Depression is the second most prevalent mental health disorder, impacting 17.3 million American adults each year. Very often someone who is in the grip of depression isn’t aware of just how serious his or her symptoms really are. In fact, it might be a family member or friend that approaches them to express concern after witnessing the telltale signs of depression. The loved one is fortunate to have relatives, a spouse, or a friend who were informed about the symptoms of depression, and acted on this knowledge.
Many people suffer from depression in silence, unaware that their symptoms reflect a diagnosable mental health disorder. Meanwhile, the disorder can cause disruption in all aspects of the person’s life, including health, career, and relationships. Becoming better informed about the signs of depression allows us to be more proactive in helping our loved ones. Thankfully, depression is manageable with a combination of psychotherapy, medication, and holistic actions.
Know the Signs of Depression
When the symptoms of depression begin to cause impairment in daily functioning and persist for more than two weeks, it may point to a clinical depressive episode. According to the DSM-5, when a cluster of five or more of the following symptoms occurs, it is indicative of major depressive disorder (MDD). The signsof depression include:
- Feelings of sadness and despair persisting most of the time
- Extreme fatigue
- Sudden weight loss or gain
- Slowed motor and cognitive functioning
- Sleep dysfunction, either hypersomnia or insomnia
- Loss of interest in hobbies or activities once enjoyed
- Inappropriate feelings of guilt or shame
- Difficulty in concentrating or making decisions
- Obsessive thoughts of death or suicide
A mental health professional can first evaluate general health status to rule out a medical condition that might be causing the depression symptoms. If no such condition is identified, the doctor will refer the individual to a mental health professional for treatment.
Depression and Co-Occurring Substance Use Disorder
One of the effects of struggling with depression is an increased use of substances, especially alcohol. Someone battling depression might attempt to subdue its uncomfortable symptoms through substance use. Instead of helping, the substance can exacerbate the symptoms of depression, only making them feel worse. Continued use of a substance also increases the risk of developing a co-occurring substance use disorder.
When a dual diagnosis results, meaning the existence of both a mental health disorder and a co-occurring substance use disorder, treatment will expand to include both disorders. For the best treatment outcome, it is believed that clinically addressing both disorders at the same time is most effective.
Support for Depression
The rates of depression have been steadily increasing during the pandemic. Fortunately, there are ample sources of support for depression, both outpatient services and residential mental health programs. If you recognize the signs of depression in your loved one, guide them to a mental health professional for an evaluation.
Depression treatment consists of:
- Antidepressant Drug Therapy. Antidepressants remain the primary treatment modality for the treatment of depression. These medications take about 4 weeks to be effective, and it is quite common for 2 or 3 medications to be trialed before identifying the best fit with the least number of side effects.
- Psychotherapy. Evidence-based therapies for treatment of depression include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), interpersonal therapy, and psychodynamic therapy. Psychotherapy can help a loved one examine the underlying issues that might be driving the depression. These might involve thought distortions and negative behavior responses, or a significant life event, such as loss of a significant other, financial distress, or enduring abuse.
- Holistic Therapies. Complementary interventions, such as yoga, mindfulness, guided meditation, and acupuncture, can augment the effects of the traditional therapies. Making changes in diet, improving sleep quality, and establishing a regular exercise routine can also have a positive impact on mood.
Depression can be successfully treated and managed with a combination of proven interventions. If you notice a loved one is exhibiting the signs of depression, gently approach them about it. Your willingness to intervene could literally save a life.
Ashley Addiction Treatment, formerly Father Martin’s Ashley, is a nationally recognized nonprofit leader in integrated, evidence-based treatment for substance use disorders and is accredited by The Joint Commission. We offer both inpatient and outpatient programs, holistic addiction treatment, drug detox, relapse prevention plans, family wellness programs and a variety of other services tailored to each patient’s needs. Our driving principle — “everything for recovery” — reinforces our mission to heal each individual with respect and dignity, and reflects on our ongoing commitment to meet new challenges. For information about our comprehensive programs, please call (866) 313-6307.