Life has many ups and downs, and sometimes it’s easier to cope than others. If you’re been feeling down for a while, it may be time to speak to a professional about depression. Maybe you feel like you want to cry all the time. You feel like you’re teetering on the edge of a giant black hold. You can’t summon the energy to go about your daily activities. Or maybe it’s something else entirely. Everyone is different, but there is always hope that things will improve.
Here at Dana Group Associates, we believe that behavioral health should be easy to access. We’re passionate about behavioral health education and empowering people like you to get back on track. Our providers will partner you every step of your journey. We offer fast appointment times, medication management services, and a diverse team that understands what you’re going through. We’re based in Massachusetts, with offices in Needham, Hanover, and Norwell, and our door is always open.
If you’d like to learn more about depression, keep reading. In this blog, we’ll discuss common symptoms, major causes, answers to frequently asked questions, and treatment options. Our goal is to help you understand what’s happening and why.
Want to get started? Schedule your first appointment today.
What Is Depression?
Depression is something many of us will experience at some point in our lives. It’s an extended period of low mood that can significantly impair your daily life, with mental and physical symptoms. According to the Anxiety and depression Association of America, depression is the leading cause of disability for people aged 15-44. Approximately 17.3 million experience a major depressive episode every year, which is about 6.7% of American adults. It can develop for a number of reasons (we’ll talk about that in a minute) and happen to any person at any time. Sometimes, there’s a clear explanation, but other times, the cause can be incredibly nuanced. Either way, it’s important to know that you’re never alone and help is always available when you need it.
What Are the Most Common Symptoms?
Everyone experiences depression differently, however, there are some common symptoms:
- Feeling sad, miserable, overwhelmed, hopeless, guilty, frustrated, self-conscious, angry, disappointed, irritable, unappreciated, unloved, exhausted, or apathetic
- Changing your behaviors, not going out anymore, struggling to get things done, withdrawing from loved ones, finding your mind wandering all the time, relying on substances
- Finding yourself trapped in negative though patterns – for example, “I’m a failure,” “Nothing good ever happens,” “It’s all my fault,” “People would be better off without me”
- Noticing physical changes, such as gaining or losing weight, having frequent headaches, struggling to fall asleep, feeling generally unwell, and having low energy
This isn’t a comprehensive list. It just summarizes some of the common things people talk to us about when they come to our office. If you find yourself struggling to get up in the morning, falling into spirals of negative thoughts, or losing interest in life, we encourage you to schedule an appointment. Come into our office for a chat.
What Are the Major Causes of Depression?
The list of things that can trigger depression is infinite. It could be a major life event like losing a loved one, going through a relationship break-down, being diagnosed with a disease, suffering a financial loss, developing a personal problem, or getting bad news. You might be a survivor of abuse or trauma. There may be an issue with the medications you’re taking, or you might be struggling to control your use of alcohol or other substances. Maybe there are genetic factors.
Depression can also occur for no reason at all, or because a series of minor issues have created a mountain. Maybe you’ve been stressed for a long time and it’s all suddenly become too much. You might be struggling to make a decision or resolve a conflict. Maybe you’re recovering from an injury and it’s taking longer than you’d hoped. Perhaps you don’t like where your life is headed and you’re not sure how to change course. Maybe you’re feeling totally stuck.
The most important thing to know is there is no single cause and each person’s experience is valid. You don’t have to justify your feelings or diminish your experience. It’s not a competition. If you’re experiencing symptoms of depression, we’re here to help you feel good again.
What Does It Do to Your Brain?
Depression can cause physiological changes to the brain, such as an enlarged amygdala. This is a collection of cells near the base of the brain that gives meaning to emotions and attaches them to memories. In some cases, it can reroute neural pathways in the brain that make it more likely to reoccur. However, most people can recover fully from depression without any long-term issues.
It can also affect things like the levels of hormones inside your body, which can cause other symptoms to appear. For example, high levels of the stress hormone cortisol can cause high blood pressure, weight gain, muscle weakness, skin changes, and mood swings. Low levels of the happiness hormone serotonin can cause feelings of sadness, anger, chronic fatigue, and hopelessness.
Medication can be a great option for many people. If your symptoms are the result of a chemical imbalance, modern medicine may provide some highly-effective solutions. Talk to your doctor to find out if this is right for you, or come and see one of our in-house prescribers.
Can Depression Change Your Personality?
About 30 years ago, a study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry found that there was no evidence to suggest that personality traits changed after an episode of major depression.
While you’re in the thick of it, however, an article published in the Annual Review of Clinical Psychology in 2012 explained that you may find that traits such as negativity, introversion, self-criticism, anxiety, emotionality, and even neuroticism become heightened. How long it takes to return to “normal” depends on a range of things, including the causes that triggered your condition and the severity of the depression you are experiencing. Depression,like all medical conditions, is usually easiest to treat in the early onset phase, before symptoms becomes chronic.
If you’re ready to take action and you want to start feeling like yourself again, there are many options available, from medication to talk therapy and lifestyle changes. Click to find out more.
How Can Depression Be Treated?
Researchers are learning more about depression all the time. That means our knowledge is always deepening and our treatment methodologies are becoming more effective. In most cases, it’s treated with medication, therapy, or a combination of the two. Medication helps moderate symptoms so you can start functioning normally again. Therapy can help identify triggers, change your thinking patterns, teach you coping strategies, and help you implement positive changes to reduce the severity of your symptoms and help you feel good again. This can include cognitive behavioral therapy, interpersonal therapy, mindfulness-based therapy, and more. Talk to your provider and don’t be afraid to try a few different providers to find someone who is the right match. It’s well worth the effort.
You may also find it helpful to focus on three steps sometimes referred to as mental health first aid: diet, exercise, and sleep. Adding more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to your diet, moving your body for at least 30 minutes every day, and establishing a bedtime routine that sets you up for a good night’s rest are small steps that can open a world of new possibilities.
Ready to start feeling good again? Schedule your first appointment today.