Depression afflicts 17.3 million Americans, or just over 7% of the total population. However, that figure only represents those who’ve received a medical diagnosis. While unknown, the actual number is much, much more significant. Although depression is one of the most common mental health disorders–second only to anxiety disorder– the term itself is a bit obscure. Major depressive disorder is usually addressed through medication-assisted treatment, psychotherapy, and lifestyle alterations. Below are 5 symptoms of depression to help better define this common mental health condition.
If you believe you’re struggling with symptoms of depression, it’s important to consult with a physician. Early detection, diagnosis, and treatment can help you find relief and get back to living a life you truly enjoy. Prolonged periods of depression can trigger dangerous self-medicating practices like alcohol and drug use. For individuals battling depression and substance abuse, teletherapy and online addiction support are available through AspenRidge Recovery. Contact us directly to learn more (855) 281-5588.
What is Depression?
Depression is more than feeling down or mildly sad – it is a persistent, pervasive alteration of mood and emotions that lasts for two weeks or longer. Some individuals may experience brief, major depressive episodes that persist for several weeks before gradually resolving. Other sufferers deal with ongoing – though comparatively mild – symptoms of depression for months and even years.
Depressive disorder changes how you function on a day-to-day basis. The disorder is dominant, frequently changing self-perception and leading to feelings of worthlessness, inadequacy, guilt, and shame. These feelings often heighten the sadness and disinterest that characterize the depressive disorder. If left untreated, negative emotions can lead to a continual downward spiral, leading many sufferers to turn to substance abuse in an attempt to mitigate their symptoms. But what are 5 symptoms of depression? First, let’s example causes and contributing factors.
Depression & Substance Abuse
Depression is common among those battling substance abuse issues. For those struggling with depression who feel there is no end in sight, drugs and alcohol may sometimes appear to be an easy solution to their problems. Alcohol and drug problems can both trigger and intensify symptoms of depression by exacerbating emotions such as:
For someone suffering from depression, it can be extremely tempting to want to relieve these feelings with drugs or alcohol. According to the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 7.9 million Americans also have dual diagnoses. The term dual diagnosis refers to having a mental illness, such as depression, and a substance use disorder. Research shows that as much as a third of people with depression also meet the criteria for a substance use disorder. This comorbidity is associated with an increased risk of suicide, social impairment, and other psychiatric conditions.
Battling co-occurring disorders can make them much more difficult to overcome. With dual diagnosis care, individuals and families can explore treatment options that are more tailored for specific conditions.
What Causes Depression?
Historically, psychologists believed depression was due to a brain chemical imbalance. However, researchers now know that the disorder is far more complicated than previously thought. Psychologists now understand that several factors contribute to the development of signs of depression. Determinants of the condition include medication usage, genetic predisposition, and traumatic life events. Persistent stress and mood regulation abnormalities also play a role.
Indeed, brain chemical imbalance positively contributes to the development of symptoms of depression. Today, however, researchers are finding that sufferers may experience identical signs of the disorder, but the underlying causes of the condition are vastly different. Because underlying causes determine which treatments will be most effective, discovering the root causes of the disorder is critical.
5 Symptoms of Depression
Beyond feelings of intense sadness, depression carries many debilitating symptoms. These feelings often drive sufferers into seclusion and despair. To receive a medical diagnosis of depression, you must experience a depressive episode lasting longer than two weeks. The following symptoms characterize episodes:
1. Loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyable
Anhedonia is a term used to describe a person’s sudden loss of interest in various daily activities. It’s one of 5 symptoms of depression but one of the major tell-tale signs. There are two main types including social and physical anhedonia. Social anhedonia refers to disinterest in socializing and lack of pleasure in social situations. Physical anhedonia refers to the absence of pleasure felt by eating, touching, and seeing things that were once exciting or engaging.
2. Persistent fatigue and loss of energy
According to the National Health Institute, symptoms of fatigue can affect physical, cognitive, and emotional function, impair school and work performance, disturb social and family relationships, and increase healthcare utilization. Depression can result in severe fatigue, making the most minor tasks – like getting out of bed – to difficult to manage. According to a 2018 study by CNS Drugs, fatigue affects around 90% of those diagnosed with depression.
Elevated levels of stress in the body caused by the onset of depression can trigger inflammation in the body, which can lead to chronic fatigue. It may also lead to withdrawal from personal activities, as well as difficulty with clear thinking. Other factors that may cause or increase symptoms of fatigue include:
- Sleep problems
- Medications, including antidepressants
3. Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
Untreated clinical depression can pose a serious problem. Untreated depression increases the chance of risky behaviors such as drug or alcohol abuse and can also ruin relationships, cause problems at work, and make it difficult to overcome serious illnesses. Memory loss may not seem like an obvious symptom of depression, but the two are closely related.
Research has suggested that processing speed — the ability to take in information quickly and efficiently — is impaired in individuals who are depressed. Many areas of the brain coordinate to create and retrieve memories. Irregularities in any of these areas, some of those which correspond with these 5 symptoms of depression, can affect how memories are processed and can influence the ability to concentrate.
4. Hopeless outlook
Hopelessness is an emotion often characterized by a lack of hope, optimism, and passion. It may seem evident that depression and feelings of hopelessness are connected. Hypoxia, or reduced oxygen, has long been linked with depression. The result of the brain not getting adequate amounts of oxygen can include inflammation and injury to and death of brain cells. These changes in the brain impact learning, memory, and mood. Additionally, they may also alter perspective and trigger emotions like despair and hopelessness.
5. Uncontrollable emotions
One of the 5 symptoms of depression is an important factor that can reveal how depression is connected to brain activity. Fact is, depression is both a physical as well as a mental stressor. As stress levels in the brain rise, cortisol levels increase. With a build-up of cortisol as well as various other neurotransmitters and brain chemicals, a person may be less in control of actions and emotions.
How Can You Get Help for Depression?
Finding treatment for depression begins by contacting a qualified medical professional that can provide a full evaluation and diagnosis. If diagnosed with MMD disorder, mental health counseling from a compassionate and knowledgeable treatment center can help you find relief sooner. Programs that can help you overcome depression symptoms and learn valuable coping techniques include:
- Neurofeedback therapy program
- Trauma therapy program
- Life skills training
- Dual diagnosis treatment
With ongoing psychotherapy, you’ll acquire the tools and coping mechanisms necessary to break free from the effects of depression. Additionally, you’ll work to address the root cause, learn to understand your symptoms, and master healthy coping mechanisms.
Depression and addiction are complex and can feel impossible to manage—especially if someone is dealing with them simultaneously. Fortunately, help is available for both disorders. Understanding the risk factors, symptoms, and treatment options can help people with dual diagnoses feel more empowered and engaged in their healing process.
Treatment for addiction should address dual diagnosis conditions like depression. AspenRidge addresses substance misuse as well as underlying mental health concerns that may contribute to a substance use disorder. Our programs include:
- Day Partial Hospitalization (PHP)
- Day Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP)
- AspenRidge REACH Online IOP
- IOP for Professionals and Working Adults
- Outpatient Program
- Alumni & Aftercare Program
There are many options available for treating stimulant addictions, such as therapy and intensive outpatient rehab. Contact our dedicated treatment providers at 855-281-5588 to find help in overcoming co-occurring disorders today.