Depression is a common mental illness, categorized in part by a persistent feeling of sadness, which can lead to a variety of other emotional and physical symptoms. These other symptoms include trouble sleeping, changes in appetite, and low self-esteem, to name a few. Severe depression is often linked to thoughts of suicide, as well.
While sadness is a common and entirely normal emotion to feel, depression can only be diagnosed by a mental health professional when the symptoms are experienced for two weeks or more. It is important to note that grieving is not the same as depression. The notable differences are that, in grieving, painful feelings come intermittently and are often interrupted by happy feelings or memories. Also, in grief, it is rare that self-esteem is affected, whereas depression is frequently accompanied by feelings of worthlessness or even self-hatred. It is important to identify the variations between the two so that the correct treatment can be pursued.
The number of patients with depression is on a steady incline, with more than three million cases in the United States annually. It is estimated that one in six people will experience depression at some point in their life. Depression can begin at any time, but most commonly strikes in the late teenage years through the mid-20s.
Depression also presents differently depending on the patient. With women, depression most often involves feelings of guilt and worthlessness. Women are more likely to seek help for their depression than men. In men, depression may be categorized by irritability and exhaustion. Older adults are least likely to seek help and more likely to have other medical conditions, which makes it harder to diagnose depression. In children, depression presents more in displays of anxiety, such as worrying something bad may happen or refusing to go to school. In teenagers, depression is likely to be accompanied by another disorder – such as issues with eating, anxiety, and self-harm.
Some medical conditions can mimic symptoms of depression, including low energy and changes in sleep patterns, so it is important to rule out physical illnesses before diagnosing depression in a patient. Before diagnosing depression, a medical professional will likely conduct a full examination of the patient, including a psychological and physical evaluation to rule out any existing illnesses or conditions that can be mistaken for depression. As well as physical illnesses mimicking depression, depression may also be the cause of physical symptoms in struggling patients. It is believed that this is due to misfirings in the brain. Most commonly, these physical symptoms are headaches and digestive issues.
Causes of Depression
Depression can have many different causes, including genetics, drugs, poor nutrition, poor physical health, or stress. Environmental factors and economic factors can play a role in depression, as well. Emotional neglect and past traumatic events can also leave a person at high risk for developing depression. Chemical imbalances in the brain, which can also be hereditary, are another major cause of depression. People with low self-esteem, people who easily get overwhelmed or stressed, and people who are generally pessimistic are at a higher risk to develop depression as well.
Luckily, as the number of patients struggling with depression rises, so does the drive and research studies to find a permanent cure. As mental health professionals learn more about depression, they have been able to find paths to relief, and ultimately recovery, for the feelings and symptoms associated with depression, including changes to diet and lifestyle, or ketamine treatment for severe depression.
A Holistic Approach to Recovery
While medication is a great route to treatment for depression, most professionals also advocate for introducing holistic efforts to aid in the process of recovery. Holistic approaches include diet, exercise, and talk therapy. These lifestyle changes, accompanied by medication, can encourage great mental progress in patients with depression.
Diet can have a direct effect on your mood. Eating a balanced diet – consisting of whole grains, produce, legumes, fish, and lean meats – will keep your blood sugars stable, thus increasing your energy levels and keeping your mood steady throughout the day. Many professionals also believe that consumption of too much sugar, caffeine, and alcohol may have links to depression. Sudden weight loss or weight gain due to changes in appetite are common for those struggling with depression, and poor body image can go hand-in-hand with low moods. This is another reason why many professionals insist on the importance of striving for a healthy and balanced diet when receiving treatment for depression.
Additionally, poor physical health has been linked to depression. People with illnesses such as Crohn’s Disease, ulcerative colitis, or other intestinal issues are at an increased risk of developing depression. The symptoms associated with these diseases can be aided or, in some cases, entirely cured by a well-rounded diet.
Hydrating your body sufficiently is also an important factor in remaining physically healthy. Some studies also suggest that different vitamins and minerals, such as B-12 and omega-3 fatty acids, may provide a small improvement when supplemented along with other treatments.
Frequent exercise can also be a great aid in the treatment of depression. Exercise can give people a sense of empowerment and control, while also being an outlet to alleviate many of the stresses that can lead to depression. Since exercise is a coping mechanism that people can utilize on their own time and regardless of circumstance, the results can actually be more long-lasting than medication. Exercise can also be an option for those with compromised immune systems, who may be unable to take certain medications. Exercise has been linked to an increase in serotonin levels.
Long term, exercise can improve confidence. Setting and achieving small goals can instill a feeling of accomplishment in a person. Additionally, getting in shape can make a person feel better about their appearance, thus improving their overall self-image. Exercising in a gym can also be a great way to supplement social interaction for patients who struggle in that field. It is important when patients with depression begin to exercise, to identify what it is that they enjoy doing. Exercise is a versatile term – as some patients may enjoy going to the gym and exercising vigorously, while others feel satisfied after just a brisk walk. Regardless, practicing any form of physical activity three to five times a week has proven to be effective in aiding depression symptoms.
There are two types of talk therapy that have proven to be very effective in aiding recovery from depression: cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and interpersonal therapy. In cognitive-behavioral therapy, a professional will assist the patient in evaluating negative thoughts and past experiences that may be contributing to the symptoms of depression. Research shows that changes can be made to the way the patient thinks in CBT, thus resulting in a more positive outlook on life. In interpersonal therapy, there is a focus on the patient and the relationships in the patient’s life, and how improvements can be made to them. Sessions of talk therapy can be necessary for months or years, depending on the severity of the case, to aid in the long term recovery from depression.
