October Is National Depression Awareness Month
Published: September 27, 2021
Not so long ago, many people thought of depression as a sign of personal weakness. “Buck up,” the depressed person’s friends would say. “Pull yourself out of the blues.” But fortunately, a more enlightened attitude prevails today. More and more people are seeking help for depression, recognizing that it is a medical problem.
What causes depression?
Depression results from a chemical imbalance in the brain that significantly affects how we think, feel and act. Research continues to reveal insights into why some people become depressed. The reasons can be a combination of genetic factors, life experiences and trauma, and a person’s particular brain characteristics. Side effects of medications we take might be part of the problem. Loneliness and isolation can also be factors. Many patients report that their symptoms have worsened these days because of the pandemic, political turmoil and uncertainty.
For people who are dealing with health problems, chronic pain and the inability to do some of the things they used to do raises the risk of depression. In turn, depression worsens many common diseases and health conditions. It weakens the immune system, has a negative impact on heart health, increases the effects of diabetes, and raises the risk of dementia. Some experts believe that depression can shorten life to the same degree as smoking or obesity.
What are the signs of depression?
The condition can begin suddenly, or come on slowly over time, often without apparent cause. Symptoms include:
- Feeling sad, helpless, hopeless, irritable or blue
- Lack of energy
- Changes in normal eating and/or sleeping
- Memory changes and the inability to concentrate
- No longer feeling pleasure in activities that normally bring joy.
A thorough exam by a physician or other qualified professional is the first step to reducing depression. The goals of such an evaluation typically include:
- Ruling out the possibility of other medical disorders.
- Reviewing all medications for possible side effects.
- Identifying the cause and type of the depression.
- Determining appropriate treatment options.
What are the treatments for depression?
Once depression is diagnosed, the patient and their health care team work together to create the best plan of treatment, which might include:
Counseling. Talking with a mental health professional may help the patient identify and eliminate stressors, change negative thought patterns, and develop better skills to cope with stressful situations.
Medication. Anti-depressant medications work by normalizing brain chemicals. Sometimes it takes a few tries to find exactly the right medicine. It’s very important only to take these medicines under a doctor’s supervision.
Lifestyle changes. Sometimes a change of routine can “jump start” our mood. Patients are advised to spend more time with family and friends, and to make time for activities they enjoy. Increasing physical activity is especially important, because exercise raises the levels of chemicals in the brain that make us feel better.
Mental health professionals offer a wide variety of treatments. Almost everyone with depression can be helped. Asking for that help is the first step.
Welbrook Transitional Rehabilitation Centennial Hills experts support not only the physical, but also the emotional well-being of our guests. Contact us to learn about our state-of-the-art treatment, provided by compassionate staff in our beautiful surroundings.