptoms of psychosis may be present, depending on severity.There are 3 subtypes known as Bipolar 1, Bipolar 2 and Cyclothymia.
⦁ Dysthymia: This type of depression is characterized by chronic yet mild symptoms of depression. It is less severe than Major Depressive Disorder, however some people who have dysthymia may have severe depression also known as ‘Double Depression’, which is usually more challenging to recover from than people who have major depressive disorder without dysthymia.
⦁ Seasonal Affective Disorder: This type of depression occurs seasonally and is caused by lack of sunlight, usually in the late fall and winter. Relief from this type of depression will usually happen with the start of spring.
WHAT ARE THE CAUSES OF DEPRESSION?
⦁ Depression has no single cause; often, it results from a combination of factors such as genetics, chemical imbalances, traumatic experiences, stressful lifestyles, specific environments.
⦁ Whatever its cause, depression is not just a state of mind. It is related to physical changes in the brain, and connected to an imbalance of a type of chemical that carries signals in your brain and nerves
⦁ The causes of depression are multiple, but the most important thing is to take charge of your life and make decisions that won’t cause you to feel worse.
HOW DO WE TREAT DEPRESSION?
First of all, depression is treatable. It starts with the decision to make the first step, this thought can make all the difference.
Secondly, a proper diagnosis is essential for determining the correct treatment, as different types of depression will determine whether medication is required, what type of medication is required and more importantly the type of psychological intervention.
The most appropriate treatment approach will depend on the outcome of the evaluation. Most people do very well with psychotherapy, but some require treatment with antidepressants in addition to psychotherapy.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (or CBT) is the most evidence-based psychotherapy intervention that has shown the best results in both assisting people either recover from their depression or in other cases improve quality of life through learning how to live life through more effective ways of managing their condition.
Medication can allow you to gain relatively quick symptom relief, if you are experiencing severe and disabling symptoms. However, medication does not “cure” the depression, it only treats the symptoms. If you are depressed, you would highly benefit from a CBT type psychotherapy approach that will help you to learn more effective ways to deal with life’s problems, and to change the way you think, feel, and behave that directly or indirectly causes the depression to persist and control your life.
The combination of mindfulness therapy and CBT has yielded the best results so far when provided in a safe and healing environment away from your daily routines. The advantages of an intensive approach allow for a faster understanding, assimilation and application that are necessary for a recovery.
The intensive program that we offer combines these approaches, allowing you to go through a process of therapy in a short time with better results than when the same approach is offered but on a ‘once a week’ or less basis.
Commitment to one’s treatment along with the help of qualified mental health professionals are essential to recovery.