Ketamine Treatment for Severe Depression
In the past, ketamine has been used as an anesthetic. However, in recent years, studies have proven that it is an extremely effective aid in severe depression. Many patients who have undergone ketamine treatment have shown a sudden decrease in thoughts of suicide, as well as other negative feelings associated with depression. Ketamine treatment has shown quicker success than other options, such as other medication and talk therapy, which can take months to show a significant effect. Ketamine treatment is typically an option for severe depression that has not been resolved through other attempts at treatment.
The two most types of ketamine commonly used in treating depression are as follows:
Racemic ketamine, which is administered intravenously.
Esketamine, which is administered as a nasal spray.
The main difference between the two is that racemic ketamine contains both R and S molecules, while ketamine only contains the S molecule. Both have proven to be very effective in the treatment of severe depression. However, ketamine may have fewer negative side effects, such as derealization and hallucinations. Due to this, ketamine is likely more tolerable to patients, therefore more commonly used in treatment. A much lower dose of ketamine is used to treat depression than the dosage used for procedures involving anesthetic so that the patient can experience the benefits of the drug without being sedated.
Similar to opioids, ketamine does have addictive properties. Due to this, ketamine treatment may not be a good option for patients who have struggled with addiction to drugs or alcohol in the past, as they are at an increased risk of developing a dependency. This is important to consider and discuss with a medical professional when weighing the benefits and risks of using ketamine treatment. Unlike most other treatments for depression, ketamine treatment typically shows significant results within one to three sessions. If symptoms have not improved within that time, it is likely that ketamine treatment will not work for the patient in future sessions either.
Ketamine administered by IV, racemic ketamine, can have a wide variety of side effects. As well as the ones mentioned above, patients have also reported high blood pressure, nausea, vomiting, and perceptual disturbances. These symptoms are rarely severe and are almost always noticed within the first session of treatment, that way they can be swiftly addressed by a medical professional and the course of treatment can be adjusted accordingly.
Ketamine treatment is still being studied, as professionals are not completely sure why it has shown such great promise in aiding depression and preventing suicidal thoughts for patients when other treatment methods have shown to be ineffective. Some research supports that ketamine reduces signals involved in inflammation. Other research shows that ketamine may facilitate signals and communication from different parts of the brain. Research is still being done on ketamine, but it is believed that ketamine works in several different ways.
Patients who do show positive progress within the first three sessions of ketamine treatment are likely to continue showing growth in further sessions. However, the long term effects of ketamine are still being studied. Therefore, it is not common that ketamine treatment will be extended past roughly eight sessions. After the initial sessions, the patient and doctor should discuss whether treatment should be continued or gradually stopped, to decrease the risk of withdrawal symptoms or dependency.
The Importance of Personalized Treatment
While one method of treatment may prove to be effective for one patient, it is not always guaranteed to be effective for another. It is important to account for the intersectionality of an individual’s identity and how that plays a role in the presentation of depression in order to provide personalized and competent care. The symptoms and severity of depression vary between each patient, and consequently, so does the treatment that will aid the patient.
In many cases, patients have to be prescribed and try many different medications before finding one that improves their symptoms. Talk therapy is a similar experience, as many patients may take some time to open up and evaluate the experiences leading up to depression, meaning that it may take months before treatment is effective.
As well as medication, it is important that a patient recovering from depression finds their own ways to alleviate symptoms. Most commonly, patients find that exercise and a healthy sleeping schedule assist in returning to a more positive mind-frame. Some patients also find different creative outlets – such as art or writing – aid in expelling past trauma or bad emotions that are associated with their depression. Trying these different methods of coping and recovery may also help patients regain a feeling of normalcy or control that can often be lost when struggling with depression. Many professionals also suggest confiding about struggles with a trusted friend and avoiding substances to cope with the negative feelings associated with depression. It is also recommended that patients struggling with depression postpone making any big life changes, such as marriage, having children, or moving a far distance until their symptoms become more manageable.
If someone has a loved one struggling with depression, it is important to first encourage or aid that person is seeking assistance from a licensed medical professional at Klarity Life in Las Vegas, Nevada. Then, offer support and patience to him or her. Support can be shown through invitations to events, helping him or her follow the treatment plan and reminding that, with time and treatment, their depression will improve. It is also important to never ignore comments about suicide – it is crucial to report these to the loved one’s health care provider. When people act as a confidant to those struggling with depression or other illnesses, they are also at an increased risk of developing depression, so it is important that the friend or family member is also aware of their mental state.
Although depression is the most commonly diagnosed mental illness, it should not be taken lightly by any means. Patients with depression have a persistent feeling of sadness that can lead to the feeling that life is not worth living, which can tragically lead to self-harm and attempts at suicide. Patients with depression cannot easily become more optimistic on their own, which means that it is necessary to pursue treatment, including medication and therapy. As previously mentioned, a more holistic approach (diet, exercise, and lifestyle changes) is a great way to aid in the symptoms of depression for all people who struggle, including those who may not have access to professional treatment due to financial or environmental factors.
Recovery from depression is not a quick fix, and it can take weeks or months to see an improvement in symptoms. However, patients should not be discouraged, as most people who struggle with depression see significant improvements through medication or psychotherapy. People who believe they are struggling with depression should reach out for help from a mental health professional to receive a diagnosis and formulate a treatment plan that is best suitable for the individuals. There are unfortunately no proven methods to prevent depression yet, but people going through rough patches emotionally should take steps to limit stress, spend time with family and friends, and contact a professional at the first sign of clinical depression.
As professionals do more research and depression becomes more talked about among the media, the stigma surrounding mental illness is steadily declining. Additionally, there are a plethora of treatment methods that cater to an individual’s needs, and there are likely more methods that will surface in the coming years. This means that people should not be afraid to seek help if they are depressed. The road to recovery may seem daunting, especially to those who are already questioning their self-worth, but help is worth pursuing, as there is a treatment plan for every individual.