Most people will feel sad at some point in their lives. If that sadness continues for an extended period of time and is accompanied by other symptoms such as a feeling of hopelessness, it could be depression. Is depression a disease? What are its symptoms? How can someone find help when they are suffering from depression?
A Common Illness
A serious mental health condition, depression is a common illness, with more than 264 million people affected by it throughout the world. More than simply a short-lived emotional response to everyday challenges, the mental illness can have long-lasting effects on an individual, if not properly treated. It can impact a person’s ability to function at work, at school, or in relationships, and can cause the individual to suffer greatly.
No Single Cause
In the US, over 19 million adults had at least one major depressive episode in the past year. It tends to affect women more than men, but people of all ages and backgrounds can experience depression. There is no single cause for the disease, as it may occur for different reasons in different people. Researchers have identified factors that may contribute to the mental health condition, though, including:
- Genetics. Mood disorders tend to run in families.
- Life challenges. A change in relationship or financial situation can have an impact on whether an individual develops depression.
- Trauma. Particularly when experienced at an early age, trauma can cause long-term changes in how the brain responds to stress and fear, which could lead to depression.
- Brain changes. Researchers have found that depression can be associated with changes in the way the hypothalamus and pituitary gland respond to hormone stimulation. They’ve also discovered that the brain’s frontal lobe becomes less active when an individual is depressed.
- Medical conditions. People who have a history of chronic pain, sleep disturbances, or other medical illnesses are more likely to develop depression. Some medications taken for these conditions can also cause the symptoms of depression.
- Drug or alcohol use. In 2018, 21% of adults who had a substance use disorder experienced a major depressive episode. Alcohol is known to worsen the symptoms of depression.
The symptoms of this mental health condition typically continue for at least two weeks and usually longer. Beyond simply being sad, the disease of depression will show itself in some of these symptoms:
- A feeling of hopelessness or helplessness
- Persistently sad or “empty”
- Loss of interest in activities usually found enjoyable
- Decreased energy and increased sense of fatigue
- Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
- Sleep difficulties
- Appetite changes
- Physical aches or pains, including headaches and digestive issues, that don’t have a clear cause and that don’t respond to treatment
- Thoughts of or attempts at suicide.
Everyone who is depressed does not experience every one of these symptoms. The frequency, severity, and duration of the symptoms of depression depend on the individual’s situation and their particular illness. The symptoms may also vary depending on how long the person has suffered from the disease of depression.
Depression and Suicide – Getting Help
The symptoms of depression can sometimes lead to devastating results. If you are experiencing the illness of depression and thinking about self-harm or suicide, there is help. It is critical to reach out for that help immediately, to get treatment for your depressive thoughts and for the symptoms of the disease you may be experiencing.
For immediate help, call 1−800−273−TALK (8255) to reach a 24−hour crisis center or dial 911. 1−800−273−TALK is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which provides free‚ confidential help to people in crisis. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) runs this lifeline.
You can also reach out to a trusted family member or friend to discuss what you are experiencing. It’s important to then contact a mental health provider to get started on treatment for your depression, so you can get back on track with a healthier life.
Mental Health Treatment at HVRC
Understanding and recognizing the signs of depression can mean the difference in your mental and physical health. If the illness has led to a substance use disorder, it is especially important to get the right treatment for both issues. The professional team at Hemet Valley Recovery Center focuses on your needs as you face unique psychological, medical, and social challenges in your life.
Please contact HVRC for help beginning a journey of recovery. We invite you to take the first step toward healing with our dedicated team of professionals.