Do you feel down or irritable most of the day?
Have you lost interest or pleasure in activities that you used to enjoy?
Do you struggle with insomnia or find yourself sleeping excessively?
Are you tired much of the time?
Has it recently become difficult to concentrate or hard to make decisions?
Do you find yourself feeling hopeless about your future?
Has your appetite significantly increased or decreased?
Do you find yourself thinking about hurting yourself or committing suicide?
If the answer is yes to several of the above questions, then you may be suffering from clinical depression. When we have a loss, experience a failure, or feel mistreated, most of us feel down. But if feelings of intense sadness, including feeling hopeless and worthless, last for weeks and keep you from doing your normal activities, then you may have clinical depression, a disturbance in your brain, which will improve more quickly if you seek treatment.
What causes depression?
Scientists are still exploring this question. At present we view it as an interaction between the individual’s genetic predisposition and life stressors. While some people have such a strong predisposition to depression that it seems to be entirely biochemical in nature, most people can identify a period of significant life stresses that they endured before becoming depressed. One current theory of depression is that it is the result of being in an anxious state for too long.
Are there different types of depression?
Yes, there are depressive disorders where the individual feels down most or all of the time and mood disorders where the individual’s mood fluctuates. It is important to differentiate between the different types of mood disorders in order to find the right treatment. I generally start my evaluation with a history and clinical interview to help determine what type and severity of depression someone is experiencing.
How can depression be treated?
Most people have seen commercials on television advertising how anti-depressant medications can be used to treat depression. In some cases these medications are necessary, but often depression can be treated just as effectively without medications through cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT helps individuals learn how to counter their internal self-critical thoughts which are often the cause of depression. And once people become depressed, the depression “tells people lies“, such as they are no good, no one likes their company, there is no point in trying as they will never succeed. CBT teaches you techniques to help you expose the “lies” that depression tells you. CBT involves both cognitive techniques and behavioral homework, the most important of which is regular exercise.
Research has demonstrated that regular exercise works as well as anti-depressants for all levels of depression. And the only side effects are feeling healthier, having more energy, sleeping better; quite different from the list of potential side effects from anti-depressant medications.
How long does treatment take?
CBT is a short-term (10-20 session) treatment that has been proven to be effective in the treatment of depression. And it has been demonstrated to prevent future depressive episodes. In general, less severe depressions will resolve faster than deeper depressions. And the sooner someone starts treatment, the shorter the course of treatment and the faster they start feeling like themselves again.