What is Depression?
While the clinical picture of depression is variable, most people who are depressed feel a pronounced sad mood or dysphoria, and describe feelings of hopelessness and helplessness. They derive little if any pleasure from everyday activities or relationships. Many also experience anxiety, anger, or agitation. Depressed people become apathetic, losing the desire to engage in everyday activities. They may have to force themselves to go to school or work, to talk to friends, eat, and often experience sleep disturbances. Some may experience suicidal thoughts, perceiving that ending their lives may be the only solution to their troubles.
People suffering from depression are less active and productive. They may isolate themselves from others, staying in bed for long periods of time. Insomnia, trouble falling asleep, or early awakenings, are common symptoms. Some experience hypersomnia and feel that they can’t get enough sleep, sleeping most of the day. People with depression may move and speak more slowly, with a seeming lack of energy. Further, they may experience changes in appetite, finding it difficult to eat anything. Others with depression overeat, as a way to compensate for their feelings.
Finally, depressed people hold extremely negative views of themselves and their world. They may experience difficulty concentrating, with concomitant memory loss (sometimes leading to a misdiagnosis of dementia in the elderly). They may also experience physical (somatic) symptoms, such as chronic fatigue, headaches, indigestion, constipation, dizziness, and muscle pain. Some cases of fibromyalgia and chronic pain syndromes have primary components of depression.
What are the different types of Depression?
Reactive Depression refers to a lowered mood in response to a negative life situation such as loss of a loved one, a relationship break-up or loss of a job. This form of depression, experienced by virtually everyone at some point, usually resolves fairly quickly with the passage of time. It is also responsive to positive stimuli in the environment (such as meeting someone new following a breakup).
Grief reactions are a set of somatic (body) and psychological symptoms that result from great sorrow or loss. Somatic symptoms can consist of rapid heart rate, shortness of breath, headaches, body aches, malaise, gastrointestinal dysfunction, and others. Psychological symptoms include severe sadness, low energy level, inability to concentrate, poor ability to initiate new activities, hostility, restlessness, disruption of sleep patterns and eating problems. Symptoms may arise immediately after sorrow or loss, or they may be delayed, arising months or years later.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as “Winter Depression” occurs when an individual experiences depressive symptoms during a specific time of the year, usually in the winter. It is differentiated from other forms of depression because people with SAD have normal mood throughout the rest of the year. Sufferers of SAD experience typical symptoms of depression including difficulty sleeping, sadness, somatic symptoms, low energy levels, irritability, inability to concentrate and others.
Clinical Depression, also referred to as Unipolar Depression, is more severe than Reactive Depression. The symptoms last longer, and may be marked by endogenous or biological symptoms. Clinical Depression affects about 17-20% of the world’s population at some point in life (and about 5 to 10 percent of the US population in any given year). Women are almost twice as likely as men to suffer from clinical depression. The age of onset may occur at any point in life, with a recurrence rate of about 50%. In other words, those who have suffered from a Clinical Depression have a one in two chance of experiencing another depression at some point in their lives.
What causes Depression?
Depression has a strong genetic basis, with dozens of genes now identified which are associated with different forms of depression. Improper mood regulation may originate in the brain resulting from abnormal amounts of neurotransmitter substances. Losses and emotional trauma early in life may also make individuals more vulnerable to depression throughout life. Furthermore, a person’s temperament may predispose them to depression, affecting how they react to life events and frame things that happen in a positive or negative way. There are also medical causes of depression, such as side of effects of medications, medical problems such as hypothyroidism, chronic pain, neurological conditions, cancer and other chronic diseases. Persons with Seasonal Affective Disorder have problems with melatonin secretion, and problems with an out-of-sync body clock.
What are the Symptoms of Depression?
Symptoms of depression include feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, restlessness, and sadness. Individuals with depression often lose interest in daily activities, losing the ability to enjoy social interactions, hobbies, activities and even sex. Fatigue and insomnia may follow these feelings, leading to increased irritability. Eating problems may arise, manifested as significant weight loss or gain. Difficulty in concentrating, making decisions or remembering things, as well as somatic symptoms such as pain, headaches, and gastrointestinal problems may also occur.
Frequently Asked Questions about Depression
How is Depression diagnosed?
