There are about three million new cases of depression each year in the United States, and it’s estimated to affect nearly 300 million globally. Depression is also regarded as a major source of disability by the World Health Organization, but its symptoms can often be managed with psychotherapy or medicine like ketamine.
What is Depression?
Depression, also known as major depressive disorder, is a widespread and serious mental health condition that negatively affects your feelings, how you think, and your actions. Thankfully, its symptoms are also treatable. Depression triggers feelings of sadness and a lack of interest in something you used to enjoy doing. It can also lead you down the path of many physical and emotional issues and restrict your ability to function normally when at home and work.
Know the Symptoms
- Tearfulness, desolation, and hopelessness.
- Anger, irritability, and frustration, even over trivial matters.
- Sleep problems.
- Tiredness, making even small tasks difficult.
- Eating problems resulting in weight gain or loss.
- Anxiety, nervousness, or restlessness.
- Slowed thinking, talking, or bodily movements.
- Feelings of worthlessness and guilt, and obsessing over past failure or self-blame.
- Problems with thinking, focusing, making decisions, and memory.
- Frequently thinking of death and suicide-related thoughts.
What Causes Depression?
There’s no single cause for depression, but possibilities may include:
- Childhood trauma, resulting in long-term fluctuations in how our brains react to stress and fear.
- A family history of mental illness.
- Difficult life circumstances (marriage, divorce, relationship issues, financial hardships etc.).
- Sleep problems, anxiety, medical troubles, chronic pain, and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Other conditions can mimic symptoms of depression.
- Substance abuse.
What makes someone susceptible to depression? Four risk factors that are commonly accepted include:
- Biochemistry, or how brain chemicals work, could predispose you to depression.
- Depression, like other diseases, can be inherited from biological relatives.
- Your personality. Someone who has traits such as pessimism, low self-esteem, and being regularly overcome by stress is at greater risk of depression.
- Environmental stressors, including unemployment, a demanding job, grief, and psychological trauma, can lead to depression.
What Lifestyle Changes Can Help My Depression?
“While treating depression or another mental illness will generally require professional intervention, you’re the expert when it comes to self-care, the process of forming healthy habits and making positive changes to your daily routine to improve your emotional and physical health.”
Many lifestyle changes can help fight depression:
- Learn as much as you can about your illness and any instances of comorbidity. Accumulating as much knowledge as possible can only help on your road to recovery.
- Get the right amount of sleep each night, ideally without interruptions. For most adults, that equates to between seven and nine hours a night but may go up slightly as you age. You can also integrate other healthy sleeping habits, like keeping a sleep diary, never going to bed hungry, keeping your sleep area dark and cozy, abstaining from caffeine after 4 pm, and giving yourself 30 minutes to relax before bedtime.
- Stay physically active and get at least 30 minutes of exercise each day. This can be as simple as brisk walking, jogging, biking, or aerobics. If possible, create a daily schedule you can abide by and track your progress in a physical activity log.
- You can manage depression by eating healthy foods. This means food rich in omega-3 fats (like salmon, sardines, mackerel, pilchards, herring, trout, seaweed, algae, and pumpkin seeds), fruits, vegetables, whole grains, yogurt, and lean meat. It also doesn’t hurt to ask your nutritionist if the Mediterranean Diet is right for you.
- Stay positive and re-engage with family and friends.
Diagnosis & Treatment
Successful diagnosis is based on:
- Your medical professional may complete a physical examination and ask about your health. Certain tests may uncover an underlying physical health condition.
- Your clinician may call for a blood test (a complete blood count) or test your thyroid functionality.
- Psychiatric assessment by a mental health professional to review your thoughts, symptoms, feelings, and behaviors. A self-assessment may also be involved.
- Looking at diagnostic criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, published by the American Psychiatric Association.
Treatment normally involves psychotherapy but may later include antidepressants, lifestyle changes, or medicine like ketamine.
If you’re suffering from depression, a clinical diagnosis and professional medical care may be your first step to getting better. Many people also find that implementing various lifestyle changes helps to improve their health and outlook on life. Besides psychotherapy and ketamine, doing things differently could be the best choice.