Identification of Signs, Symptoms, Types, and Treatments
Are You Depressed?
The word depression is a word that gets used fairly loosely these days. People can say their “depressed” when they are simply having a bad or blue day. Having a bad day, or even a few bad days doesn’t necessarily mean you’re clinically depressed. Unlike the blues, sadness, or even grief, depression is a condition in which a person feels an overwhelming and debilitating unhappiness. People who are depressed may have trouble thinking clearly and may be unable to perform some normal everyday functions. They may at times be uninterested in eating or may overeat, be unable to sleep or oversleep. Persons with depression may even have thoughts of suicide. A diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder, commonly referred to as depression, requires that an individual have a depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure in activities that that individual normally enjoys. In addition, at least four of the following symptoms must also be present nearly every day for at least 2 weeks for a physician to diagnose depression:
Significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain (i.e., a change of more than 5% of body weight in a month), or decrease or increase in appetite
Insomnia or hypersomnia (excessive sleeping) nearly every day
Feeling restless or sluggish to the point that others notice
Fatigue or loss of energy
Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt
Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness
Recurrent thoughts of death (not just fear of dying), recurrent suicidal thoughts without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt or a specific plan for committing suicide
Tests that determine if one is depressed
Although some people ask about testing when it comes to determining if they are truly depressed, most tests that purport to determine clinical depression are asking questions of the individual that an experienced clinician can determine in a few moments with some input from the patient. Most clinicians have objective pencil and paper tests they can use to verify if clinical depression exists if needed, however this clinician fairly rarely finds the need to use these tests. As well, although clinical depression has physiological elements which some feel could be tested via physical means, there remains no test that has consistently verified the disorder. A clinician’s experience remains the best means of determining depression as well as the best course of treatment.
Types of Depression
Depressive disorders may be classified as major depressive, dysthymic or chronic, or not otherwise specified -- a catch-all for conditions that do not fit the other categories. Other terms that serve to specify particular types of depression include terms such as atypical, postpartum, or seasonal, and may be added to a diagnosis to describe the nature of the most recent episode of depression or the course that the illness may have taken over time. Depression can also be part of bipolar disorder, in which a patient experiences alternating periods of depression and mania. It may seem that depression is depression, but there are truly many shades of grey that can set one type of depression apart from another. The following is a list of possible types of depressive disorders:
Major Depressive Disorder
Seasonal Affective Disorder
Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorde
Common Causes of Depression
Although depression can be triggered by an emotional event in a person's life, a decrease in the levels of one of the neurotransmitters has been linked in the biology of depression. The brain is composed of millions of interconnecting nerve cells called neurons. In order for a person to think, move, or feel, these neurons must communicate with one another. They do so by sending and receiving chemical messengers called neurotransmitters. When a neurotransmitter is released from a neuron, it crosses a cleft, or synapse, and binds to a receptor on another neuron; thus the signal is passed on. Generally, depression is caused by an imbalance in this brain chemistry related to neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters like serotonin, noradrenalin, and dopamine are generally primary culprits in mood disorders. Serotonin is generally the primary focus of brain imbalances with depression. Other factors, including genetic makeup, environmental and situational factors, individual coping resources, vitamin deficiencies, hormonal imbalances and changes, allergies, and other various physical conditions can also contribute to one’s depression. Many of these corollary issues are often overlooked by therapists and physicians and thus many individuals only receive little or no benefit from treatment.
Are You in a Relationship with Someone Who is Depressed?
It is very important for those who love a depressed person to understand that a depressed person suffers from a very real both physiological and psychological illness. Some people may say, “It is all in their head,” giving the impression that that person chooses to be depressed. And although that belief in some cases has some partial truth, it is certainly not the entire picture. A clinically depressed person cannot just "snap out of it" or "cheer up" when they want to, nor are they simply weak, lazy, defective, or seeking attention. They have a very real illness and they need love and support from their friends and family. In addition, they may need their loved ones to assist them in getting proper and effective treatment.
Treatments for Depression
If you are suffering from depression, there are several treatments available. Medications and psychotherapy are generally considered as being the best treatment when used in combination with each other. Our firm uses whole food supplements, nutraceuticals, and homeopathic remedies in place of psychotropic medications. Many doctors have been found these supplements to be at least as effective, in some cases more effective, and have little or no side effects when compared with allopathic medications.
Counseling or psychotherapy is another process that our firm employs in the treatment of individuals with mental health issues or physiological imbalances. Possibly the most prominent and effective mode of counseling used today is cognitive behavioral counseling and is as well the most popular therapy used within the treatment of depression. Hundreds of research studies have been conducted which verify cognitive-behavioral treatment’s effectiveness in treating this disorder. It consists of simple techniques which focus on the negative thought patterns or cognitive distortions generally associated with and used by individuals that struggle with depression.
It is our belief that counseling therapy begins by establishing a supportive environment with our patient. As well, it is our philosophy, that it is our job as therapists, to assist our client’s in reaching their physiological and behavioral goals, not ours. Therefore we work hard to educate our patients in ways that begin to eliminate any cognitive distortions that may prove contributory to their depression. Many patients have grown accustomed to these “cognitive distortions” and many times are unaware of the part they play in contributing to their mood fluctuations. Part of our job as therapists is helping our patients discover and put in place methods of eradicating these distortions. Eliminating these distortions many times assists greatly in stopping the psychological element of depression.
Normal allopathic physicians generally treat the physiological portion of depression with various antidepressants such as Prozac, Lexapro, Zoloft, or Paxil. These medications do not actually enhance the actual chemical deficits that are generally found in depressed individuals via a shortage of serotonin. Generally, antidepressants simply manipulate the activity of post-synaptic nerve terminal receptor sites and block certain neurotransmitters reentering the reuptake pump. Although this action can relieve depression in individuals, the body many times will eventually counter the effect by a down-regulation of these receptor sites, thus rendering the medicine less effectual. In these cases, the physician will then normally change the individual’s medication only to have the cycle repeat itself again from time to time. Some researchers speculate that because these antidepressants work via unnatural biological pathways that the down-regulation of receptor sites in the post synaptic nerve terminal may in some cases be permanent. Although this has not been proven and more than likely will not ever be tested by pharmaceutical companies, given the gravity of its liability, it remains a curious fact that many who partake of antidepressants often experience what psychiatrists sometimes call the “poop out syndrome” when the medication loses its effect. It is our feeling that although down-regulation of receptor sites can be an issue; these abnormalities need not be regulated via a further dysregulation and manipulation but rather turning reversing down-regulation via homeopathics. Then, if an imbalance of neurotransmitters actually in fact exists, which in many cases it does, further enhancement of the natural supply of serotonin via the synaptic vesicle is felt to be in order. Using this, the most natural biological pathway and method, the use of nutraceuticals, glandulars, and whole food supplements are many times a better option for treatment and will supply the needed neurotransmitter, as well as any hormonal and mineral balanced required to balance the individual and eradicate the depression. This method along with the adjustment of environmental and dietary aspects of an individual’s often serves to be a much better option than pharmaceuticals.
Counseling and Psychotherapy
Psychotherapy is a process in which a trained professional enters into a relationship with a patient for the purpose of helping them with mental illness, behavioral problems, and or personal growth. The process involves the patient and therapist sitting in a room talking, which is generally why it is called "talk therapy." Research has shown that psychotherapy or counseling is the most effective treatment for depression when used in conjunction with medication. It is our belief that holistic treatments employed by our firm enhance the effectiveness of treatment even further.