What is depressive disorder?
Although common in some form, depression, or depressive disorder, can be a serious mood disorder that affects the way we think, feel, and behave. Intermittent depressive thoughts and feeling down can affect anyone and they don’t necessarily mean the person has depressive disorder. To be diagnosed as depressive disorder, the symptoms must be present consistently for at least two weeks. It’s also not that simple, so don’t jump to any conclusions before talking with a healthcare professional.
Depressive disorder can take on many forms and some may occur based on circumstances like the weather and major life changes. The forms include: seasonal affective disorder, persistent depression, psychotic depression, agitated depression, postpartum depression, and bipolar depression.
Where does depressive disorder come from?
Research suggests the cause of depressive disorder is a combination of genetic, environmental, biological, and psychological factors. It can also be triggered by major life changes, stress, trauma, or abuse. Depression is most commonly diagnosed in adulthood, but can happen sooner than that too.
Depression can co-occur with other medical conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and, especially following a traumatic or acquired brain injury that results from a fall, sports injury, car accident, stroke, etc. If you’re concerned about someone who is experiencing or has experienced any of these conditions, you’re not alone. Family and friends are often the ones who notice changes in a person’s behavior. That also means there are resources to help you and the person you’re concerned about.
What depressive disorder symptoms do I look for?
Symptoms of depression can show up in a variety of ways. In the most general sense, they are all some form of a significant change in how someone feels, thinks, and behaves. The following list may help you decide if further action is needed, though it can’t be used to diagnose someone with depression.
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and helplessness
- Persistent feeling of sadness, nervousness, or emptiness
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Difficulty concentrating, making decisions, or remembering
- Waking early or having difficulty sleeping
- Appetite or weight changes
- Unexplainable aches and pains that do not respond to medical treatments
- Loss of pleasure or interest in previously fun activities
- Fatigue, decreased energy, moving slowly, or speaking slowly
- Thoughts of death or suicide
How is depressive disorder treated?
Depression, no matter how severe, is treatable. Even better news is that there are a variety of treatments to choose from. The most common treatments involve a combination of medication and talk therapy. These familiar choices work well for most people experiencing depression.
There are four main types of therapy a healthcare professional may recommend: cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), acceptance commitment therapy (ACT), interpersonal therapy (IPT), and problem-solving therapy.
In cases where medication and psychotherapy are not effective, brain stimulation therapy has been shown to be safe and effective. That may sound scary, but many people have benefitted from brain stimulation. Disregard any depictions you’ve seen in a movie or on TV. These therapy options include electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS), and vagus nerve stimulation (VNS).
Is there anything else I can do?
Research suggests a healthy lifestyle can be one of the best strategies to manage symptoms of depression and generally promote good mental and physical health. If you are receiving treatment for depression, you may try some of the following healthy lifestyle activities.
- Remain active and exercise regularly
- Avoid isolating yourself
- Tell a friend or family member you trust about what you’re experiencing
- Set realistic goals and, if necessary, avoid important decisions until you’re feeling better
- Remain in contact with your physician, psychiatrist, and therapist
What should I do next?
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your own symptoms or those of a loved one, starting with a deep breath may be the most helpful first step. Depression needs to be taken seriously, but it is also a well-known and well-researched disorder with knowledgeable and experienced professionals who can help.
All you have to do is contact a licensed healthcare professional.
- Pediatrician or primary care physician
- Mental health specialist
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800.273.8255
Nacional de Prevencion del Suicidio: 888.628.9454