As we’ve explained in previous blogs, depression is defined by the National Institute for Mental Health as “a common but serious mood disorder,” which causes “severe symptoms that affect how you feel, think, and handle daily activities, such as sleeping, eating, or working.” It is a prevalent diagnosis, which is estimated to affect approximately 16 million Americans in a given year. Treating depression requires the help of trained professionals, although there are some actions that a person can take that require neither medication nor medical professionals to help improve their condition. As we often say about the invisible wounds of war: traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress, depression affects everyone differently and there is no one-size-fits-all treatment.
The most well-known treatment for depression is psychotherapy. Psychotherapy, which is also known as “talk therapy,” can take place in either an individual or a group setting. Components of psychotherapy include helping a person become aware of thought patterns that can be harmful, identifying how to cope with stress and hone problem-solving abilities, developing practices for mindfulness and relaxation, and monitoring emotions and behaviors to get an understanding of how the two interact and impact each other.
Another common and well-known treatment for depression is medication. Antidepressants are, by name, what are commonly implemented for the treatment of depression. There are a host of subcategories of antidepressants that each serve a distinct purpose. Some of the most commonly prescribed are known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). They work by increasing the serotonin levels in the brain. Serotonin is the brain chemical that acts as a mood stabilizer. In people suffering from depression, that chemical isn’t balanced. Other medications that can be prescribed for depression are antianxiety and antipsychotic medications. Medications suggested vary by the patient, and each patient may react to a category of medication, or a subclass of the medication differently.
There are other treatments and lifestyle choices that can also positively impact a person suffering from depression. Meditation and acupuncture are considered “alternative” approaches but have been shown to be effective in addressing depression. Light therapy is a commonly suggested treatment for people who experience seasonal affective disorder, a seasonal form of depression that commonly occurs in the winter months when natural light is sparse.
Lifestyle choices that have been shown to improve the symptoms of depression start with getting active. It’s suggested by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that adults exercise for at least two and a half hours every week. Exercise releases endorphins which are essentially feel-good chemicals from the brain. Those help improve mood and perspective, effectively mitigating the impact of depression.
Diet is also an important part of treating depression. Sure, grabbing take-out or ordering delivery is easy, and it’s appetizing when it’s coming from a fast-food or big chain restaurant. The contents of those meals can have a detrimental impact on mental health though. Healthy brain foods can include, but aren’t limited to citrus fruits, leafy green vegetables, seafood including salmon and shrimp, nuts, seeds, and eggs. Caffeinated and alcoholic beverages, sugary and deep-fried or processed foods are all recommended to be avoided or limited. Supplements of vitamins B and D are often recommended as well, and have been shown to ease depression symptoms.
Depression is a complex and complicated condition. Like many other mental health conditions, it requires time and a range of methods to properly address. A healthcare professional is essential to properly diagnose and develop a plan for treating depression, and only they can help determine what is the best approach to take for each person. These are just the basics of treating depression. To learn more about depression and treating depression, visit the National Institute of Mental Health’s website.
Posted on October 18 2021 in Blog