Life is full of many wonderful moments, but it is not without its share of hardships. Life can be quite challenging, causing us to feel blue or just hopeless from time to time – especially during times of adversity. But when these feelings don’t let up and make it difficult to function through daily activities, it may be depression.
For those living with depression it can often feel unbearable. For many with the disorder, even the simplest of activities and tasks such as getting out of bed in the morning can feel overwhelming and insurmountable. For many others, they may even feel that life is no longer worth living. In order to be diagnosed with depression, an individual must have experienced symptoms of depression for a period of two weeks or more.
If you are having suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK. To reach the Veterans Crisis Line dial the same number and press “1”.
10 Most Common Symptoms of Depression
There are several very common symptoms that are associated with a diagnosis of depression. However, it is important to remember that not everyone with depression will experience every symptom. In fact, some may even only experience a few, but their severity may prove extreme. Individuals who experience a few symptoms (“subsyndromal” depression) may also benefit from treatment. Here are the top 10 signs of clinical depression:
- You perpetually feel sad, anxious, or even empty.
- You experience a large change in appetite or weight.
- You feel hopeless.
- You feel irritable, restless or struggle with sitting still.
- You have difficulty concentrating.
- You are moving or talking more slowly than you historically have.
- You have experienced a loss of interest in things that you once loved, including sex.
- You have less energy or feel more fatigued than you have historically.
- Your sleep patterns are disturbed; you either sleep too much or too little.
- You have thought about or have attempted suicide.
Depression Symptoms in Children and Teens
Although they can be similar to those of adults, symptoms of depression in children and teenagers can in some ways vary.
For younger children, symptoms of depression can include sadness, clinginess, irritability, aches and pains, worry, refusal to attend school, or being underweight.
For teenagers, symptoms of depression can also include sadness and irritability as well as anger, feeling misunderstood, feeling extremely sensitive, eating or sleeping too much, self-harm, poor performance at school, poor attendance at school, using recreational drugs and/or alcohol, loss of interest in normal activities and decreased (avoidance) of social interaction.
Depression Symptoms in Older Adults
Depression can commonly go undetected, undiagnosed, and untreated in older adults. These individuals also commonly feel reluctant to seek help. The symptoms of depression in older adults may be less obvious. They include:
- Physical aches or pains.
- Suicidal thinking or feelings (especially in older adult men).
- Often desiring to stay home rather than go out and socialize.
- Memory difficulties.
- Personality changes.
- Fatigue, sleep problems or loss of interest in sex, and/or loss of appetite, which cannot be attributed to another medical condition or medication.
Major Depressive Disorder
Depression is a mood disorder that causes an ongoing feeling of sadness and a loss of interest for things once enjoyed. Also referred to as major depressive disorder or clinical depression, it can affect just about every aspect of an individual’s life. It can affect how a person thinks, feels, and behaves, and can lead to further physical and emotional issues. It is usually not something that goes away on its own and cannot be regulated by the individual himself. It is often treated with prescription medications and psychotherapy, though electroconvulsive therapy and other brain stimulation therapies may be alternative options should traditional treatments not work. Different types of psychotherapy can aid people with depression. These include cognitive behavioral therapy, interpersonal therapy, and problem-solving therapy.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, major depressive disorder is the leading cause of disability worldwide. In the U.S. it is the leading cause of disability among those aged 15 to 44.3. It affects more than 16.1 million American adults, which equates to about 6.7% of the U.S. population aged 18 and older within a given year. Though it can develop at any age, the median age for the development of depression is 32.5. Additionally, it is more common among women than men.
Types of Depression
There are several types of depression that an individual may experience over his or her lifetime:
- Persistent Depressive Disorder (PDD) is a depressed mood that lasts for an extended period of time (no less than two years) though symptoms may become more or less severe at certain points in time. PDD affects about 1.5% of the U.S. population aged 18 and older within a given year (approximately 3.3 million American adults). Alarmingly, only 61.7% of adults with persistent depressive disorder are receiving treatment for it, and the average age of onset is 31 years.
- Postpartum Depression is a type of full-blown depression that can begin immediately after giving birth. Though what is known as the “baby blues” (relatively mild depressive and anxiety symptoms that generally go away within two weeks after delivery) is extremely common, postpartum depression creates feelings of severe sadness, exhaustion, and anxiety, which often make it difficult for new mothers to take care of themselves and/or their babies.
- Psychotic Depression is a type of depression that occurs when an individual is also experiencing some form of psychosis, including delusions or hallucinations. Commonly these psychotic symptoms share a theme of depression and may include delusions of guilt, illness, or poverty.
- Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that is associated with the winter months in which there is generally less natural sunlight (and less vitamin D). With SAD, the feelings of depression usually go away on their own come spring or summer. For those who struggle with SAD, this depression during the winter is usually also associated with social withdrawal, weight gain, and increased sleep. It generally returns every year around the same time.
- Bipolar Disorder (though not normal depression and also previously referred to as manic depression) is often associated with episodes of high and low mood swings, which together classify as “bipolar depression.” The difference between this and major depression, are the feelings of extremely high moods known as “mania,” or a lesser version called “hypomania.”
Depression in Veterans
Due to the trauma that many veterans experience, readjusting back into civilian life often proves difficult. The statistics are alarming. In 2016 RAND Center for Military Health Policy Research shared that 20 percent of vets who served in Iraq and/or Afghanistan experience either major depression or post-traumatic stress disorder.
According to a September 2018 VA National Suicide Data Report, from 2008 to 2016, more than 6,000 veteran suicides occurred annually. From 2005 to 2016, veteran suicide rates increased a shocking 25.9 percent. In 2016, the rate of veterans committing suicide was 1.5 times greater than non-veterans, 69.4 percent of which occurred with the involvement of a firearm. In 2016, among veterans aged 18 – 24, the suicide rate grew immensely with 45 suicide deaths per 100,000 population. The previous year saw 40.4 suicide deaths per 100,000 population. Additionally, the suicide rate for female veterans was 1.8 times greater than that of non-female veterans.
Anxiety and Depression
It is also important to note that it is not at all uncommon for someone with an anxiety disorder to also experience depression or for someone with depression to also have anxiety. Many chronic mood and anxiety disorders found in adults originally began as high levels of anxiety in childhood.
Risk Factors of Depression
Current research suggests that depression is caused by a handful of risk factors. These include biological, environmental, genetic, and psychological factors:
- Certain physical illnesses and medications.
- Major life changes, trauma, or stress.
- Personal or family history of depression.
People with depression seem to have physical changes to their brains, changes in the function and effect of neurotransmitters in the brain, changes in the body’s balance of hormones, and blood relatives with depression.
Depression, especially that felt by middle aged or older adults can often co-occur with other serious medical ailments. Conditions such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and Parkinson’s disease are generally worse when an individual has depression. Additionally, some medications can actually cause certain side effects that contribute to depression.
Medications and Treatments
Antidepressants are a type of medication usually used to treat depression. They work to improve the way chemicals in the brain that control mood or stress are processed. Since each individual’s brain is so vastly different, patients often need to try multiple types of antidepressants before discovering what works best for them, improving their symptoms and not causing unbearable side effects. Due to its genetic component, depression is often treated (or attempted to be treated) with an antidepressant that has been successful for a close family member.
Antidepressants do not work immediately, but generally take anywhere from 2 to 4 weeks. Symptoms including poor appetite, sleep, and concentration problems usually improve before mood lifts. It is so important to give the medication a fair chance to work before concluding whether or not it is effective.
Anyone who takes antidepressants should not attempt to stop taking them without the assistance of their treating physician. Stopping this type of medication can cause extremely uncomfortable and often dangerous withdrawal symptoms.
Other Efforts That May Help
If you or a loved one experiences depression, the following may help during treatment:
- Exercise and remain physically active.
- Try to spend time with others – do not isolate yourself.
- Set realistic goals.
- Postpone important decisions until you feel better and have a more objective mindset.
- Continue to educate yourself about depression, how it works, and what you can do to treat it.
What to do if You or a Loved One Experiences Depression
For those who are feeling depressed, it is important to make an appointment to see your physician or mental health professional as soon as possible. If you feel hesitant to seek treatment, speaking with a friend, loved one, faith leader, or health care professional may help. Early and appropriate treatment can help your remission, prevent relapse, and reduce the emotional and financial burden of depression.
If your depression is causing you to think about potentially hurting yourself or attempting suicide, it is imperative to call 911 immediately. If you are having suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK. To reach the Veterans Crisis Line dial the same number and press “1.”
If you have a loved one who is likely to try or who has attempted suicide, it is vital that someone stays with that individual. Call 911 immediately, or if able to do so safely, take the individual to the nearest emergency room.
New Vitae = New Life
Dealing with depression is no small feat. When you experience depression it is extremely important to seek help from qualified professionals in order to begin searching for a solution to treat it. Specializing in treatment for those battling major depressive disorder and various forms of it, New Vitae Wellness and Recovery can help to provide cutting edge technology and the tools, and treatments to feel better and get your life back on track. We serve patients, (including veterans) with depression to feel better, improve, and lead normal, healthy lives. For more information about the many services it provides, contact New Vitae Wellness and Recovery today.