Depression affects at least 18 million adults in the United States in any given year. That’s one out of ten American adults. There are several different types of depression which can be diagnosed, but what they all have in common is persistent periods of low mood. But, where does depression come from? What can a person living with depression do to manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life? We will answer those questions and much more in this article. 

What Does Depression Feel Like? 

While it takes a medical professional to make a formal diagnosis, people often ask what depression feels like, in an effort to assess their own symptoms or someone else’s. There are different types of depression and the symptoms of each vary from person to person. Major depressive disorder is the most common form of depression.

Some Symptoms of Major Depressive Disorder Include:

  • Persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness without a clear cause
  • Losing interest in activities you once got pleasure from (sports, art, music, games, etc.)
  • Physical symptoms like insomnia or aches and pains without another explanation. 
  • Irritability, agitation or anger, especially over minor things
  • Focus on past failures, blaming yourself
  • Feelings of low esteem, unworthiness or guilt
  • Recurring thoughts of death or suicide
  • Low energy and a lack of motivation

Depression can be difficult for people to describe, but many people explain it as being in a low mood all, or most of the time and feeling inexplicable sadness or hopelessness. Sometimes depression can manifest as anger or irritability. A person with depression may be able to see much in their life to be grateful for and even objectively describe their life as “good” but this does not necessarily change the way they feel. However, the symptoms of depression can be lessened over time with talk therapy methods like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). 

Where Depression Comes From

Depression is a complex mental health condition that takes many forms and it may have more than one cause. Situational depression is depression that occurs as a result of a tragedy or a difficult predicament. For example, the loss of a loved one or being in dire straits financially. This type of depression comes from a clear source and it is usually resolved in time, though treatment can certainly help. 

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is one form of situational depression. The focus of this article however, is where clinical depression comes from.The clinical forms of depression more often do not have a clear precipitating event or apparent single cause. This type of depression comes from a variety of sources. Clinical forms of depression may come from our biology, typically a neurochemical or hormonal imbalance.

Sources of Clinical Depression Can Include:

  • An imbalance in brain chemistry (neurotransmitters)
  • Inherited traits from blood relatives 
  • Other health conditions (like diabetes)
  • Past trauma or ACEs
  • A hormonal imbalance

Depression, like some other mental health disorders, can also be passed down through genetics. Researchers are still working on identifying which genes may be involved in the inherited forms of depression. Depression may also be a symptom of other conditions. Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) related to trauma are often related to depression in adulthood. Other health conditions can also contribute to depression. For example, people with diabetes are about twice as likely to be diagnosed with depression than the general population.

The Effects of Depression (Major Depressive Disorder) 

Depression often affects almost every area of life. Relationships, education, career, even hobbies and recreation are often impacted by the specter of depression. It can put a strain on relationships when a person finds it difficult to enjoy themselves with others or appreciate a poignant moment. Depression can lead to a gloomy outlook, which can drive other people away. 

Depression can undermine confidence and motivation leading to trouble with academic performance, or a person not pursuing their passion. These same factors can dampen a depressed person’s professional aspirations too. A lack of interest in hobbies or pastimes one used to enjoy is one of the notable signs of possible depression. All of these factors are reasons why seeking mental health treatment for major depressive disorder, or other forms of clinical depression, is a good idea. 

Is There a Cure for Depression?

Understandably, people living with the symptoms of depression and the people who love them want to know what can be done to help them. While there isn’t a “cure” for clinical depression in the conventional sense, there is a wide range of evidence-based treatment methods which can substantially reduce symptoms. Millions of people diagnosed with a form of clinical depression live satisfying, productive lives with the help of therapy and medication. Medications are not necessarily indicated in every case, and they cannot “solve” depression by themselves. However, they are proven to be a very helpful part of an overarching depression treatment plan for many. 

How Can I Manage My Depression Symptoms? 

Because clinical depression changes our perception of the world and our place in it, it can be challenging to manage or overcome without outside help. The key to managing depression is to get a thorough, professional diagnosis first. You need to know what you’re dealing with before you can form effective strategies, after all. Only a trained mental health professional can formally diagnose clinical depression. Taking an online quiz, or perusing the DSM-5 yourself isn’t sufficient. The very next, and most important thing is treatment. 

Depending on your circumstances, this may take the form of residential mental health treatment, a  partial hospitalization program for mental health (Mental Health PHP), intensive outpatient or outpatient counseling. Receiving professional help is the single, best thing you can do for yourself or someone else with a mental health disorder like depression. Even people who have been in weekly or monthly outpatient therapy for years find that more intensive treatment, like PHP for mental health, can lead to breakthroughs. 

It’s normal for people in long-term therapy to “plateau” in their progress, especially after a number of months or years. A period of more intensive treatment is often the solution. Finally, you will want a plan for managing your mental health. A mental health professional can help develop a plan for you. The plan should include goals you set for yourself as well as new habits and behaviors you will adopt.

The Keys to Managing Depression Are:

  1. A formal diagnosis from a professional.
  2. Depression treatment from a mental health provider.
  3. A comprehensive plan for managing your mental health going forward. 
  4. Consistency. Stick to the plan, take your meds, do what’s recommended. 

Harmony is Here to Help 

Living with clinical depression does not have to be a struggle. With careful diagnosis, treatment and a plan for the future, it’s absolutely possible to manage your symptoms and substantially improve your quality of life. All it takes to begin is a little faith and the willingness to follow through. If you or someone you care about is living with depression, Harmony Health Group wants to help. Give us a call anytime 24-hours a day at: (866) 461-4474