It’s normal for every person to experience feelings of sadness or hopelessness from time to time, most especially when a major life stressor, such as moving to a new neighborhood or losing a job has occurred. Some people though experience what is far more than a simple case of the transient blues – they face debilitating depressive disorders that cause significant impact to nearly every area of their life. This affliction of mind, body, and thoughts causes tremendous emotional pain for the person who has depression and those who love them. There are certain types of depressive disorders that may be the result of unique life circumstances. The most common types of depressive disorders include:
Major depression, also known as major depressive disorder or clinical depression, involves a combination of symptoms that significantly disrupt a person’s ability to properly eat, sleep, work, function in interpersonal relationships, or enjoy once-loved activities. Often simply called “depression,” major depressive disorder can become so all-encompassing and debilitating that a person is unable to function normally in his or her daily life. Some people may only experience one episode of major depressive disorder in their lifetime, while others may struggle with multiple cycles of depressive symptoms that come and go over time.
Minor depression is a milder type of depressive disorder that is characterized by the presence of symptoms that do not meet the criteria for major depression. While symptoms of minor depressive disorder do not impact daily life as much as those experienced by people with major depressive disorder, the symptoms do prevent normal daily functioning and feelings of wellness. Untreated minor depression is a concern as it can lead to experiencing episodes of major depression during the lifespan.
Dysthymic disorder, or dysthymia is a mental health disorder that is characterized by pervasive symptoms of general wellness and impediment in activities of daily living for two years or longer. Additionally, people who have dysthymia may experience episodes of major depressive disorder during their lifetime.
It’s important to recognize the severity of depressive disorders since, if left untreated, they can lead to extreme self-destructive behaviors, such as self-harm or suicidal thoughts and behaviors. However, most cases of depressive disorders are treatable using the right amount of therapy and proper self-care, and most people who have depressive disorders are able to recover and go on to lead a happy, healthy, and productive life.
Depression is one of the most common mental health disorders in the United States and worldwide. One in every ten adults in the United States, or 9.1% of the adult population, is affected by depression, while 4.1% meet the criteria for major depression. The average age of onset for adult depression is 32 years of age, and overall, between 20% and 25% of those living in the U.S. will have an episode of major depression during his or her lifetime. Additionally, teens between the ages of 13 and 18, or 3.3% of the teen population, report having experienced at least one crippling depressive episode.
Causes and risk factors for depression
Depression is a serious mental illness that’s believed to be caused by a combination of genetic, environmental, and physical risk factors working together. The most common causes and risk factors for depressive disorders include:
Genetic: Mental illnesses such as depression often run in families. People who have a first-degree relative, such as a parent or sibling, who has struggled with depression are at greater risk than others without a similar history for developing the disorder at some point in their lifetime. However, there are many cases of depression that occur in absence of familial history.
Physical: Neuroimaging studies such as CT Scans and MRIs of the brains of the people who have depression show structural differences in the areas of the brain that are responsible for sleep, appetite, and behaviors. Additionally, decreased levels of certain types of neurotransmitters in the brain, including serotonin and dopamine, have been implicated in the development of depressive disorders.
Environmental: The stress and trauma associated with certain types of major life events may overwhelm a person’s ability to cope and can lead to depression in certain individuals who have other risk factors of depression.
- Poor social support
- Being a single parent
- Hormone imbalances
- Past and/or continued traumatic events
- High stress situations
- Drug and/or alcohol abuse
- Low self-esteem, poor self-image
- Chronic medical conditions
- Being female
- Being between the ages of 45 and 64
- Having less than a high school education
- Having chronic disabilities and being unable to work
- Not having health insurance
- Childhood neglect or abuse – physical, sexual, emotional, and/or verbal
- Certain medications
- Overly dependent, pessimistic, and/or self-critical personality traits
Signs and symptoms of depression
The signs and symptoms of depression and depressive disorders vary from person to person and are based upon the type of depressive disorders, availability of social support, proper coping skills, and symptom frequency and severity.
- Spending increasing amounts of time sleeping
- Withdrawing from once-pleasurable activities
- Increasing challenges in meeting demands of work, home, social, and scholastic life
- Irritability and restlessness
- Angry outbursts
- Suicide attempts
- Insomnia or hypersomnia
- Fatigue and decreased energy
- Changes in eating patterns
- Aches and pains
- Digestive problems
Symptoms of depressive disorders include:
- Decreased ability to concentrate
- Slowed thinking and speaking
- Increasing preoccupation with depressive feelings
- Decreased ability to make decisions
- Trouble recalling details
- Low self-esteem
- Poor self-image
- Feeling critical of oneself
- Overwhelming sadness
- Feeling “empty” inside
- Feelings of guilt
- Preoccupation with death, dying, suicide
Effects of depressive disorders
Depressive disorders are very treatable mental illnesses that, like other physical illnesses, require both changes in lifestyle and therapeutic interventions. Without proper treatment, depressive disorders can worsen over time, causing immense problems in an individual’s life.
The long-term effects of depressive disorders include:
- Social isolation
- Loss of interpersonal relationships
- Increased physical problems
- Anxiety, panic disorder, or social phobia
- Addiction to drugs or alcohol
- Suicidal thoughts and behaviors
Types of depression treatment
When you first come to us for help treating your depression, you’ll undergo several evaluations that will allow us to form a better picture of your challenges. Your therapist will then work with you to create an individualized plan of care for your stay with us that meets all of your needs.
Individual therapy allows you the chance to work privately with a therapist who specializes in depression treatment. Our therapists will work with you to identify any negative thought patterns you may have and replace them with more appropriate ways of viewing the world. You’ll also focus upon solutions to the challenges depression has caused in your life.
Group therapy allows you the much-needed social interaction and support by people who understand depression. Together, you’ll work toward growing, learning, and healing in our groups. We offer groups focusing upon coping skills, life skills, and recognizing and preventing depression relapse.
Family therapy can be a vital to your recovery as your loved ones can provide the cornerstone for your support system.
As our clinicians aim to treat the whole person, you’ll engage in experiential treatments that accompany our scientifically-validated therapeutic treatment.
Helping a loved one get treatment for depression
When someone you love is affected by depression, it affects everything, including you. No matter how often you reassure your loved one that you’re there for them, that they should seek help, that you love them no matter what, it seems like they’re simply not listening. They may push you away, convinced that you’d be “better off without them.” You know this isn’t the case and you’re probably struggling mightily with your own feelings about your loved one’s depression. Here are some tips for gently guiding your loved one into treatment for depression:
Acknowledge that depression is affecting you, too: When someone we love is struggling with feelings of depression, it can be very challenging to watch. You hate to see them struggle, but you may feel frustrated that he or she isn’t accepting your offers of help. You’re probably tired of being pushed away. You probably feel helpless. What’s most important is to practice proper self-care: find a therapist who specializes in depression and a local area support group to join for those who love people with depression. You’re entitled to all of your emotions – work through them so you can remain objective.
Do your homework: Limitless information about depression and its treatments is available to you. Take the time to research depression so that you can see the world through your loved one’s eyes – this can help you empathize with the way he or she feels. Find a treatment center that specializes in depression treatment and make an appointment with your loved one to tour the facility and ask any questions you have about their approach to depression treatment.
Be gentle but persistent: This is one of those times that it’s okay to be pushy – if you can do it in a gentle manner. You know that he or she needs help, you know depression is a highly treatable illness, and you know that he or she cannot continue living like this. Gently guide your loved one into treatment at an inpatient facility that has countless years of experience treating people who have depression. Above all, refuse to give up on your loved one.