Subtle Signs You Have Depression And How To Treat It

What Is Depression?

Depression, also known as Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), is a common and pressing mood disorder that continuously affects a person’s emotions, perception, and motivation. This condition can affect up to 25 million people in the United States alone in a given year, with symptoms building over time.

Unlike having the occasional blues, depression symptoms are much more severe. They can cause a person to feel helpless, forgetful, exhausted, guilty, restless and unmotivated. The term can even refer to the feeling of deep heaviness and the essence of being pressed down emotionally, physically or both. But some symptoms are not as transparent and forthcoming as others — making it hard to self-diagnose depression early on. Nevertheless, if you are frequently feeling down, there is a good chance you might be dealing with some form of depression.

The good news is that depression is treatable and in some cases, can be prevented. Read on to learn more.

Are There Different Types?

Depression is an umbrella term that typically lists more than one different type. These types of depression differ depending on unique circumstances or external situations. Some of the more common forms include:

Persistent Depression Disorder: This type of depressive disorder may have overlapping symptoms of major depressive disorder with symptoms lasting for at least two or more years.

Postpartum Depression: Postpartum typically consists of chronic anxiety, sadness, and exhaustion affecting young mothers who recently gave birth. Symptoms commonly occur during or after pregnancy for more than two weeks. Postpartum depression makes it difficult for most women to complete daily tasks and find the motivation to do activities for themselves or their babies.

Seasonal Depression: This type of depression is categorized by seasonal changes predominantly present during the winter months. Symptoms of seasonal depression can vary from social withdrawal, lack of motivation, chronic fatigue, and weight fluctuations. Usually, symptoms will ease up during the spring or summer months when there is more sunlight during the day.

Bipolar Disorder: Although this condition is not necessarily listed as a type of depression, it can typically induce symptoms of extreme lows. Continuous and severe mood swings can meet the criteria for major depressive disorder.

Although some listed depression types fall under this condition, they are not by all means the only ones. Examples of other depressive disorders can be found online or diagnosed with your doctor. If you suspect that you have the following symptoms, get in touch with your doctor to distinguish what type of depressive disorder you may have and develop a treatment plan.

Common Symptoms

Often depression can evoke multiple mild to severe symptoms. However, it is important to note that not everyone will experience all symptoms of depression. In some cases, symptoms can be subtle, making it hard to detect if an even bigger problem was the underlying cause. If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms for the majority of the day for two weeks, you may be suffering from depression.

  • Fatigue
  • Guilt
  • Persistent sadness
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Feelings of helplessness
  • Hopelessness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Restlessness
  • Chronic Anxiety & Stress
  • Pessimistic views on life
  • Irritability
  • Headaches
  • Body aches
  • Insomnia
  • Hypersomnia
  • Concentration problems
  • Memory loss
  • Loss of interest
  • Suicidal thoughts*

It’s important to talk to your doctor or health professional if you are experiencing any symptoms. Your doctor will be able to determine the cause and find appropriate treatments that will work for you.

What Causes Depression?

Depression can happen at any age and is caused by phycological, environmental and genetic factors. The National Institute of Mental Health categorizes chronic stress and anxiety as one of the main catalysts for developing depression later in life.

A diet high in carbohydrates can also contribute to a higher risk of developing depression, as stated by this NIH study in 2012. Depending on the situation, depression can even be a side effect resulting from other conditions. However, the best way to find the underlying cause is to diagnose it with a healthcare professional.

Diagnosing Depression

It is important to bear in mind that depression can look different to everyone. Typically to be diagnosed with depression, symptoms must be present for more than two weeks. However, if you have concerns, it is always best to consult with your doctor. Talking to your doctor will help you identify the underlying cause and follow up with the proper treatment(s).

Treating Depression

All forms of depression, even the most severe can be treated. It’s estimated that over 80% of people with depression respond positively to treatments.

Depending on the severity of the depression can result in several effective treatments. Often treatments can include medication, lifestyle changes, psychotherapy or all of the above. If psychological therapies are offered, many of them will contain one or a combination of the following:

  • Problem-solving therapy
  • Behavioural Activation
  • Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT)
  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

However, more severe cases of major depression disorders will include a mix of counselling and prescribed medication. Usually, antidepressants can be prescribed to help improve the brain chemistry responsible for controlling mood. Some common antidepressants can consist of:

  • Tricyclic Antidepressants (TCA)
  • Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI)
  • St. John Wort (Herbal medication)

Most antidepressants take up to four weeks to start working with treatment plans lasting up to a year. Take to your doctor about side effects as most people who take antidepressants report fatigue, changes in appetite and loss of concentration. Before stopping any medication, make an action plan with your doctor. Sudden changes to the dosage or a complete halt of medication can result in withdrawal symptoms.

Other treatments such as Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) are prescribed if the medication does not help treat the symptoms of depression. ECT can provide relief to people diagnosed with more than one type of depression. ECT treatment will include controlled electrical impulses targeted to the brain. Although it can sound daunting, ECT treatment is not painful as the patient will usually be put under brief anesthesia and been given a muscle relaxant.

This type of treatment typically consists of multiple sessions that can last up to four weeks. However, like most treatments, ECT will also have some side effects. Although these side effects are short-term, some still report memory loss, disorientation, or confusion lasting for more than a month. If you have questions chat with your doctor about the potential benefits and risks of ECT treatment.

Understanding that there is no standard way of treating depression as no two people are affected the same way. Therefore, finding the best treatment plan that works for you may take trial and error.

Coping With Depression

Coping with a mood disorder can be challenging, but a few lifestyle changes can help guide you towards a faster recovery. Start with a few goals and build healthy habits gradually. Setting too many goals or expectations can lead to failure, resulting in further depressive symptoms:

  • Talking to Someone: Sharing your emotions with someone or joining a talk therapy group can help the person feel heard and less alone. It can also give a new perspective on the problem, making it easier to continue treatments.
  • Exercising: Physical movement of at least 30 minutes can improve your self-esteem and cognitive skills. Movement meditation like yoga, can reduce anxiety, depression, and fatigue. It also can improve sleep, boost energy, and sharpen self-awareness.
  • Eating a Healthy Diet: Changing your diet can also influence your mood. For example, a 2019 study concluded that a healthy diet consisting of plenty of vegetables, leafy greens, fruit, fatty fish, nuts and seeds had tremendous positive effects on reducing symptoms of depression.
  • Meditating: Meditation is a universal technique used to achieve mental clarity. It encourages practicing self-awareness and helps keep the mind focused. In addition, meditation can relieve stress and unblock emotional chaos stuck in the mind through regular practices.
  • Getting Enough Sleep: Studies show that sleep impairment can start at the age of 10 and increase the risk of developing mood disorders like depression. Getting enough deep and restorative sleep allows for better moods, energy levels, focus and well-being.
  • Engaging in an Activity: Activities like painting, crafting or signing are practical ways of decreasing symptoms among people diagnosed with depression. Find something you are passionate about and see if it brings you joy.

Takeaway

Depression symptoms can typically occur with or without the person knowing. As most symptoms gradually develop over time.

The best way to determine if you may have a mood disorder is to see a doctor and understand the underlying cause. Typically your doctor will ask a few questions about your health history and run some tests to determine the type of depression you may be experiencing. Possible treatment plans will be discussed, and a few lifestyle changes may also be suggested.

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