The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 9 million Americans are currently affected by depression. Depression is more than a mental condition that makes you sad; depression can also result in a loss of interest, difficulty concentrating, decreased energy, insomnia or over sleeping, physical pain and even thoughts of suicide. If you are suffering from these symptoms, you may feel as if there is nothing you can do; however, between lifestyle modifications, therapy and medication, it is possible to beat depression.
Like most issues, the first step to beating depression is recognizing and admitting you have it. For some, this requires a clinical diagnosis from a doctor, but for others the symptoms they are experiencing are enough of a sure sign. The most common method for treating depression is the use of antidepressants. There are several different types of antidepressants, and they are generally categorized by how they affect the chemicals in your brain to change your mood. Types of antidepressants include:
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs): SSRIs are typically the go-to antidepressant for most doctors due to their ease of use and decreased amount of side effects. With SSRIs, the most common side effects are a decrease in sexual desire, restlessness, headache and insomnia. SSRIs include fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Paxil), sertraline (Zoloft), citalopram (Celexa) and escitalopram (Lexapro). (via Mayo Clinic)
Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs): SNRIs are similar to SSRIs in the way the body responds, and common side effects include sweating, dry mouth, constipation and a rapid heartbeat. SNRIs include duloxetine (Cymbalta), venlafaxine (Effexor XR) and desvenlafaxine (Pristiq). (via Mayo Clinic)
Norepinephrine and dopamine reuptake inhibitors (NDRIs): Bupropion (Wellbutrin) is the only brand of this. While it is one of the few antidepressants that will not cause sexual side effects, it can often cause a decrease in appetite and may also increase your risk of seizures. (via WebMD)
Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs): MAOIs include tranylcypromine (Parnate) and phenelzine (Nardil) and are usually only prescribed if all other medications fail. MAOIs come with a long list of side effects and even requires a strict diet because of dangerous (and even deadly) interactions with foods and some medications including decongestants. (via Mayo Clinic)
While antidepressants can offer amazing benefits for some, for others symptoms are only made worse. Certain medications can actually cause increased depression and even increased thoughts of suicide. If you choose to take an antidepressant, make sure you keep in close contact with your doctor and tell someone close to you about your condition. If at any time you feel that the medication is causing more negative effects than positive ones, contact your doctor immediately.
If you’re one of the many who prefer to avoid antidepressants, then therapy may be the best route for you. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy helps patients identify negative beliefs and behaviors and replace them with healthy, positive ones. The therapy is based on the idea that you are in control of your thoughts and emotions regardless of the situation. Therapy teaches patients how to better react under certain circumstances and offers an understanding of why patients feel the way that they feel so they can begin to heal themselves. (via National Alliance on Mental Illness)
In addition to or in lieu of therapy or antidepressants, there are several other things you can do to help improve your condition. Getting plenty of exercise helps boost serotonin levels naturally, causing a “feel good” response from the body. Most doctors recommend at least 30 minutes of exercise 4-6 days a week. Sleep is another important factor in fighting depression. While few of us get the recommended eight hours a night, consistently going on three-four hours of sleep is generally classified as insomnia, and only increases depression symptoms. Finally, eating a healthy and balanced diet and engaging in calming activities such as yoga or meditation can also decrease symptoms and help your body to heal itself naturally.
While most people have success with one of these options, there are some people who require hospitalization. If you feel your symptoms are out of your control, have continuous thoughts of suicide or feel as though the treatments you have been using just aren’t working anymore, you may require hospitalization. Hospitalization allows doctors to monitor your progress, keep tabs on your medication and how it is affecting you and most importantly, keep you from harming yourself or others.
Regardless of what route you take to fight your depression, make sure that you’re not ignoring it. Depression is a very real and very serious condition that if left untreated can be deadly. Talk to your doctor and talk to your family and friends. Between treatment and a solid support system, you can beat depression.