The American Psychiatric Association defines depression as a medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think, and how you act. Depression is a common illness, affecting 1 in 15 adults in any given year. Even more, 1 in 5 people will experience depression at some time in their life. But exactly what causes depression? Unfortunately, the answer isn’t too clear.
When most people think of depression, feelings of sadness and loneliness come to mind. However, sadness is not the same thing as depression. Feeling sad is one common symptom of depression, but depression can also affect your appetite, sleep, energy levels, concentration, and decision making abilities.
Anyone can be affected by depression, but some risk factors make it more likely for a person to experience depression. These can include a person’s biochemistry, genetics, personality, and environmental factors, such as abuse.
Although common, depression is among the most treatable of mental disorders. Most depression sufferers eventually respond to treatment and find relief from some of their symptoms. Understanding depression and what causes it will help you find the right treatment.
What Causes Depression?
We noted risk factors for depression above, but you may be wondering what exactly causes depression? Why do some people deal with depression when others don’t? Why does depression affect people even in the most ideal living situations and environments?
Well, the true answer is that no one is quite sure exactly what causes depression. Understanding depression and its causes in the brain is difficult and usually is a result of a combination of things. Many people believe that depression is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain, however, this is not the full story. Depression is complex and there may be many causes, like faulty mood regulation by the brain, genetics, stress, medications, and medical problems. Chemicals in the brain do also play a role in depression, but it’s not as simple as having too much or too little of a certain chemical.
Making it even more complex, there are many different types of depression that affect individuals every day. Some are more common than others and each one may cause different symptoms.
Understanding Depression Types
- Major Depressive Disorder – This type of depression is commonly referred to as clinical depression. It is accompanied by symptoms of a depressed mood, changes in weight, difficulty sleeping, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and thoughts of death or suicide.
- Bipolar Disorder – Formerly called manic depression, this condition is associated with extreme mood swings. Bipolar Disorder is a lifelong condition, however, it can be managed by following a treatment plan.
- Postpartum Depression – This type of depression occurs during pregnancy or following the birth of a child and is partly due to hormonal shifts that affect a woman’s mood. Postpartum depression is different than the “baby blues” which typically only last up to two weeks after childbirth.
- Seasonal Affective Disorder – Associated with seasonal patterns, this type of depression is thought to be triggered by disruptions to the circadian rhythm of the body. Seasonal variations causing changes in daylight bring this disruption on, causing many individuals to feel depressed and constantly fatigued.
How to Fight Depression: Treatment Options
Understanding depression and which treatment is best is different for everyone. There is no “cure” or proven way relieve symptoms. How an individual chooses to fight their depression should be in alignment with their healthcare professional, resulting in a plan specific to lifestyle, environment, and the severity of the depression. An individual may choose psychological treatments, medical treatments, or a combination of the two.
When discussing how to fight depression, many physicians will recommend psychological treatment, especially for mild depression. Psychological treatment for depression is also commonly called talking therapies. It is used to treat all severities of depression, with some individuals being treated solely with psychological treatment. Treatment involves seeing trained therapists such as a psychiatrist or psychologist. There are different types of psychological treatments, including:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – Based on the recognition that the way we think (cognition) and act (behavior) affects how we feel, CBT works to identify thoughts and behaviors that may lead to depression. CBT is one of the most effective treatments for depression and helps patients shift their thought patterns.
- Interpersonal Therapy (IPT) – This type of treatment focuses on a patient’s interpersonal relationships. Focusing on the idea that the quality of relationships can affect an individual’s mood, IPT works to change relationships patterns and improve depressive symptoms.
Medical treatment for depression is typically an antidepressant medication. There are many different types of antidepressants available to patients, and a physician will determine what antidepressant medication should be prescribed. With the complexity of depression, even experts aren’t exactly sure how antidepressants work. Many researchers believe they affect neurotransmitters and chemicals in the brain. Antidepressants are typically only prescribed for moderate or severe depression and can help improve symptoms of the disorder.
A newer type of medical treatment for depression is Brainsway dTMS (Deep Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation). This is a non-invasive treatment that stimulates the brain region responsible for depression. It increases serotonin levels and is used on patients who are resistant or have failed with the use of antidepressants.
An Integrated Approach
While some individuals are treated by either psychological treatment or medical treatment, an integrated approach is also possible. This involves using both types of treatment to recover. Here at Highland Springs Specialty Clinic, we believe an integrated approach is the best option for treating those struggling with depression. As a leading depression treatment center in Utah, our local therapists use medical treatments along with cognitive behavioral therapy and include meditation and relaxation practices. If appropriate, we also offer Brainsway dTMS Therapy, which is only offered in Utah at Highland Springs depression treatment centers.
If you or someone you love is struggling with depression, it is important to understand what causes depression and how to fight it. Understanding depression can help you get treatment as soon as possible. Contact us at Highland Spring Specialty Clinic to schedule a confidential counseling appointment.