Signs, Symptoms & Treatment of Depression
“Depression is one of the top ten problems people face today”, according to statistics provided by the National Institute of Mental Health (May, 2009).
It is estimated that about half of all men and three-quarters of all women have had a bout with depression at some point during their lifetime. However, many people do not seek or receive the help that could ease their pain and promote healing. Part of the problem is that often people do not know what help is available and how they may benefit from it.
There are various forms of depression. Depression is not a passing sad mood, these emotions are within the normal range of daily experience, and are typically healthy or appropriate reactions to bad news, disappointment, and unhappy situations. With depressive disorders, there is commonly a fluctuation in mood which seems more intense than one might expect, a persistence in the negative mood, a deep feeling of emptiness, hopelessness, or like a black cloud that has set in and has a hold on you. Sometimes there are mood swings, as in bipolar disorder, where one alternates between intense highs and lows, or there may be a more subtle but enduring downcast mood, as in dysthymic disorder, which can last for years. Major depression, or what is commonly referred to as "clinical depression," involves more intense bouts that may last a number of months, and these may reoccur from time to time. These bouts of deep negative mood may be accompanied by changes in one's eating and sleeping patterns, disruption in relationships, concentration, motivation, self-image, outlook on the future, and even one's speed of movement. Thoughts of suicide may enter one's consciousness as well, perhaps not so much as a wish to die, but rather a desire for relief and an end to the pain. Sometimes these thoughts are put into action, which is the most tragic result of a depression that has won.
The most common forms of treatment for depression include psychotherapies and medications or herbal remedies. Cognitive-behavioral therapy and interpersonal therapy are two approaches that have been shown by research to be effective in significantly reducing signs and symptoms of depression, as well as preventing relapse. Cognitive-behavioral therapy in particular has been demonstrated in brain imaging studies to produce similar desired changes in brain chemistry as antidepressant medication, with the added benefit of avoiding medication-related side effects and enduring progress beyond the end of treatment.