Depression

Your partner has been moody lately and lays in bed for hours every night, unable to sleep. You’ve noticed other problems, too, like changes in appetite and weight, sadness, irritability, and generally self-isolating from yourself and others. What’s going on? Your loved one may be depressed, but fortunately, you can help them get better.

What is Depression?

Depression is a mood disorder resulting in a persistent feeling of sadness and a lack of interest in once-enjoyable activities. It’s also called major depressive disorder or clinical depression, and affects your feelings, thoughts, and behavior. At its worst, depression can lead to many emotional and physical problems and interfere with daily life while convincing you that life isn’t worth the effort sometimes.

Not to be confused with a typical bout of the blues, depression isn’t your fault or something you can make go away by snapping your fingers. It’s serious and may require lengthy treatment, but that’s ok. If you have depression, there’s a good chance you’ll feel better with certain treatments like antidepressants or ketamine, psychotherapy, or both.

What Are The Symptoms?

The symptoms of depression are different for everyone and can vary in frequency and intensity. They could happen quickly and last for days or gradually before reaching their peak – then suddenly disappearing. Common symptoms to watch for include:

  • Sadness or low mood
  • Lack of interest in something that was once enjoyable
  • You sleep too much or not enough
  • Low energy or more tiredness
  • Doing more pointless physical activity (unable to sit still, pacing, shaking your hands) or talking or moving slowly – all observable by someone else
  • Feeling guilty or insignificant 
  • Problems thinking, concentrating, or making decisions
  • Thoughts of death, self-harm, or suicide

Know The Causes

No one knows for certain what causes depression, but it could be triggered by:

  • Biological differences and physical changes in the brain. The importance of these changes is mysterious but could help determine causes and inform treatment options.
  • Brain chemistry could be a problem. Neurotransmitters like glutamate play a critical role in moods, emotions, reasoning, and pain processing – all of which can be disrupted and lead to depression. More research is needed, but it’s believed that neurotransmitters have a significant role in depression and its treatment. Medicine like ketamine may strengthen weakened or faulty chemical messengers and reduce symptoms of depression.
  • Hormonal changes can trigger depression, especially during pregnancy or in the weeks or months after delivery.
  • Thyroid problems, menopause, or other conditions.
  • Genetics. Depression tends to run in families and can be passed down between blood relatives.

Helping Someone with Depression Is Hard, But Not Impossible

The stigma and misunderstanding about the cause and effects of mental illness are two of the biggest reasons why people with depression and other conditions don’t get the care they deserve. But if you know someone who’s depressed, you know how difficult it can be to watch that person fight their illness alone. Thankfully, there are ways to help.

  • Learn the symptoms of depression and what their triggers may be.
  • Encourage your friend or loved one to get professional medical help. This may be difficult but explaining the facts of depression and how it can harm someone is a step you must take. 
  • Be prepared to start a conversation about depression and understand that it may not be pleasant. One of the things to keep in mind is to always be compassionate and an engaged listener. The conversation is about the other person, not you, and should focus on their needs and worries. By recognizing the warning signs of depression and letting your friend know you’re supportive, you’ve taken a crucial first step in helping that person get better.
  • Be aware of the risk of self-harm or worse. Almost 46,000 people in the U.S. died by suicide in 2020, so it’s critical to watch for warning signs and act if needed. 
  • Compassion and continuing support are essential. If your friend or loved one agrees to get help and sees a counselor or other mental health professional, your role is to stay in that person’s corner. There are days when your friend won’t want to see a therapist, so be encouraging and steadfast. Professional help may involve antidepressants or medicine like ketamine.
  • Set boundaries about what help you can provide, and remember to take care of yourself.

Depression is often a life-long illness, but your friend or loved one can get better and regain control of their life with perseverance.

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