The symptoms of depression vary from person to person, an inconsistency that accounts for part of the problem in effectively treating it. Everyone suffers from periods of sadness caused by loss, hurt feelings, sickness or struggle.
When feeling down continues without easing…when it becomes an overwhelming and perpetual weight in your life, you no longer have just a “case of the blues.”
Why Pharmaceuticals Aren’t Consistently Effective In Treating Depression
For decades, the cause of depression was considered to be hormonal – specifically, an imbalance in serotonin levels. Pharmaceutical drugs intended to correct serotonin levels are not working – Prozac is helpful less than 50% of the time.
Scientists at the University of Maryland School of Medicine have discovered that depression linked to forgetfulness. It is believed that serotonin “amplifies” brain communications but is not the root problem. This groundbreaking research shows that depression is indeed linked to forgetfulness.
Excitatory interactions tell your brain that action is needed. These interactions are key to memory, learning, focus and decision making.
Dr. Scott Thompson, PhD, explained his team’s findings, “[Similar to] speaking louder to your companion at a noisy cocktail party, serotonin amplifies excitatory interactions in brain regions important for emotional and cognitive function and apparently helps to make sure that crucial conversations between neurons get heard.”
Explained more simply, serotonin raises the volume of communication in certain regions of the brain so action can be taken immediately, but it doesn’t provide the actual instructions needed – therefore, it is unable to treat depression on its own.
He adds, “In the depressed brain, serotonin appears to be trying hard to amplify that cocktail party conversation, but the message still doesn’t get through.”
Finding ways to improve excitatory interactions in the brain – not simply raising serotonin levels – could change the way mental disorders are diagnosed and treated. First repairing these connections, and then leveling serotonin could treat the root problem of depression and increase chances of successful recovery.
There are many different types of depression that form a group of mental disorders affecting approximately 18 million adults in the United States.
Most Frequently Diagnosed Mental Disorders
- Atypical depression – most common type of depression which tends to begin in the teenage years. 70% of atypical depression diagnoses are women. Patients diagnosed with atypical depression are at higher risk for social phobias and body dysmorphic disorder. Left untreated, atypical depression often leads to more severe forms of depression.
- Bipolar disorder – also called manic depression. Men and women are equally affected by this form of depression characterized by cycles of highs and lows.
- Major Depressive Disorder – also referred to as clinical depression, MDD affects almost 10 million adults in the U.S. and is the leading cause of disability. Approximately half of those patients who suffer from major depressive disorder also suffer from an anxiety disorder.
- Childhood depression – 2.5% of children in the U.S. suffer from depression. Left untreated, long periods of depression increase the risk of suicide – the leading cause of death in people age 10-24 in 1997.
- Teenage depression – physical and emotional changes to their body can often hide this form of depression that affects 8% of American adolescents.
- Dysthymia – more than 10 million U.S. citizens are impacted by this less severe mood disorder which typically begins between childhood and early adulthood. 40% of those with dysthymia will develop more severe disorders – such as MDD or bipolar disorder.
- Elderly depression – increased health problems, disability and loneliness make those 65 or older the highest risk group for suicide. Diagnosis for depression is often missed but experts estimate that 10-25% of the elderly suffer from some form of depression.
Too often, depression isn’t recognized until it has gone on for a long period of time. It can affect every part of your life with both physical and mental symptoms ranging from mild to severe. Four of the top ten reasons for disability are linked to mental disorders.
Ignoring symptoms of depression is not the answer.
Depression can and will impact your entire life. Take note of the early warning sign that depression is linked to forgetfulness and pay attention to the signals your body gives you.
Depression should be treated the same as any physical illness such as diabetes or heart disease because it can be just as life-threatening. Suicide is the number one cause of death in young people, claiming more lives each year than murder does.
The primary goal of your body is to remain healthy – you are your body. When things go wrong, your system communicates distress that often remains unnoticed or is considered unimportant.
Areas of Your Health Affected By Depression
– Such as your ability to focus, remember and make decisions – is impaired. You may feel lost or confused regarding events, tasks and conversation. This leads to heightened feelings of stress and anxiety.
– 80% of patients diagnosed with mental disorders report sleep disturbance. The inability to sleep, the desire to sleep far more than normal and a lack of “restful” sleep can result in excessive fatigue, lack of energy and irritability.
– Guilt, helplessness, increased pessimism, anxiety and sadness are just a few moods that can cripple your ability and desire to interact with others and lead to feelings of isolation.
– Those who are depressed have been observed in studies as moving slower, speaking slower and experiencing decreased sex drive. Loss of appetite or emotional eating can cause fluctuations in weight.
– headaches, joint and muscle pain, digestive complaints and unexplained pain that doesn’t go away have all been linked to depression.
If you experience some of these symptoms, you should know that you are not alone. Depression is treatable with combinations of therapy and medication. There are changes you can make in your daily life that will improve your chance for a healthy recovery.
- Write down your goals –such as drinking more water or getting some sunshine.
- Get regular exercise – even a short walk improves mental and emotional outlook.
- Don’t be so hard on yourself – no one is perfect and that’s alright.
- Stay busy – immerse yourself in activities you once enjoyed.
- Gravitate to positive people – avoid people who always make you feel worse.
If your feelings of depression include thoughts of suicide or the desire to self-harm, it is crucial that you seek help immediately.
By being your own cheerleader and listening to your body you give yourself a better quality of life today as well as many more depression-free tomorrows.