Let’s Talk About Depression
“Depression” is a word that has easily slipped into our everyday language and is commonly used to describe a variety of feelings and states. However, depression is actually a mental health condition that has a very specific definition and course of treatment. Depression is more than just feeling sad; it can also include a loss of interest in pleasurable things, a loss of appetite, excessive fatigue, changes in sleeping habits, feelings of guilt or worthlessness, difficulty concentrating, and sometimes thoughts of suicide. Depression occurs along a spectrum and can be mild for some people and very severe for others. Many people have seen an increase in symptoms of depression through the COVID-19 pandemic. Fortunately, there are treatment options for depression and you are not alone in your experience.
How Common is Depression?
While many people experience a few symptoms listed above throughout their lives, to be diagnosed with depression, you must be experiencing these symptoms consistently and in a way that is impacting your ability to function in different areas of your life. 1 in 15 adults are affected by depression each year, and 1 in 6 people will experience depression throughout their lives.
What Causes Depression?
This is a tricky question because, well… it depends! Depression is a condition that can be impacted by genetics, brain chemistry, social and communal environments, personal traits, and even medical conditions. Life circumstances and trauma can cause depression but so can something like thyroid issues or vitamin deficiencies. If you are concerned or feel like you see yourself in some of the listed symptoms, seeing a medical doctor is a good first step towards healing.
What’s the Difference Between Depression and Sadness or Grief?
It can feel difficult to tell the difference between someone suffering from depression and someone experiencing appropriate sadness due to a loss or drastic change in life. A loss can obviously include people, but it can also be the loss of a job, a pet, moving away from friends and family, receiving a life changing medical diagnosis, or even experiencing the loss of experiences- like many are due to COVID-19.
Grief often is experienced in waves and the feelings of sadness fluctuate during healing, often with mood improving over time. Depression involves feelings of sadness and depressed mood that are generally unchanged and are persistent. Grief also typically does not change someone’s self-esteem while depression can impact feelings of worth and self-image more severely.
How Do We Treat Depression?
Treating depression depends on the person, how they are experiencing depression, and what might be causing their depression. Many people find a benefit in taking an antidepressant medication that is monitored by a medical doctor. Antidepressants do not cure depression but can help regulate brain chemicals in a way that might make room for healing and perspective that would be difficult when the depression is weighing heavily on someone. Psychotherapy is recommended when experiencing depression and can be very effective when paired with antidepressants as well. Therapy can help a person learn to reframe their thoughts to better handle their depression and they can also learn new and beneficial coping skills to manage their day to day life. Group therapy can also be helpful when experiencing depression as it can help people feel less alone and isolated in their experiences.
Let Us Help!
If you have felt an increase in some of the symptoms and experiences described above and would like to talk to a mental health professional about it, please reach out to us at Georgetown Counseling & Wellness. Our therapists are ready to help you work through your depression.