Is Depression a Disease?
Depression includes many disorders that can disrupt how a person thinks, feels, and acts, such as anxiety and item-specific phobias. While its effects have proven to be debilitating if left untreated, the good news is that depression symptoms not only can be treated, but minimized with therapy and medication as needed. Here’s how it works.
What is Mental Illness?
There is no such thing as one mental illness. Mental illness encompasses “a wide range of disorders that affect mood, thinking and behavior” per Megellan Health Insights. It affects people around the world of all ages, and doesn’t discriminate against wealth, poverty, creed, ethnicity, or gender. Depression can’t be cured by medicine or force of will, and its roots are deeply planted in soil rich with biology and brain chemistry, family history, and experiences with trauma and abuse.
Mental illness is common worldwide, with causes and symptoms unique to each person. Uncovering what’s bothering a person, and identifying triggers and how to minimize them, takes time, compassion, therapy and sometimes medication like ketamine. Besides depression, mental illness may include:
- Anxiety – these are most common, affecting upwards of 25 million Americans.
- Mood disorders, including bipolar.
- Personality disorders
- Schizophrenia – affecting a person’s ability to feel, behave, and think clearly.
- Trauma disorders – as when a person has trouble recovering from a terrifying experience.
- Eating disorders – either consuming too much or too little food.
- Addictive behaviors – such as doing whatever necessary to drink alcohol or smoke a cigarette.
Risk Factors and Causes of Depression
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, “Depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the U.S. Current research suggests that depression is caused by a combination of genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors.” It’s a mental health disorder observed in people over 12, but mostly in adults 32 and older. Here are the risks to watch out for:
- A history of depression may result in someone else in the family having the illness later.
- Experiencing major life events like marriage, births, deaths, stress, or trauma.
- Taking certain medications or experiencing physical illnesses.
- If you suffer from low self-esteem, are regularly stressed, or are pessimistic.
- Your environment. Depression may be common in people with regular exposure to violence, abuse or poverty, or neglect.
- If you’re depressed, brain scans may identify your frontal lobe as less active than in someone who isn’t depressed. Changes in how the hypothalamus and pituitary gland respond to hormone stimulation may also be a cause.
- Multiple medical conditions, including sleep disorders, medical problems, anxiety, chronic pain, and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder can lead to depression.
- Misusing drugs and alcohol. In 2018, 21% of adults coupled a substance use disorder with a major depressive episode.
Treatment and Therapy
Depression as a mental illness responds differently to therapy and medication for each person in which it’s diagnosed. Mental illness encompasses many disorders, and there are many kinds of therapy for depression. The key is diagnosis and following a treatment plan. Diagnosis is confirmed if a person has been experiencing depression for two weeks, with a treatment plan customized as needed.
Treatment may include all or any one of the following:
- Psychotherapy and its subsets, like family-focused therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and interpersonal therapy.
- Medications like ketamine, but also mood stabilizers, antidepressants, and antipsychotic medications.
- Prescribing regular exercise for mild symptoms. Some insurance plans offer discounts for local gym memberships.
- A doctor or therapist may suggest brain stimulation therapies if other therapy or medication doesn’t work. Depressive disorder with psychosis may require electroconvulsive therapy, while severe depression could result in the need for repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation.
- A low-pressure treatment is light therapy, which helps regulate the hormone melatonin by using a lightbox to bathe the patient in full-spectrum light.
- Creative approaches, like meditation, faith, acupuncture, and nutrition could be included in a treatment plan.
Besides psychotherapy, antidepressants, or holistic therapies, researchers have shown results for ketamine to treat common symptoms of depression. A report on neuropsychopharmacology affirms its use for treating social anxiety disorders, while another by the U.S. National Institutes of Health shows it helps the management of anxiety and anxiety spectrum disorders.
If you or a loved one is suffering from depression or know someone that is we would like to invite you to contact us today to learn more about the different treatment alternatives that we offer.
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