If you’ve ever experienced depression, you likely have questions – questions about where depression comes from, how to best treat depression and where to find relief.
If you have questions about depression, we have answers. In fact, we’ve aggregated 10 of the most popular questions we field about depression into a single blog, hopefully to provide you with the same answers we’ve offered so many others. If you’ve ever wondered how to deal with depression, how to maintain a positive outlook while fighting depression or even what daily activities can help to minimize depression’s effects, you’ve come to the right place.
Before we launch into answering your top 10 questions about depression, one caveat: these answers are not intended to stand in for the advice of a licensed medical professional. If you or someone you know feels like they are experiencing symptoms of depression, we encourage you to reach out to the right resources near you. We’re only looking to answer some of your most popular questions about depression, and provide some hope along the way.
1. What is depression?
Depression is understood as a mental illness that impacts how you feel and how you experience the world around you. Common symptoms of depression include:
- Sadness or sustained, depressed moods
- Disinterest in activities that were previously entertaining or enjoyable
- Lack of energy and appetite
- Feeling helpless, worthless or guilty without clear reasons why
- Inability to focus
- Consideration of suicide or escape
Depression is also linked to various other behavioral and mental health issues, and generally decreases your ability to think and to act, as well as your interest in accomplishing the same tasks that once gave your life meaning.
2. If I have depression, do I have a mental illness?
Yes, depression is a mental illness. But it is also one of the most treatable mental illnesses that exist, and you still have the capacity to lead the full, invigorating life you want. It’s also important to note that depression is qualified as a mental illness, not as an inherent weakness.
You are not weak because you struggle with depression.
Depression is thought to affect more than 6% of the U.S. population over the age of 18. You’re not alone in your fight against depression, a mental illness that requires treatment but one that can also be consistently conquered with the right help.
3. Are there different types of depression?
Yes, there are different types of depression. The type of depression you’re experiencing will influence your therapy type, prescribed medication type and overall outlook. Here are the most common depression types, as well as some of their defining characteristics:
- Major depression: depression characterized by several major depressive symptoms, over a sustained period of at least two weeks
- Dysthymia: a mood disorder of lesser intensity, but one that lasts for a longer period of time; symptoms must remain consistent for at least 2 years before dysthymia is diagnosed
- Postpartum depression: depression that begins after a mother gives birth to her baby
- Seasonal affective disorder: depressive periods that last during the fall and winter seasons until spring arrives; most likely linked to a lack of sunlight during fall and winter months
4. What are my treatment options for depression?
If you’re at all concerned that your symptoms could indicate depression, consult a trusted medical professional for help. Once a medical history is completed and a physical examination is performed, you’ll have a much better idea as to the extent of your symptoms, and you’ll sit down with an expert to discuss options.
Typically, behavior and mental health experts offer a combination of medication and therapy as an effective means to combat depression. Antidepressants are often prescribed, though they are not forced on anyone. Therapy options range from individual and group counseling to cognitive behavioral therapy – psychotherapy that challenges the same negative thoughts and emotions that are so prevalent among individuals who experience depression.
5. How can I tell if I’m experiencing depression or just a bad day?
As a general rule, symptoms must be sustained consistently for at least a period of two weeks, before depression will be considered. Beyond the duration of time in which you experience symptoms, you must also experience enough of the above symptoms together to represent a strong enough case for depression.
Sadness is a normal part of life. However, if you’re experiencing persistent sadness for more than 14 days, compounded by other symptoms listed above, it’s important that you reach out to a licensed medical professional near you to receive the help you need.
6. What is triggering my depression?
Depression will often surface without much warning, but there’s always a reason for it. Common triggers of depression include:
- Established family history of depression
- Personal substance abuse
- Sustained physical, sexual or emotional abuse
- Onset of chronic or terminal illness
- Social isolation from loved ones
Depression provides even more proof that trauma imposes effects on our lives that aren’t always physical. If you find that one, or more, of the above items is triggering your depression, consult with a licensed mental health expert near you for help determining and managing next steps.
7. What can I do to prevent depression?
Depression is not always preventable. It can often surface without warning, and remain far longer than we’d like it to. However, there are a number of actions you can take to minimize its negative effects on your life. These include:
- Get enough sleep each night
- Eat a healthy, fruit and vegetable-heavy diet
- Get exercise every day, even if it’s just a jog around the neighborhood or a walk to the store and back
- Limit alcohol intake
- Make sure you drink enough water every day
In other words, look to promote well-rounded health, by focusing on spirit, mind and body. A healthy body makes for a healthy immune response, and the best possible response when depression symptoms appear.
8. How long will my depression last?
The length of time your depression lasts can vary based on a number of factors, including the type of depression and the severity of the symptoms. In general, symptoms can last at least for weeks, which is the minimum threshold your symptoms need to meet in order to qualify as depression. Symptoms of chronic or more serious levels of depression can last for years, so it’s especially important that you seek the help you know you need whenever symptoms arise.
9. Who is most likely to suffer from depression?
Statistically, women are twice as likely as men to develop depression. This trend is likely due to increased hormonal changes that women often experience during a lifetime, including regular shifts during pregnancy and menopause.
However, this ratio between affected women and men tends to equalize with age. Overall, major depression is most likely to surface among individuals between 45 and 65 years of age. Other triggers like a chemical or family disposition toward depression also render you more likely to experience effects of depression during your lifetime.
10. How can I find depression resources near me?
Here’s a piece of good news: there are likely depression resources near you that you can take advantage of right now. Take a moment and use your search engine of choice to look for depression resources near you. You’ll likely be met with a local NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) branch, alongside support groups, licensed medical professionals and therapy options. If you are in the Atlanta, Georgia area, Pyramid Family Behavioral Healthcare is here to help.
Before you go about navigating that ocean of assistance, it’s likely best that you get on the same page with a certified medical professional you trust. Find one near you, and you’ll be able to discuss symptoms, severity and next steps with someone who thoroughly understands what you’re going through.
Finding hope while fighting depression
More important than any answer above is this fact: no matter what symptoms you’re experiencing, there is hope. You’ve already accomplished the most difficult part of recovery: admitting that you need help. There are so many individuals who suffer from the effects of depression, anxiety and other behavioral and mental health issues, but who will never receive the help they need because they will never ask for help. If nothing else, congratulate yourself on taking this first leap.