I would go ahead and declare October Depression Month, but I bet it has already been declared by some higher authority, psychologist, or (most likely) the marketing arm of a big pharmaceutical company.
I like Anti-Depression Month better anyway. ‘Anti-depression’ is encouraging and hopeful to my ear.
In this post I’ll share the basics of depression symptoms and summary of many treatments, with links for further reading, like the Discovery Channel’s Depression 101.
As always, and I will never had said this enough (I say this for me as much as you all): you owe it to yourself to get cardiovascular exercise every day and eat fewer high-producing foods as well. Heal from the inside-out.
If you’re depressed, chances are you already know it. Being depressed is not a state of being to feel ashamed of. It happens–a lot, to a lot of people. Are you hesitating to seek treatment because you don’t want to admit to yourself or a therapist or doctor that you’re depressed? Depression is normal, and common, and the sooner that you admit you’re depressed, the sooner you can work to feel better (then you’ll wonder why you waited).
SYMPTOMS OF DEPRESSION
If you have Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), you’ll experience some of these symptoms and the symptoms will have lasted for more than two consecutive weeks:
Unable to enjoy anything – food, intimacy, humor
Negative thinking – feeling and acting critical, pessimistic, and defeated
A sense of hopelessness
A sense of worthlessness, feeling insignificant
Crying – suddenly or more than usual
Listlessness – too tired to move, or do simple things
Indecision – unable to make up your mind about anything
Sleeping much less
Sleeping much more
Eating much more, weight gain
Eating much less, weight loss
CAUSES OF DEPRESSION
Traumatic life event – end of a major relationship, someone’s death, trauma, illness, loss of job, or childbirth
Runs in the family – did you mother or father or uncle or grandparent suffer from depression?
Change in health – diagnosis of a major illness, or major injury causing lifestyle change
The season – seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a form of depression
TREATMENTS FOR DEPRESSION
Medication & Therapy
No matter what medication you decide is right for you, if you decide that one is, you should be meeting regularly with a therapist.
Are you concerned about the cost of therapy?
Call your health insurance provider and find out what coverage you have for seeing a therapist – you’d be surprised how many health plans cover therapy (you’ll have to pay your co-pay, and that’s it). Find out if your employer has an EAP (employee assistance program); you can call human resources to find out. If it does, you can call the EAP people and get an appointment with a counselor. You can call counseling institutes and find out if they have any special sliding-scale programs (you would meet with a therapist who is done with school but needs to log hours of practice before getting his or her license). Many therapists will adjust their rate for you, if you are financially strapped. And, remember that support groups like ACA are totally free (well, a dollar or so – a voluntary contribution).
Can you believe how many anti-depression medications exist?
Your therapist will help you figure out what type of medication is best for you, but here are a few. Many of these have generic counterparts, and be sure to ask your therapist about that, because it could mean the difference between retail prices and generic prices – and save you lots of $$$$.
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are drugs that encourage your brian to steep itself in serotonin (happy brain chemicals) rather than allow the levels of the chemical to get low. The most popular SSRIs are: fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Paxil), sertaline (Zoloft), citalopram (Celexa), fluvoxamine (Luvox), and escitalopram (Lexapro). SSRIs are popular because the side-effects are less intrusive than with all other types of antidepression meds.
Monoamine oxidase inhibitors are the oldest bunch of antidepressants. Depending on your symptoms, any of these would likely be tried after SSRIs. Taking these kinds of meds will require some modification in your diet as well, to avoid high blood pressure. Some still used include: phenelzine (Nardil) and tranylcypromine (Parnate). These drugs work by keeping monoamine oxidase from doing its normal job of breaking down certain brain chemicals (especially norepinephrine, a stress hormone).
These new, extra-mighty drugs for severe depression do a little of both, as they keep the serotonin levels in your brain high and, also, block monoamine oxidase from snuffing out all the norepinephrine. Two examples of drugs are: venlafaxine (Effexor) and duloxetine (Cymbalta). You may have seen the TV ads for these two recently.
Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs).
These are also older drugs, for severe depression, formulated back in the 1950s and 1960s. The name tricyclic refers to the three chemical rings around the chemical structure of these drugs. These, like MAOIs, also work on the norepinephrine levels (raising them) in your brain. Some of these are: amitriptyline (Elavil), protriptyline (Vivactil), desipramine (Norpramin), nortriptyline (Aventyl, Pamelor), imipramine (Tofranil), trimipramine (Surmontil), and perphenazine (Triavil).
These are called atypical because they don’t fit into the three main categories above! These work in various ways that aren’t always predictable and depend on the individual involved — they are used to treat ADD, addiction to cigarettes, as well as manic depression, bipolar disorder and everything in-between. These are not likely to be what your therapist suggests right away but are, nonetheless, options for further investigation if you have little luck with SSRIs. Examples are: nefazodone (Serzone), trazodone (Desyrel), bupropion (Wellbutrin), lithium (Eskalith, Lithobid), valproate (Depakene, Depakote), carbamazepine (Epitol, Tegretol), neurontin (Gabapentin), lamictal (Lamotrigine), ziprasidone (Geodon), risperidone (Risperdal), quetiapine (Seroquel), and aripiprazole (Abilify).
A few ways that you can take your mental health into your own hands:
Talk to People – talk to people about your feelings, call friends
Therapy – find a therapist you feel comfortable with, and talk about your feelings
Exercise – be sure you’re exercising, cardiovascular exercise, every day
Eat well – avoid excessive sugar and focus on protein and vegetables for mood- and blood sugar-balance
Get out – go do things – movies, bookstores, walks, hikes, or sign up for a class to stimulate your mind