Depression

Depression

WHAT IS DEPRESSION?

Depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. Also called major depression, major depressive disorder or clinical depression, it affects how you feel, think and behave and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems. You may have trouble doing normal day-to-day activities, and depression may make you feel as if life isn't worth living.

More than just a bout of the blues, depression isn't a weakness, nor is it something that you can simply "snap out" of.

SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS

Although depression may occur only one time during your life, usually people have multiple episodes of depression. During these episodes, symptoms occur most of the day, nearly every day and may include:

  • Feelings of sadness, emptiness or unhappiness
  • Angry outbursts, irritability or frustration, even over small matters
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in normal activities, such as sex
  • Sleep disturbances, including insomnia or sleeping too much
  • Tiredness and lack of energy, so that even small tasks take extra effort
  • Changes in appetite — often reduced appetite and weight loss, but increased cravings for food and weight gain in some people
  • Anxiety, agitation or restlessness — for example, excessive worrying, pacing, hand-wringing or an inability to sit still
  • Slowed thinking, speaking or body movements
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixating on past failures or blaming yourself for things that are not your responsibility
  • Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things
  • Frequent thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts or suicide
  • Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches

For some people, depression symptoms are so severe that it's obvious something isn't right. Other people feel generally miserable or unhappy without really knowing why.

TYPES OF DEPRESSION

Depression affects each person in different ways, so symptoms caused by depression vary from person to person. To clarify the type of depression you have, your doctor may add information to your depression diagnosis called a specifier. Specifiers include having depression with specific features, such as:

  • Anxious distress — unusual restlessness or worry about possible events or loss of control
  • Mixed features — simultaneous depression and mania, which includes elevated self-esteem, talking too much, and racing thoughts and ideas
  • Melancholic features — severe depression with a profound lack of response to something that used to bring pleasure, associated with early morning awakening, worsened mood in the morning, significant changes in appetite, and feelings of guilt, agitation or sluggishness
  • Atypical features — ability to be cheered by happy events, increased appetite, little need for sleep, sensitivity to rejection, and a heavy feeling in arms or legs
  • Psychotic features — depression accompanied by delusions or hallucinations, which may involve themes of personal inadequacy or negative themes
  • Catatonia — includes motor activity that involves either uncontrollable and purposeless movement or fixed and inflexible posture
  • Peripartum onset — occurs during pregnancy or in the weeks or months after delivery (postpartum)
  • Seasonal pattern — related to changes in seasons and diminished exposure to sunlight

DEPRESSION SYMPTOMS IN CHILDREN AND TEENS

Common symptoms of depression in children and teens are similar to those of adults, but there can be some differences.

  • In younger children, symptoms of depression may include sadness, irritability, clinginess, worry, aches and pains, refusing to go to school, or being underweight.
  • In teens, symptoms may include sadness, irritability, feeling negative and worthless, anger, poor performance or poor attendance at school, feeling misunderstood and extremely sensitive, using drugs or alcohol, eating or sleeping too much, self-harm, loss of interest in normal activities, and avoidance of social interaction.
  • Depression may occur with other mental health conditions, such as anxiety, eating disorders, substance abuse or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

DEPRESSION SYMPTOMS IN OLDER ADULTS

Depression is not a normal part of growing older and it should never be taken lightly. Unfortunately, depression often goes undiagnosed and untreated in older adults, and they may feel reluctant to seek help. Symptoms of depression may be different or less obvious in older adults, including:

  • Memory difficulties or personality changes
  • Fatigue, loss of appetite, sleep problems, aches or loss of interest in sex, which are not caused by a medical condition or medication
  • Often wanting to stay at home, rather than going out to socialize or doing new things
  • Suicidal thinking or feelings, especially in older men

MIND-BODY CONNECTIONS

Complementary and alternative medicine practitioners believe the mind and body must be in harmony for you to stay healthy. Examples of mind-body techniques that may be helpful for depression include:

MASSAGE THERAPY HELPS LIFT DEPRESSION

Taking time for massage is as important for people dealing with depression as it is for people dealing with arthritis, sports injuries and carpal tunnel syndrome. WebMD reviewed more than a dozen studies that revealed how massage can fight depression by lowering cortisol levels.

Cortisol is the body's response to stress, and massage therapy lowers it by as much as 50%. At the same time, massage also can increase the levels of serotonin and dopamine, which are both neurotransmitters that help stabilize your mood.

RESULTS OF MASSAGE

The International Journal of Neuroscience studied a group of people with spinal cord injuries who were also suffering from depression. Twice a week for five weeks, half the patients received two 40-minute sessions of motion exercises while the other half received two 40-minute massages.

Both groups improved their physical abilities during that time, but the people who received massage therapy also became less depressed. So even while exercise has long been accepted as a means of combating depression, massage not only provides additional benefits but can also relieve stiffness and soreness resulting from physical exercise.

COMMITMENT TO WELLBEING

Sometimes it can be difficult to make time for taking care of yourself. Ongoing massage therapy promotes a relaxed state of mental alertness, which reinforces a positive attitude.

Reserving some specific time for a massage, customized to address your personal needs, makes it easier to remember that you deserve to feel good and that you're taking important steps to make it happen.

CASE STUDIES

THERAPY OPTIONS AVAILABLE FOR THIS CONDITION AT BROOKS-CARTER CLINIC