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Depression

Depression can make it tough to find the energy and motivation to look after yourself and bounce back from a low point. But the good news is, even tiny, regular steps towards feeling better can make a big difference in how you feel, often faster than you might think.

Key points

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Overview

Depression is quite common, with about 5 to 10% of adults in the US experiencing it. It can drain the joy out of life and make it hard to do well at work or keep relationships healthy. The good news is, that treatment for depression often works well, and medication isn’t always necessary.

Symptoms of depression

  • Feeling down or blue for no apparent reason that persists for over two weeks
  • Struggling to find motivation, making even simple tasks seem overwhelming
  • Constantly feeling exhausted or sluggish despite getting enough rest
  • Having trouble eating well, leading to weight fluctuations due to poor diet or lack of appetite
  • Finding little joy in the things you usually love
  • Pulling away from social engagements
An illustration showing the different depression symptoms.

Causes

Understanding why one person experiences depression while another with similar circumstances does not can be difficult. However, stressful life events—like going through a divorce, losing a loved one, losing a job, or navigating major life transitions—can increase the risk of depression. Whether starting or ending a career, getting married or divorced, or adjusting to becoming parents or empty nesters, these periods of change often require us to reassess our identity and self-worth. Without the right support, these transitions can easily lead to feelings of depression.

Risk factors for depression

Several factors can heighten the risk of developing depression. Genetics play a role, especially if you have a family member who has experienced depression. Environmental influences, such as a history of abuse or trauma, underdeveloped life skills, and an inadequate support network, can also contribute. Additionally, biological aspects, including certain medical conditions, brain chemistry imbalances, and medications for other health issues, can increase the likelihood of depression.

Diagnosis

To receive an accurate diagnosis, it’s crucial to consult with your healthcare provider for a thorough evaluation. The treatment for clinical depression will vary depending on the specific type of depression. For instance, Seasonal Affective Disorder, which arises during colder months, is managed differently than postpartum depression, which occurs after childbirth. Likewise, depression that coexists with another mental health condition requires a distinct approach compared to depression resulting from an underlying medical issue.

A qualified healthcare provider will carefully assess your symptoms, overall health, family history, and any other factors that may have contributed to your depression before making recommendations. In some cases, blood tests are necessary to rule out any underlying health conditions that could be causing your symptoms. Once medical causes are excluded, your doctor may refer you to a specialist, such as a therapist or psychologist, for further treatment.

Treatment

The right treatment for your depression will largely depend on its underlying causes and the severity of your symptoms.

If an underlying health condition or a side effect of your current medication is causing your depression, your doctor may adjust your medication or switch it entirely. For mild depression, adopting healthy lifestyle changes like improving your diet, establishing a regular sleep routine, and exercising regularly can significantly alleviate symptoms. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) or other forms of psychotherapy can also be very effective in managing symptoms and developing long-term coping strategies.

In cases of severe depression, your mental health provider may suggest medication, at least temporarily, to help you navigate a particularly challenging period.

Thankfully, depression frequently improves with the appropriate treatment. Even if asking for help feels daunting, reaching out is the first step toward feeling better. Every small effort you make can lead to meaningful improvements in your symptoms. Just taking that initial step is crucial to your journey toward healing.

Depression and other mental health challenges

Depression frequently coexists with other mental health conditions like anxiety and OCD. Trauma, loss, or relationship endings can sometimes trigger depression. Individuals struggling with depression may also be susceptible to turning to alcohol or other unhealthy coping methods.

Collaborating with your mental health professional, you can uncover the causes and consequences that often accompany depression. Together, you can navigate through your difficulties and devise strategies to aid your recovery from depression and build a meaningful life. If you need help, reach out to Aimee Kauffman Counseling today. Aimee can guide you through this journey with compassion and expertise.

References and further reading

Cuijpers, P., Karyotaki, E., Wit, L., & Ebert, D. (2020). The effects of fifteen evidence-supported therapies for adult depression: A meta-analytic review. Psychotherapy Research.

Cuijpers, P., Oud, M., Karyotaki, E., Noma, H., Quero, S., Cipriani, A., Arroll, B., & Furukawa, T. (2021). Psychologic Treatment of Depression Compared With Pharmacotherapy and Combined Treatment in Primary Care: A Network Meta-Analysis. The Annals of Family Medicine.

Pablo, G., Solmi, M., Vaquerizo-Serrano, J., Raduà, J., Passina, A., Morsillo, P., Correll, C., Borgwardt, S., Galderisi, S., Bechdolf, A., Pfennig, A., Bauer, M., Kessing, L., Amelsvoort, T., Nieman, D., Domschke, K., Krebs, M., Sand, M., Vieta, E., McGuire, P., Arango, C., Shin, J., & Fusar-Poli, P. (2021). Primary prevention of depression: An umbrella review of controlled interventions. Journal of affective disorders.