Depression should be diagnosed by a mental health professional. The diagnosis of depression is based on a specific history of occurrences meeting the criteria for depression. A thorough evaluation of current symptoms is performed delineating how the depressive episodes have interfered with the Client’s everyday living, including negative effects on family, friends, work or school. The Client’s family history is also explored, as well as any history of drug or alcohol abuse, which may interfere with treatment.
What is the Prognosis for Depression?
Depression is a chronic illness that can be effectively managed with psychological treatment and medication. Research shows that medication, coupled with effective psychotherapy, sleep and stress management, and psycho-education, can significantly improve the wellness of someone with depression. Effective treatment is of paramount importance considering that individuals with depression may lack a proper diagnosis or may be misdiagnosed. Symptoms may be so disabling, the person may have difficulty seeking help or staying in treatment. Proper treatment is also critical, in that depressed people have higher levels of stress and conflict and accordingly, have higher death rates from suicide, heart problems, and other causes than those in the general population. Clients who receive effective treatment, however, experience significant improvement in their ability to function normally in society, including an increase in the number of days they feel well, more rapid recovery from depressive episodes and lower relapse rates. Effective treatment also improves survival rates, lowering the incidence of death from suicide and heart disease.
What Complications can Slow Recovery?
Persons with depression may lack the initiative to seek treatment or be non-compliant with therapy or medication. Finding the proper diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan tends to be difficult for this population. Substance abuse (especially alcohol, marijuana or cocaine) is especially common among persons with depression. Concurrent substance abuse dramatically interferes with effective psychological and medical treatment. Persons with depression may have problems relating to family or loved ones, thus lacking an effective social support structure that is important to help with their recovery.
How Can Friends and Family Help?
The strength of the social network of a person with depression, especially from family and loved ones, is an important predictor of recovery. Family and friends need to educate themselves about depression to understand when the person needs help the most. They can be a valuable resource in monitoring medications and being vigilant in watching for symptoms that might denote a relapse. Family members are likely to help a person with depression enter a treatment facility, providing social and financial resources.
When Should a Client enter a treatment center?
When a person with depression is having serious problems that are negatively impacting their daily school or work life and personal and family relationships, an intensive treatment program is an appropriate option. Oftentimes once per week psychotherapy or medication is ineffective at managing serious symptoms of depression. A treatment facility, like PCH Depression Treatment Center, can be a more effective option than simple outpatient therapy, especially when the person with depression is not fully compliant or invested in that situation.
How does PCH Treatment Center treat Depression?
PCH Depression Treatment Center has extensive experience treating mild to severe depression. Dr. Jeff Ball has over 25 years of experience dealing with depression and related disorders. As the head of the PCH Treatment team, Dr. Ball is involved in the thorough initial assessment of each Client with depression. This assessment explores the Client’s specific symptoms and the effect these symptoms have had on their day to day functioning. Interference with work, school, interpersonal relationships, and overall sense of well-being is the norm for a person suffering from depression. At PCH Depression Treatment Center we pride ourselves on the success we have had in improving Client’s lives through treatment and management of depression. Often, we have to discard improper diagnoses. Evaluation of a Client’s medication regimen is also of paramount value. Dr. Bill Wirshing is an expert on psychopharmacology who assesses each Client’s medications. Many times a Client is on the wrong antidepressant, or an antidepressant that has unnecessary side effects. Furthermore, some Clients do not need to be on antidepressants, or they may be having difficulties withdrawing from them. Dr. Wirshing, in conjunction with the PCH Depression Treatment Center team, will design the proper medication plan, with an emphasis on minimizing appropriate medications and eliminating unnecessary medications when appropriate.
When a Client has depression that is significantly impacting their quality of life, or negatively affecting family members and loved ones, it is time to consider one of the PCH Depression Treatment Center Programs. Our Intensive Treatment Program offers the highest level of care, with up to five individual therapy sessions per week. As with our Day and Evening Treatment Programs, there are multiple group therapies, neurofeedback sessions, and holistic modalities including yoga, mindfulness meditation, sleep groups and family therapy sessions. Clients may also participate in a Family Therapy Program, especially when they live in the same domicile with family members or loved ones and are causing them distress. PCH Depression Treatment Center is a valuable resource for persons suffering from Depression, especially when they are not finding a solution with their routine therapy appointments or current medications.