Being depressed often feels like carrying a very heavy burden, but you are not alone in this struggle. Millions of Americans suffer from some form of depression every year, making it one of the most common mental disorders in the country.
Gaining a deeper understanding of depression can help begin the journey to recovery. Taking some time to learn more about the causes and symptoms of depression will assist you greatly when it comes time to consider methods of treatment.
Depression is more than just feeling sad. Everyone feels upset or unmotivated from time to time, but depression is more serious. It is a mood disorder characterized by prolonged feelings of sadness and loss of interest in daily activities. If these symptoms persist for a period of at least two weeks, it is considered a depressive episode.
Data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) shows that in 2017, an estimated 17.3 million adults in the United States reported having at least one major depressive episode in the previous 12 months. That’s 7.1% of all US adults ages 18 and older. Adult females have a higher prevalence of experiencing a major depressive episode than their male counterparts—8.7% compared to 5.3% in adult males. Depression in the adolescent population (ages 12 to 17) has also increased. An estimated 3.2 million adolescents had at least one major depressive episode—a number that represents 13.3% of the adolescent population.
Causes of Depression
There is no one cause for depression, as it depends on a unique combination of an individual’s genetic makeup and environmental conditions. There are many factors to take into account:
Stressful, traumatic events (abuse, financial issues, death of a loved one)
Hormone changes (menstrual cycles, pregnancy)
Certain medications (sleeping aids, blood pressure medication)
There are various methods you could use to sooth the symptoms of depression. All of us could stand to exercise more often, but exercise is especially helpful for the depressed mind. It enables you to better handle stress, and the endorphins released during exercise give you a mental boost. Aside from the mental health benefits, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that physical activity helps you sleep better at night.
Yoga is a more accessible form of exercise, because it doesn’t require equipment and because many of the moves and poses do not require much effort. Meditation is a highly effective way of clearing your head and calming your body. It’s also easy to do, with guided meditations available through phone apps, online in text and videos, and in books.
If you enjoy keeping a journal, you may find that it helps to express your thoughts on paper instead of bottling them inside. It’s helpful to have close friends and family who you can confide in, but they’re not always available or may be dealing with stress of their own. This makes keeping a journal a good idea to have an alternate way to vent.
Therapy with anyone from a guidance counselor to a certified therapist can work wonders, and many may prefer therapy over the medication route. Situational depression especially can be relieved by having a way to get everything off your chest and receive practical advice.
For a more hands-on approach, try experts like psychiatrists or psychologists. They offer many types of therapy, from light therapy for Seasonal Affective Disorder to cognitive behavioral therapy that works to change your thought processes.
If you are experiencing a mental health crisis, or someone you love is in danger, we strongly suggest that you reach out to to a qualified mental health professional. To aid in your search please consider our directory of emergency mental health resources.