Depression: Common and treatable
On any given day, almost 16 million Americans are suffering from depression. Worse, many don't realize they have depression or don't seek help because they don't know it's treatable.
No one is immune to depression, though some people are more prone to it. Your job, finances, relationships, gender and social status don't prevent you from suffering from this disease, though according to the National Institute of Mental Health, women are 70 percent more likely to suffer from depression than men.
What causes depression?
"Genetics, brain chemistry, hormones, stress and physical illness all contribute to depression in complicated ways," says Scott Nichols, MD, a psychiatrist at Enloe Behavioral Health. "Do you have a family history of depression? People who do are at higher risk for depression than those who don't."
Hormones also play a big role in depression, he says. The hormones that control emotions and mood can alter brain chemistry. In women, these hormones can come into play with menstrual cycles, menopause and especially after giving birth.
Stress is another trigger for depression in some people, and it can be brought on by many life events — from the loss of a family member, to your job, your finances or your children.
Depression can come and go. Some people may only suffer from it once in their lifetime, but those who have had it do tend to experience more than one depressive episode.
It's important to be aware of your depression or that of a friend or loved one and to seek help as soon as possible. "Left untreated, depression can progress to severe depression, which can lead to suicidal thoughts or ideas," says Dr. Nichols.
In fact, depression causes more than two-thirds of the 30,000 reported suicides in the United States each year — and is responsible for an additional 500,000 suicide attempts. California has one of the lowest suicide rates in the country, according to 2014 figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
According to Dr. Nichols, signs and symptoms of depression may include any of the following:
- Feeling sad, empty, flat or numb
- Feeling hopeless, guilty, irritable, anxious or angry
- A loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy
- Feeling very tired or run down
- Concentration problems or memory loss
- Sleeplessness — or sleeping too much
- Extreme changes in eating habits
- Thoughts of suicide, or thoughts that if you "died by accident," it wouldn't be a big loss
- Inability to meet your work or family responsibilities
If you or someone you know appears to be suffering from depression, seek help quickly. Both medication and psychotherapy can be effective in treating depression — especially when used together. People often wait until they have lost many things in their lives before they get help; but it is not necessary to wait for the situation to get to a crisis level. In fact, the sooner you seek help the better. We encourage people to find help when they are beginning not to do as well in life as they once did.
"Medication prescribed by a doctor can help with depression, though it may take a couple of weeks to begin working. Therapy is also important because it can teach you new ways of thinking and behaving, and create new habits that may help overcome depression," Dr. Nichols explains.
Help is available through local therapists, psychiatrists or psychologists.
Additionally, Enloe Medical Center's Behavioral Health provides psychiatric care for adults age 18 and over in an inpatient hospital facility. A team of caregivers at Enloe works with patients who are experiencing the debilitating effects of depression. They also help patients with anxiety, mood and thought disorders, or psychosis. Enloe's team of caregivers can help stabilize a crisis, provide a thorough evaluation, develop a treatment plan and offer coordinated care in a supportive environment. The focal point is to provide patients access to a better means of coping with their problems outside of the hospital after offering thorough comprehensive multidisciplinary assessments and skills training. Enloe Behavioral Health offers free assessments 24 hours a day, 7 days a week through an appointment or by walk-in.
For more information, visit www.enloe.org/wellness or call Enloe Behavioral Health for a free assessment or information at (530)332-5250.