Living with Depression: 5 Ways to Help You Keep Moving Forward
Research by The National Institute of Mental Health indicates more than forty million American adults live with major depressive disorders each year. Major depression also impacts the lives of more than two million adolescents and teens under the age of seventeen. Depression is a commonly diagnosed and highly treatable mental illness; however, many who could benefit from treatment do not seek help from mental health professionals at a treatment program like The Meadowglade. Some statistics show that those who seek treatment for depression symptoms see improvement in their emotional health in as few as four weeks.
What is Depression?
Depression is a mood disorder that causes a range of unpleasant and sometimes overwhelming symptoms. You may also hear it referred to as major depression, clinical depression, or a depressive disorder. When someone struggles with depression, the symptoms they experience impact how they think, feel, behave, and how they handle everyday activities as straightforward as sleeping, working, or eating. While many symptoms of depression are common across all cases, some factors are unique to the individual.
Depending on the severity and presence of symptoms, you may be diagnosed with major depression, persistent depressive disorder, seasonal affective disorder, psychotic depression, or perinatal depression (postpartum depression). The diagnostic criteria for a specific diagnosis are evaluated during a consultation with your primary care provider or mental health provider to determine how your symptoms meet the diagnostic criteria outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th Edition). Once you understand your symptoms, it is possible to work with a treatment provider at The Meadowglade to start your journey towards recovery.
What Causes Depression?
Researchers continue to investigate the cause of depression. Currently, there is no singular root cause for the illness. However, scientists suggest that a combination of genetics, biology, environment, and other factors all play a role in developing depression.
If someone in your family has a history of depression, you are at an increased risk for developing it or another mood disorder. Some researchers believe as many as 40% of those with depression can trace their illness to a genetic link within their immediate family.
The environment that surrounds someone may also contribute to depression. For example, a child who grows up with a parent or guardian with depression may be more susceptible to depression or a related mood disorder. Early childhood trauma may also play a role in the development of depression later in life.
The frontal lobe of the brain responds differently in someone who has depression as compared to someone without. When someone has depression, the frontal lobe is generally less active. The frontal lobe located at the front of the brain is responsible for emotions and vital life skills, including cognitive skills, emotional expression, memory, language, judgment, problem-solving, and sexual behaviors. Biological gender may also be a factor for depression. Some studies have shown that women have a 42% chance of heredity depression while men have only a 29% chance.
Pre-Existing Medical and Mental Health Conditions
Some medical conditions may increase one’s risk for developing depression. Examples include chronic illnesses like insomnia, chronic pain conditions, and other mental health or mood disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
A history of drug or alcohol abuse or addiction may also increase your risk. Information from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) states that approximately 21% of those with a substance use disorder also experience depression.
Symptoms of Depression
Like many other mental health conditions, the signs and symptoms of depression will vary from person to person and based on the “type” of depression diagnosed. However, some symptoms are generally common to all forms of depression. It is important to note that everyone experiences occasional highs and lows. Often, the lows resolve in a matter of hours or days and are not necessarily indicative of depression. However, the presence of stronger, increasing, or more persistent symptoms may indicate you are dealing with depression symptoms. Depending on the severity of one’s illness, symptoms may vary from mild to severe. Some of the most common symptoms include feelings of sadness, appetite changes, changes in sleeping patterns, lack of energy, thoughts of death or suicide, difficulty concentrating or making decisions, and loss of interest or pleasure in activities or hobbies.
Although many of these symptoms can be attributed to occasional “blues” that could be experienced for a variety of reasons, if symptoms last for two weeks or more or interfere with day-to-day activities such as school, work, or relationships, it may be time to consider seeking help at a treatment center at The Meadowglade.
5 Tips for Living with Depression
Depression is a highly treatable mental health condition. But, like many mental illnesses (or addictions), it is possible to experience symptom relapse even after completing treatment. Day-to-day experiences can lead to triggering emotions or situations that may be difficult to manage. In addition to coping skills learned as part of a treatment program, you can also do other things to help manage depression each day.
Develop a strong network of support
The idea of “support” means different things to different people. For some, it may mean working to heal and strengthen ties with friends and family. For others, it may mean continuing to communicate with or spend time with peers who were part of support and healing groups during treatment. Regardless of “where” support comes from, knowing you have a strong network of people to turn to during challenging times can provide significant benefits when trying to manage triggers or depression symptoms. If you live in an environment where access to friends and family is limited, a depression support group can provide a healthy support network.
Enhance your sleep
Ensuring you get adequate and sound sleep is vital to mood. Studies have shown that sleep and mood are linked. A study conducted in 2014 showed that 80% of people with major depressive disorder also experienced disturbances in sleep. There are several things you can do to enhance your sleep, whether you struggle to fall asleep or stay asleep through the night. First, begin with turning off electronics (including smartphones, laptops, tablets, and televisions) a minimum of one hour before bed. This can help calm your mind, muscles, and blood pressure, allowing you to relax before trying to sleep. Consider dimming the lights and reading a book or listening to calming (meditative) music. Also, only use your bed for things beds are meant for. Using your bed for daily tasks such as work or homework can lead to associating your bed or bedroom with stress rather than relaxation.
Eat a healthy balanced diet
Food is important to mental health. Numerous studies show links between diet and improved mental health. Many studies also show actively working to improve your diet and nutrition can prevent and treat mental illness. However, it is important to talk to your primary care provider or mental health provider before adding supplements to your diet or making significant dietary changes.
Practice stress reduction
Stress leads to excess production of cortisol. Cortisol is a stress hormone that works in the brain to control mood, fear, and motivation. It plays a vital role in regulating blood pressure, reducing inflammation, boosting energy, increasing blood pressure (fight or flight response), and controlling how the body manages carbs, fats, and proteins. Short-term, increased cortisol helps you mentally and physically prepare for a stressful event. However, ongoing stress-related increases in cortisol can lead to depression and other challenges such as weight gain in the long run. It is important to learn healthy techniques for stress management such as healthy exercise, meditation, yoga, journaling, a new hobby, or anything else that helps you reduce stress in safe and healthy ways.
Know when to seek help
It can be challenging to live with and successfully manage depression. Sometimes, despite all best efforts, the depression symptoms may become too difficult to manage without help. In these cases, seeking help at a professional treatment center like The Meadowglade can help you learn and practice tools that can improve your ability to cope with triggers. In addition to lifestyle changes, medications and therapy are a common part of depression treatment. Depending on your needs and the severity of symptoms, your mental health provider may recommend one or a combination of both to help you manage your symptoms.
Psychotherapy or cognitive-behavioral therapy is frequently used as part of an evidence-based treatment program for depression. Other common therapy models include interpersonal therapy, talk therapies, psychodynamic therapy, and family therapy. Family therapy is designed to help family members learn about depression and what the early warning signs and triggers look like.
Medications including antidepressants, antianxiety medications, and antipsychotic medications may also be used as part of a treatment program in addition to therapies. Each type of medication has its own unique benefits and risks. It is important to remember that medications may not be suitable in all cases. Your mental health provider will talk with you about how medication, if beneficial, may integrate into your treatment plan.
Millions of people live with depression, and with treatment and small lifestyle changes, the symptoms of depression are often easily managed. If you or a loved one struggles with depression and would like to learn more about how The Meadowglade can help, contact our admissions team today. We understand that living with depression and managing symptoms as part of your day-to-day life can be complicated. Let our team help you learn more about healthy and successful ways to cope with and reduce your symptoms. Recovery from depression is possible; let the team at The Meadowglade help.