While it is completely normal to experience feelings of sadness, loneliness or grief, they usually only last a couple of days or a short period of time. When these feelings don’t go away and are experienced for more than a solid month, they may be associated with some type of depression. Symptoms including irritability, anxiety, anger, loss of interest, obsessive thinking, or even thoughts about death or suicide. These should be taken seriously and professional help should be sought out.
One of the more serious forms of depression is called Major Depression and may cause severe impairment in one’s ability to carry out daily activities. Major Depression can interfere and limit a person’s ability to function at school, work or in relationships. It is also associated with an increased risk for suicide. The good news is that a combination of medication, therapy and self-help can help manage symptoms and improve quality of life.
A mental health professional may recommend a trial of antidepressant medications. Some of the more commonly prescribed include Remeron, Lexapro, Effexor, Prozac, Zoloft, Celexa and Paxil. These medications work by interacting with various neurotransmitters or brain chemicals that help to regulate mood, energy, appetite, sleep, and thoughts. These medications are prescribed based on one’s symptoms, possible side-effects, interaction with other medications, if one is pregnant or breastfeeding, and other health conditions.
Individual or group therapy or counseling may be helpful in successfully dealing with depression. Many types of therapy are available depending on the type of depressive disorder and the individual’s personality. They include cognitive-behavioral therapy, interpersonal therapy, psychodynamic therapy, and supportive counseling. In more severe cases of depression, a mental health professional may recommend short-term hospitalization, especially if suicide, homicide or self-harm are concerns.
Beyond antidepressants and therapy, there are plenty of self-help techniques and methods to successfully reduce feelings of depression and improve well-being. Some practical tips include:
- Maintaining a daily routine and setting goals that can be realistically accomplished
- Improving nutrition and getting quality sleep and regular exercise.
- Forming and maintaining a healthy social support network of family and friends.
- Thinking positively and get back to nature, music, art and things that bring meaning, purpose and joy into life.
- Prayer, meditation and practicing “the attitude of gratitude”.
Millions of Americans are living with depression whether they are diagnosed or not. Some may feel hopeless or helpless based on the severity of their symptoms. The good news is that depression is one of the most treatable psychological disorders and most people respond well to a combination of medications, therapy and self-help practices. It’s important to take depressive symptoms seriously and seek professional help when necessary.