Depression is a clinical condition characterized by sadness, fatigue, and hopelessness.
Depression: What You Need to Know
While everyone experiences periods of sadness, clinical depression consists of pervasive sadness and hopelessness that does not seem to lift. A significant loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities, a defeatist attitude, and even suicidal ideation can be hallmarks of severe depression. The onset of depression may coincide with an experience of trauma, major hormonal shifts or deficiencies, significant stress, the effects of certain medications, other mental health conditions, or substance use. It can be hard to pinpoint an exact cause, but genetic, biological, and environmental factors can all influence the development of clinical depression.
Effects of Depression
Depression is a serious illness that results from a chemical imbalance in the body and brain. If left untreated, it can be debilitating and life-disrupting, affecting one’s physical health, social activity, relationships, and ability to keep a job. Depressed individuals may become prone to isolating themselves, increasing the risk of self-harm or even suicide.
Here are some symptoms of depression, according to the National Institute of Mental Health:
- Persistent sadness
- Feeling empty, hopeless, or pessimistic about life
- Feeling guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
- Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
- Fatigue and decreased energy
- Problems concentrating or making decisions
- Disturbance in sleeping pattern, such as restlessness or oversleeping
- Changes in appetite or weight
- Suicidal ideation
- Headaches, digestive issues, or muscle aches that have no discernable physical cause and are not helped by treatment
The Stats on Depression
- About 1 in 7 adolescents ages 12 to 17 had a major depressive episode in the last year.
- Almost 50% of people diagnosed with depression also have an anxiety disorder.
- 70% of adolescents who had a major depressive episode experienced severe impairment.
- Between 80-90% of people with depression eventually respond well to treatment.
- Depression is the leading cause of disability in the US among people 15-44.
Depression may be alleviated through assistive medications that allow the brain to retain higher levels of serotonin. These include medications such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs), and selective serotonin noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). These can be effective in decreasing the symptoms of depression, allowing individuals to participate in other forms of therapy in order to process trauma, cope with negative feelings, and learn healthier behavior patterns.
Other therapies for depression may include Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), and Motivational Interviewing (MI). These approaches are designed to help individuals detect unhealthy patterns of thinking and modify their mental and emotional state. They empower those suffering from depression to make choices that can improve their well-being.
Those with chronic or severe depression may benefit from continuing to take medication as they practice therapeutic principles. Others may be able to discontinue depression medication at a certain point. Each person’s case is different, so it’s important to consult a doctor or treatment professional in regard to both pharmacological and psychosocial treatment. It may take time to determine which depression medication is best and reduces the most symptoms. Meditation, mindfulness, exercise, and healthy eating are also helpful in alleviating depression symptoms.
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