Taming the black dog: Depression symptoms and treatment

Avatar for Mish Khot By on 27/07/2020
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Clinical depression is one of the most universal conditions in the world, but it remains one of the least diagnosed. It is surrounded by a cloud of misunderstanding and stigma. One of the biggest reasons for this is a failure to recognize the severity and understand the symptoms of depression. It is estimated that 1 million Australians fight depression in any given year, displaying a wide range of depression symptoms.

symptoms of depression

Have you noticed these symptoms of depression?

Given its intangible and mental nature, it is not always easy to diagnose depression symptoms but there are some red flags that may point towards the condition.

Feeling empty: All of us lead stressful lives and there is a thin line between normal anxiety and elevated reactions caused by depression. But one of the easily recognizable symptoms of depression is the emptiness. Over time the emptiness consumes the joy and motivation one felt in daily activities. This can lead them to withdraw socially, wrapping themselves up in a cocoon of loneliness. One can begin to feel worthless and this can trigger a vicious cycle in which depression and guilt continually feed on each other. 

‘Checking out’ from daily life: A clinically depressed person feels apathetic towards everything around them including partners, children, and friends. They may withdraw from socializing and choose to spend more time alone, or they may begin to take more time off from work.

Physical depression symptoms are easier to understand but still can be mistaken for other conditions. These include constant tiredness, insomnia and loss of appetite with a drop in weight. On the flip side, it can also lead to excessive sleeping and gluttonous behavior but this is a rarer symptom of depression. Depressive individuals are restless and have trouble concentrating and making decisions. They can suffer from general body pain and gut issues which in turn affect their sex drive and lead to them feeling sick and run down most of the time.

symptoms of mental health disorder and depression

What triggers the symptoms of depression?

The causes of depression symptoms are as varied as the symptoms themselves. Genetics plays an important role, with some people predisposed to the condition. In such cases, a trigger like a stressful life event can fan the flames of depression. It is worth noting that powerful life events can trigger depression even in those with no genetic predisposition depending on how they react. This is known as reactive depression and is on the rise in our highly stressful lives.

But depression is not always triggered by an event. It may be caused by hormonal imbalances or biological factors. According to Mayo Clinic, it may also be brain chemistry – changes in the way neurotransmitters work with neurocircuits in your brain.

Depression symptoms in women

According to Beyond Blue, 1 in 6 Australian women will experience depression in their lives. Apart from being biologically predisposed to experiencing some mental disorders more than men, women also tend to give less priority to their own health and wellbeing. Additionally, women are a high-risk category for depression especially after giving birth or in the first year after having a baby.

How can depression be treated?

To an individual suffering from depression symptoms, it might seem near impossible to emerge from this mental abyss but there are plenty of treatment options. If the depression is caused by a physiological factor like an imbalance in hormones, that can be remedied through medication.

Counselling or talk therapy may be used to unravel emotions and help the person to arrive at the root of the condition. This usually takes time to work and requires commitment and participation from the person experiencing depression, and often from his or her loved ones too.

It may take a combination of the above, with the addition of alternative treatments as well, but it is entirely possible to treat the symptoms of depression.

How does a mental health professional decide how to treat depression?

One of the first steps in the fight against depression is to understand the cause, so that the treatment can be aligned accordingly. If it is due to a medical condition, treatment of the condition should help curb depression. If the causes are harder to pin down, therapy and lifestyle changes are the most powerful tools in a person’s arsenal for effectively dealing with the symptoms of depression. It takes some time and investigation to understand the root of depression, but once the right approach has been decided upon, the process of recovery should be noticeable.

Alternative treatments for depression symptoms

alternative treatment for depression

A mental health professional may recommend alternative wellness therapies to supplement recovery from depression, if applicable.

Exercise has been researched extensively and found to be effective at tackling certain depression symptoms. It releases feel-good brain chemicals in addition to forming new brain connections without having to rely on anti-depressants. If you would like to book a personal trainer, Avaana can help you.

Social bonds are important for life, in general, and for depression in particular. Strong social bonds with friends, family help to weaken the hold of depression. Volunteering or joining classes where you are likely to meet like-minded individuals is a way to expand your social network. Join a group class to combine the benefits of social bonding and exercise.

Nutrition is slowly emerging as a lifestyle change that may help beat depression symptoms because of the intimate link between the gut and depression. One should eat small, well-balanced meals of freshly cooked food avoiding processed junk as much as possible. Consult a nutritionist to create a food plan that works for you.

Sleep is another crucial aspect of depression management. Make sure you get enough shut eye i.e. 7-9 hours every night to boost your mood and general wellbeing.

Finally, stress management is an important skill because stress is a well-known trigger for depression. Your mental health professional may investigate which aspects of life are causing stress and will try to minimize their impact for effective treatment of depression.

If you think you or someone you know is experiencing a mental breakdown, it is imperative that you/they reach out for help.

Depression is a highly complex condition that affects every individual differently. Thus no two forms of treatment might work the same. It is best to experiment to see what works for you. Patience, time and commitment are of utmost importance in this long and arduous battle against the mind. You might feel overwhelmed or hopeless from time to time but that it is normal. Remember; two steps back, three steps forward.

Avatar for Mish Khot

Mishana Khot is a fiction author and co-founder of The Great Next, an adventure travel company. She has been featured in National Geographic, Forbes magazine, and other publications, and has over 15 years of experience with health, travel, and lifestyle brands.

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