Depression is a psychological condition that affects millions of people in the United States each year. The National Center for Health Statistics notes the 7.6 percent of the population over the age of 12 experiences depression in any 2-week period1. The causes and conditions that surround depression are varied and complex. Fortunately, a variety of treatments are available to help people manage this troubling condition.
What Is Depression?
Depression is a mood disorder that causes individuals to have a “muffled” sensation, as if their emotions are being held down under a cover, or a feeling of emptiness. Individuals experiencing depression may have feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness or guilt2. They may not be able to take pleasure in normal activities, have constant fatigue and experience difficulty sleeping. They may gain or lose weight or experience vague aches and pains, and they may have problems concentrating. In some cases, individuals may have thoughts of suicide.
These symptoms indicate that brain chemistry is disrupted, and professional treatment is necessary to restore normal feelings and function.
Causes of Depression
Situational depression – Situational depression is usually a short-term condition that occurs in response to particular events, such as job loss, divorce or the death of a loved one. The individual will experience some or all of the classic symptoms of depression, including overwhelming sadness, appetite changes, sleep changes and low energy.
Endogenous depression – Endogenous depression occurs not as a result of external circumstances, but because of conditions within the individual, usually cognitive or biological. It is not related to any external event or cause and often occurs suddenly and without warning. In many cases, there is a history of depression in the family.
Medications for Treating Depression
A number of medications are available to treat depression, regardless of whether it arises from internal or external conditions. These drugs fall into several different categories:
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors – Serotonin is a neurotransmitter brain chemical that is important in creating feelings of well-being. This medication inhibits the reuptake of serotonin so that more is available in the brain.
- Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors – These drugs work on two of the neurotransmitter brain chemicals associated with feelings of well-being.
- Norepinephrine and dopamine reuptake inhibitors – Bupropion is an antidepressant that works by inhibiting the reuptake of the neurotransmitters norepinephrine and dopamine.
- Atypical antidepressants – Drugs like trazodone, mirtazapine, vortioxetine and vilazodone do not fit into other drug categories by are often used to treat depression.
Other Methods For Treating Depression
A variety of other treatments are used to reduce the symptoms of depression. These measures may produce varying degrees of success for individuals:
- Regular exercise – Exercise releases brain chemicals that help to stabilize mood. The type of exercise is less important than engaging in it on a regular basis.
- Herbal supplements – Herbs such as St. John’s wort are sometimes suggested for moderate depression, with good results. Other supplements used include gingko biloba, kava and passion flower.
- Acupuncture – This is an Asian healing practice that uses fine needles inserted into specific points on the body, which can help to reduce depression symptoms.
- Meditation – This Asian practice of relaxation and mindful breathing can help to reduce stress and negative emotions and improve mood.
Depression is a treatable condition, and a number of options are available to help individuals regain their normal energy and mood. If you struggle with feelings of depression, contact a professional therapist to discuss your options for treatment.