Susan L Crum, Ph.D. 

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Are You Suffering from Depression?

Posted by cfln4646 on October 16, 2013 at 8:40 PM

 

Are you suffering from depression?

Most of us experience brief periods of depression at some point in our lives. This could be feeling “down in the dumps” or “blue”. It may be a time when we have lost interest in things that we use to find enjoyable. It may be a time when we are negative or pessimistic. Generally, we can pull ourselves out of this state and move on with life. But, when those feelings persist for a long time or interfere with our ability to work, manage our home, care for those in our lives, care for ourselves, or these feelings last for a long period of time, that’s when a “clinical depression” is diagnosed.

This can happen to anyone in any socioeconomic status, at any age, regardless of whether you are male or female and regardless of race. Unfortunately, many hesitate to ask for help because they are embarrassed. They think depression reflects weakness or a character. The truth is that this depression is an actual illness. In fact, it is the most common mental illness.

There are studies which indicate that rates of depression have increased throughout the world over the past several decades and that it is occurring at earlier ages than it used to. We don’t know the exact reasons for these trends. It could be related to urbanization, breakdown of cultural and religious support systems, changes in family structure or financial challenges.

While children and seniors can suffer from depression, we generally see it starting in the twenties and thirties. Sometimes symptoms appear suddenly, perhaps after a trauma such as loss of a loved one. But, it often starts slowly becoming gradually worse over a long period of time. If you are suffering depression you might feel gradually more confused , weak, lethargic, and unfocused.

Fortunately, there are a range of effective treatments available. Unfortunately, many people with depression are never diagnosed or treated. Research indicates that general physicians fail to recognize patients with depression in more than half the cases; and most patients don’t see a psychologist for an annual mental health checkups.

Mental health professionals distinguish among different types of depression such as Major Depression, Bipolar Disorder and Dysthymic Disorder. Major depression involves feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and a loss of pleasure or interest in things that once were pleasurable. Bipolar disorder is characterized by alternate periods of depression and mania. Dysthymia is a chronic form of depression which is milder than Major Depression. There is also Postpartum depression which occurs within four weeks of a woman giving birth. An individual can suffer from Reactive Depression in response to a stressful or traumatic event. Individuals who reside in the northern hemisphere sometimes experience Seasonal Depression during the fall or winter months when there is less sunshine.

Children with depression often complain of headaches and stomach aches, and are irritable or mopey. As a result, they are often mistakenly taken to the pediatrician instead of to a psychologist. Adolescents often evidence sleep disturbance, decreased motivation and energy, sadness and irritability. Seniors frequently complain of a range of physical aches and pains which lead to repeated visits to their primary care physician and failure to have their depression identified and treated.

Misbeliefs or irrational thoughts can play a significant role in maintaining depression. As psychiatrist, Aaron Beck, proposed depressed individuals tend to view the world, the future and their environment negatively. They focus on the negative aspects of any situation, misinterpret statements and facts negatively, make mountains out of molehills, jump to conclusions and blame themselves. Many of these people learn these self-defeating thought processes in early childhood; such thinking may be associated with situations where children felt helpless. For instance, when children are exposed to physical, emotional or sexual abuse, or perhaps live with a substance abuser or an alcoholic. It is possible that these individuals, as Martin Selgiman posited, have “learned helplessness” because early experiences where they could not control their environment lead them to believe that they can never control the outcome of events no matter what they do. As a result they are pessimistic, lack motivation and appear apathetic to others. In essence, these individuals appear to have lost hope. They assume blame for the negative things that happen in their lives, over generalize specific weaknesses to most areas of their life and view the causes of negative events as constant in the same way that a cloud of dirt always followed “Pig Pen” the Charlie Brown comic strips.

Genetics may play a role in the likelihood of your experiencing depression as it tends to run in families. Sometimes there are obvious environmental factors such as the death of a loved one, marital conflict or serious financial problems. There are genes that appear to cause abnormal activity in the brain in terms of the production and use of reuptake of norepinephrine, dopamine and serotonin that may lead to depression, as may an imbalance or low levels of certain hormones such as testosterone in men, or higher levels of cortisol in both sexes. Even an under or overactive thyroid can lead to depression as can deficiencies in Vitamin B6, B12, and C. Strokes, Huntinton’s disease, hepatitis and mononucleosis can all cause depression, as can medications like steroids.

Many people shy away from pursuing treatment because they don’t want to be dependent upon medications. While medications do help some people cope with depression, there are other equally effective interventions such as Transcranial electrotherapy. Psychotherapy, and Neurofeedback. Transcranial electrotherapy involves the use of a small portable unit similar to a tends unit expect that it helps set a healthy rhythm for your brain speeding up slow brain waves into the normal range. This is a painless and passive intervention. It is well researched and documented to be effective. Psychotherapy helps individuals identify and correct their negative thoughts and see solutions to life stressors that they may be missing. Neurofeedback is a specialized form of biofeedback that helps individuals suppress excessive slow wave activity and increase activity in the normal bandwidths. Any given individual might use one of these interventions or a combination of interventions. For those with mild or intermediate depression, psychotherapy is often considered the preferred first option, and there are a range of different psychotherapies that have been shown to work for patients.

If you or someone you know is experiencing depression, seek out help. You can find a local psychologist for face to face sessions. Alternately, if you lack providers within a reasonable commute, have significant financial limitations or uncomfortable with face to face therapy, you can consider online therapy. To investigate this option visit: http://www.online-therapy.com/therapist/susan-crum.

Presented as a community service by,

Susan L. Crum, Ph.D.

Licensed Psychologist

 

 

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