How to Deal with Depression

 

Crying womanThe loss of motivation and self-esteem, while an overhanging sadness looms all around; these are the feelings of depression. These problems can become consistent, even reinforcing itself as they symptoms cause one to sink deeper and deeper into the depths of its grasp. This is not to be confused with a passing episode of feeling down, a true depression effects 8% of all people above the age of 12 where during any two-week span an episode can occur. This makes depression the most common illness in the world, The World Health Organization (WHO) puts depression at the top of this list at over 350 million people around the world who are affected.

A key difference between depression as a psychiatric disorder and other feelings of sadness is the persistence of depression. The average length of a depression can be anywhere from 6 to 8 months and during this phase it is very different from the normal fluctuations of mood experience as part of life. Emotional responses to temporary challenges of the everyday do not constitute a depressive episode. Grief from the death of a close friend or loved one, disappointments from a lost relationship, financial problems, or even that of a serious illness all do not necessarily mean depression.

There are many different kinds of depression. Some experience a depression characterized by extreme highs and extreme lows with a short period of normal emotions in between. This is known as bipolar depressive disorder, also known as manic depression or manic-depressive illness. The periods of extreme highs are known as manic periods and they are the distinguishing factor between “unipolar” depression and bipolar depression. Still, about 40% of the time a person with this disorder will be feeling depressed so making the distinction between the two is important, though sometimes quite difficult.

Other forms exist as well. Some experience what is known as a psychotic depression, where they experience the standard depressive episode but while also experience delusions, detachment from reality, hallucinations, or sensing things that simply do not exist. This is a fairly serious form of depression and can be extra dangerous for the patient. Postpartum depression, or postnatal depression, separates itself from the standard “baby blues” of having a new born by being more severe and longer lasting, effecting nearly 1 in 10 women who have given birth. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that comes from the reduced daylight hours available in winter. The depression comes along for that season and lifts itself once light becomes more available. Countries with long and severe winters tend to have more cases of SAD, for obvious reasons.

Young woman suffering from a severe depression, anxietyDepression is a complex illness wherein the causes are never fully understood. There are many factors that can be potentially at play in causes a depressive disorder, and many times it is a combination of them that cause its entirety. Genetics are a big factor, if there is a family history of depression then the likelihood of it being passed down is fairly high. Biological reasons as well, maybe an illness or hormonal disorder can easily be a triggering factor from depression. Environmental, like the cases with SAD patients but also other things like poverty can be at play here. Certain individuals, even without these factors are still at a higher risk for depression due to certain risk factors. Life events are a major factors, those going through divorce, long periods of unemployment, or consistent financial problems can have these lead to long-term depressions, but generally it is more common in those predisposed to it. Childhood traumas can lead to long-term brain changes that affect responses to fear and stress, other traumatic events can also increase the risk such as suicide attempts or other forms of abuse such as sexual, physical, or substance. Chronic diseases as well, pain syndromes in particular but even those with diabetes and cardiovascular diseases all have a higher risk point than average to fall into depression.

Treatments for depression range and the earlier one starts their treatment the more effective it can be. A combination of psychotherapy and medication is generally recommended and if these do not help alternatives do exist. Depression is never simple, and what works for one may not work for another. Antidepressants are the main go-to prescribed by doctors for those dealing with depression; there are many types and experimentation with different doses and brands may occur until one is found that decreases the symptoms with manageable side-effects. The downside with these is that in some cases they can cause the depression to worsen, quickly, causing suicidal thoughts and ideations after starting or when the dosage is changed. Withdrawal symptoms can occur as well, making stopping abruptly dangerous.

Other, more natural alternatives do exist and have helped many patients in the past. St. John’s wort, for example, is a readily available supplement that has been used for hundreds to thousands of years as a treatment for depression. It, however, cannot be taken with another anti-depressant as they work similarly and can be dangerous if used in conjunction with the wrong medications. Research is also being done into Cannabis as an alternative treatment for depression. Studies have been showing that patients who receive medical Cannabis for their depression have had serious and unprecedented improvements. This is due to its effect on the endocannabinoid area of the brain, which THC (the main active ingredient in Cannabis) stimulates causing antidepressant-like effects. It also has been shown to increase neurogenesis, the growth of new brain cells, just like traditional anti-depressant medications can. It has also been very effective in treating depression brought on by severe illnesses such as chronic pain, multiple sclerosis, and cancer while improving their general mood and well-being. Despite this, in high doses the THC can also act as a depressant, whereas low doses act as an anti-depressant. So precautions should be taken here as well, with medical Cannabis, as to not further exacerbate the underlying conditions.