Did you ever feel sad or blue? How about trouble sleeping or no energy? Everyone occasionally experiences these problems, but if these moods seem to occur without provocation or start to affect your daily life, then you may have a depressive disorder. Transient periods of sadness, crying, insomnia can occur naturally in a healthy individual in the settings of job loss, divorce, death of a loved one, etc. However, if someone is experiencing extended periods of a sad mood, feelings of low self-esteem, helplessness, hopelessness, inappropriate guilt, impaired concentration or memory, or has lost interest in participating in activities that were previously enjoyable to them, or is experiencing thoughts of suicide, then they may have a major depressive disorder. This illness may affect one’s family life, school, work or occupation, as well as their general health. Diminished appetite as well as insomnia occur frequently. Depression can occur at any age but most often affects individuals in the 20-40 year old age group. Depressive episodes can last weeks, months, or years.
The causes of depressive illnesses are many, including psychological factors, social factors, biological factors, and hereditary. Fortunately, most cases of depression will improve with therapy. The most common treatments are antidepressant medications which can affect the chemical imbalances in the brain and psychotherapy. The most promising psychotherapy currently is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Often patients are treated with a combination of medications and psychotherapy. Other therapeutic strategies include meditation, music, and exercise. Substance abuse is often associated with depression and may be a cause of the depression or may be the result of an individual attempting to medicate themselves with alcohol and/or mood altering drugs. Any substance abuse issues must be addressed and treated in order for the depressive illness to be successfully treated. Anyone experiencing the above symptoms should see their primary care provider and be evaluated for a possible depressive illness.
Article written by Gary Towle, MD.