Depression, its Symptoms, and How to Help a Loved One
We all experience difficult situations during our lives that can cause sadness. When a relationship ends, we feel sorrowful. A sense of disappointment is natural when we don’t land that dream job. The loss of a loved one will trigger grief.
Depression, however, goes beyond those feelings of sadness or waves of grief. “Being in a serious depression is much akin to falling into a very painful deep and dark pit,” says Jon Brett, PhD, a clinical psychologist at the Partial Hospitalization Program at Newport Hospital. Those who experience depression may have both emotional and physical issues that can result in a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed and impact one’s ability to function daily.
What is depression?
The American Psychiatric Association defines depression as a “common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act.” It affects one in 15 people each year, and one in six individuals will experience depression at some point during their lifetime.
Signs and symptoms of depression
A diagnosis of depression requires that symptoms be present for at least two weeks and represents a change in one’s ability to function at home or at work.
“If you begin to feel the grasp of depression, it is important to reach out as soon as possible. Picking up what feels like a 500-pound telephone or pushing oneself to open up to a loved one or professional only gets more difficult as the depression worsens,” notes Brett.
The symptoms of depression vary from one individual to another and can range from mild to severe. They include:
- depressed mood or feelings of sadness
- a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
- changes in weight or appetite not associated with dieting
- changes to sleep patterns – either sleeping too much or not getting enough sleep
- fatigue or loss of energy
- difficulty focusing, concentrating, or making decisions
- feelings of worthlessness or guilt
- suicidal thoughts
Brett adds, “It is important to realize that reaching out for help may be difficult, but it is the most courageous thing you can do when recognizing the signs and symptoms of depression.”
The good news is that depression is one of the most treatable disorders in mental health. Between 80 and 90 percent of individuals who are treated for depression respond well to treatment, and almost all patients can gain some relief from their symptoms.
Treatment options for depression include:
Anti-depressant medications can be an effective form of treatment for individuals with depression. This type of medication focuses on altering the brain’s chemistry and will only have an impact on those who are experiencing depression. Your doctor will work with you to determine the medication that works best for you.
For those experiencing depression, “talk therapy” can be helpful in reducing its burden, with or without the use of medication. Another form of treatment known as cognitive behavioral therapy has also proven to be an effective means of addressing the symptoms associated with depression. Treatment may last from several weeks to much longer, depending on the patient and the severity of the condition.
This type of therapy is typically reserved for the most severe cases of depression when there is no response to other forms of treatment. It involves a brief electrical stimulation to the brain while the patient is under anesthesia.
The cause of depression
While the true cause of depression is unknown, there are many factors that can contribute to it, including:
- genetics and family history – individuals with family members who have experienced depression are more prone to experience the condition
- chronic disease or chronic pain – living with a medical condition or pain
- gender – women are twice as likely to experience depression than men, though why is still unclear
- certain medications – some drugs such as corticosteroids can trigger depression
- major events – death of a loved one, loss of a job, moving, retiring, or divorce can sometimes cause depression
- social isolation – loneliness is associated with depression
How to help someone who is depressed
It can be difficult to see someone experiencing depression. But being aware of the situation and knowing how to help that individual can make a difference.
Know the signs of depression
When you are aware of the signs of depression it may help you identify it in a friend or loved one.
Listen to them
Let them know you are there for them. Sometimes just listening to what someone is going through can help them.
When someone is depressed, it can be overwhelming. But you can help by offering to do research and find support. Find a local mental health professional or connect them with online therapy such as a TalkSpace, BetterHelp, or others. Once they are in treatment, keep talking to them, and offer encouragement and help with tasks.
Be aware of suicidal warning signs
- changes in mood
- increased use of drugs or alcohol
- talking about suicide; interest in suicide; researching suicide on the internet
- giving away personal belongings
- purchasing a weapon
- becoming reclusive and removed from loved ones
If you are aware of any of these signs, encourage your loved one to talk to their therapist or seek help by calling 988 or driving them to the nearest emergency room. If you need help right now, text “NAMI” to 741741 or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 (TALK).
About the Author:
Lifespan Blog Team
The Lifespan Blog Team is working to provide you with timely and pertinent information that will help keep you and your family happy and healthy.
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