Depression, like every other illness, must be thoroughly understood before jumping to any conclusions about “just cheering up” or “doing something fun.” According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Depression is a serious medical illness and an important public health issue. Depression is characterized by persistent sadness and sometimes irritability (particularly in children) and is one of the leading causes of disease or injury worldwide for both men and women.”
According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), depression symptoms can range from mild to severe. Some of the most common symptoms of this serious illness include:
- Depressed mood
- Thoughts of death and suicide
- Sleeping problems (excessive sleep, insomnia/lack of sleep, irregular sleep patterns)
- Concentration and focus problems
- Loss of energy
- Weight gain or loss
As the APA also points out, “Depression affects an estimated one in 15 adults (6.7%) in any given year. And one in six people (16.6%) will experience depression at some time in their life. Depression can strike at any time, but on average, first appears during the late teens to mid-20s. Women are more likely than men to experience depression. Some studies show that one-third of women will experience a major depressive episode in their lifetime.”
To an outside observer, depression may not look as serious as a wound or a broken bone; but in reality, depression is an illness that should not be taken lightly – and thoughtful response to its symptoms is crucial.
Common Treatments for Depression
Depression can be treated in different ways depending on how severe it becomes. Some of the most common treatments to treat depression are:
- Medication – Psychiatrists can prescribe antidepressants, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) like Zoloft (sertraline) or Prozac (fluoxetine), to help alleviate depression symptoms in their patients. It is important to keep in mind that medications do not necessarily cure depression – it is more accurate to state that they reduce the symptoms, sometimes very drastically.
- Psychotherapy – This type of practice, also known as “talk therapy,” can be very effective for patients facing depression. Talking to a psychiatrist can help reduce symptoms of depression by enabling the patient to explore the underlying causes of their feelings in a safe, nonjudgmental, and controlled environment.
- Combination of Medication and Psychotherapy – Depending on the severity of the depression and the patient’s medical history, a psychiatrist may recommend a combination of therapy and medication to help treat the condition. This approach has actually been shown to have the best success rate.