So much has been written about depression that most of us feel we have a real understanding of the problem. Some of us are in denial that it can happen to us, but it can and does affect nearly everyone at some level some or all of the time. There is no stigma , although some people feel stigmatized by the diagnosis. There is no shame in being diagnosed with depression either.
Depression is a mental health disorder characterized by a persistently depressed mood, causing significant impairment in daily life and resulting in loss of interest in activities that once were fun and engaging. A persistent feeling of sadness can lead to changes in appetite, sleep, concentration, and activity level, to name a few. For some, thoughts of suicide become common. For some, it can result in fatigue, weight gain or loss, and obsessive thinking.
One website cites statistics that claim more than 3 million cases of major depression are diagnosed each year in the U.S. Depression can start as early as 3 years of age, and percentages increase as we age.
In my practice, I’ve met people who don’t want to admit they may be suffering from depression because they are afraid that they will have to take drugs for the rest of their lives. Not everyone needs medication. Most people will get a temporary benefit by taking some antidepressants, but those drugs are not meant for long-term use.
For some people, depression is situational. They lost a loved one, or a home or a job, or they were injured and are unable to do the things that they once did. Maybe their relationships break down and they get divorced . The list goes on.
Aging presents its own kind of challenges because as we age, we lose our flexibility and are more susceptible to injuring ourselves, and recovery can be long term. Retirement and loss of loved ones as we age also contribute to depression in the elderly. We begin to lose our mental acuity and we become forgetful (the term “senior moment” comes to mind). Statistics show that elderly men have a very high risk of suicide.
For others, depression is clinical and long-term. They may have suffered with depression since they were children, or it may have resulted from drug and alcohol abuse. Often people who abuse substances are trying to escape from depression by drowning their sorrows in alcohol or looking for the high that results from certain drugs.
Depression Treatment: Finding Hope
There is help! The first step in determining the cause of depression is to see your medical doctor to rule out any physical problems. Sometimes medical issues can mimic depression, and getting those diagnosed and treated can help.
Lifestyle changes can help reduce and control depression. Exercise is known to create endorphins (the feel-good brain chemicals) and to lift spirits. Taking a brisk walk, going for a run, lifting weights, dancing, etc. all can help in changing mood. The good news is that you only need about 30 minutes a day to achieve results.
Adequate sleep and a nutritional diet also help. Eating small snacks and meals throughout the day keeps the blood sugar up and prevents mood swings. Practicing good sleep habits such as going to bed at the same time each night and turning off electronics at least 30 minutes before sleep can help, in addition to getting at least 7 hours of sleep each night.
If you have tried all of that and are still feeling depressed, a combination of medications and therapy is the most effective depression treatment. Medication can help calm and soothe, and therapy begins the process of cognitive changes.
Three of the most effective therapies include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), Lifespan Integration, and EMDR.
CBT focuses on changing negative thoughts and behaviors. From the Beck Institute for Cognitive Behavioral therapy comes this definition: “The way that individuals perceive a situation is more closely connected to their reaction than the situation itself.” CBT helps to change perceptions resulting in unhelpful thinking, which leads to a healthier mood and better functioning in the world.
Often, depression can stem from early childhood traumas. Feelings of not belonging, of not being good enough as a result of abuse, lead to depression. Lifespan Integration and EMDR both address lifelong issues stemming from childhood issues. EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) uses eye movement to address the trauma along with the negative messages, and makes the change to a healthier way of looking at the world and the individual.
According to Lifespan Integration website, “Lifespan Integration relies on the innate ability of the body-mind to heal itself. LI is body-based, and combines active imagination, the juxtaposition of ego states in time, and a visual timeline of memories to facilitate neural integration and rapid healing.”
If you are struggling with depression and feeling hopeless, please contact me. I’m here to help and support you with effective depression treatment techniques.
“Peace,” courtesy of Irina Patrascu Gheorghita, Flickr Creative Commons, CC0 License; “Iris,” courtesy of Tejvan Pettinger, Flickr Creative Commons; “Birding,” courtesy of Lakshmi Sarath, Flickr Creative Commons, CC0 License; “Stream,” courtesy of Tom Chance, Flickr Creative Commons, CC0 License