Clinical depression is one of the most common mental illnesses in the United States and affects over 19 million Americans each year. Clinical depression can affect a person of any age, and is found in equally distributed populations among children, teenagers, and adults, although depression tends to affect women more frequently than men. Depression rates in servicemen and women also tend to be higher.
Depression often occurs after trauma, but trouble coping with painful experiences, like divorce, death, and other losses can cause symptoms. However, it is not uncommon for depression to appear out of the blue and outside the aforementioned circumstances.
Depression involves intense feelings of sadness and/or serious mood swings that last more than just a few days and can continue on for weeks, even months. Depression can severely lower self-esteem and can make normal day-to-day functions very difficult or near impossible. It is common for people suffering from depression to feel worn out, helpless, or hopeless. These sad feelings can make a person feel like it is worthless to seek treatment or make them feel that they will never get better.
Symptoms of Depression
Everybody experiences occasional feelings of sadness, grief, or loneliness, but the symptoms for those who suffer from clinical depression are much more serious and prolonged. For an official diagnosis, a person must experience symptoms over a two-week period, most of the day, and every day. At least one of the symptoms must be a depressed mood or a lack of interest/loss of pleasure.
Symptoms of clinical depression include the following:
- Changes in eating/sleeping patterns
- Changes in weight and/or a loss of appetite
- Greater irritability (especially in teenagers)
- No longer having enjoyment or interest in things that were once so
- Trouble focusing
- Wanting to be alone or feeling abnormally lonely
- Trouble making decisions or concentrating
- Strained relationships with others in day-to-day activities
- Suicidal thoughts or feelings
If you or someone you know are concerned that you may be suffering from clinical depression, there are resources available. Online screenings
are available to identify symptoms. Please be sure to share your concerns about depression with your health care professional to discuss available treatment options.
Treating Clinical Depression
80% of all cases of depression are treatable, with therapy, medicine, or a combination of the two, but many people suffering from clinical depression and other mental health-related illnesses will not seek the proper attention they need. The following are recognized treatment options for clinical depression:
1. Psychotherapy (Counseling)
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can be used to treat clinical depression, as well as PTSD. Cognitive behavior therapy is based on the idea that psychological problems arise as a result of the way in which we interpret or evaluate situations, thoughts, and feelings, as well as our behaviors. The goal of CBT, then, is to help people learn healthier ways of coping with distressing thoughts, as well as reducing avoidance or other problematic behaviors (like substance use).
CBT usually involves meeting with your therapist once a week for up to four months. There are different types of cognitive behavioral therapy. The two most researched types of CBT are Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) and Prolonged Exposure (PE). The idea is that if someone can change how they evaluate their environment or thoughts and feelings, anxiety and avoidance may be reduced, improving a person's mood and overall quality of life.
Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) raise the level of serotonin in your brain and can make you feel better. Common SSRI medications for treating depression include fluoxetine (Prozac), sertraline (Zoloft), paroxetine (Paxil), citalopram (Celexa), escitalopram (Lexapro), and fluvoxamine (Luvox). However, fluoxetine (Prozac) is the only FDA approved medication for children and young adults ages 8 and older.
There are possible side effects that may occur, including nausea, decreased interest in sex and feeling drowsy, feeling tired or sleeping too much. As these medications can interact with other medications you are taking, it is important that your doctor knows all medications that you are taking.
Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) are a class of medicines that can help relieve common depression symptoms like irritability and sadness. SNRIs work by changing the levels of chemicals in the brain and block the absorption of the neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine. These medications are sometimes referred to as dual-action antidepressants. The FDA-approved SNRIs for treating depression include duloxetine (Cymbalta), venlafaxine (Effexor XR), and desvenlafaxine (Pristiq). Common side effects from this medication include nausea, dry mouth, excessive sweating, and dizziness.
Exercise or exercise programs can provide many benefits including better sleep, digestion, energy and greater sense of well being and self control. Additionally, exercise can provide a distraction from disturbing emotions while building self-esteem.
Meditation/Mindfulness such as breath/breathing control and various meditation techniques have also been used to help with depression.
Department of Veterans Affairs
National Institute of Mental Health
Mental Health America
Center for Deployment Psychology