Depression is one of the most common mental health disorders in the United States. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), an estimated 17.3 million (7.1%) of U.S. adults have had at least one major depressive episode.
While common, depression is a serious mood disorder that can cause severe symptoms that affect how a person thinks, feels, and handles daily activities. At SoCal Mental Health in Orange County, CA, we provide short-term crisis stabilization and long-term residential programs for treating depression in a home-like environment.
Major Depressive Disorder
Major depressive disorder is a medical condition characterized by persistent feelings of sadness and despair over long periods. People with major depression can experience a loss of interest in daily life. While the exact cause of depression is not well understood, based on our understanding of the brain and the emotions we feel, it is believed that one of the causes of depression is an imbalance in neurotransmitters in the brain, which are chemical messengers used to regulate feelings.
Experts theorize that some types of depression may have a genetic component. Like other mental health conditions, depression is known to run in families. Other theories attribute the development of depression to negative environments, circumstances, or past traumatic experiences.
Depression can occur as one or multiple episodes throughout a person’s life. Everyone feels low from time to time. However, major depression occurs when these feelings are intense and disproportionate to the circumstances. These feelings range from mild to severe and persist most of the day, almost every day.
Symptoms of Depression include:
- Feelings of sadness, despair, or hopelessness
- No longer finding interest in activities typically enjoyed such as hobbies, entertainment, or spending time with loved ones.
- Intervals of being easily irritated or frustrated
- Difficulting falling asleep or staying asleep
- Sleeping too much or having trouble getting out of the bed
- Lethargy and lack of energy, even for small tasks
- Reduced appetite and weight loss
- Increased appetite and weight gain
- Anxiety and inability to relax
- Slowed cognition, speech, or motor function
- Feelings of guilt and shame
- Feeling that one’s life is not valuable
- Dwelling past failures and blaming oneself for misfortune or mistakes
- Difficulty concentrating on tasks and making decisions
- Memory problems
- Thoughts of death or suicide
- Unexplained bodily pains and aches
Living with depression can mean no longer being able to recognize oneself. Things that once brought pleasure no longer spark joy the way they used to. Being around others drains energy and people may begin to isolate themselves as a result. They may not want those who care for them to see them sad or potentially bring others down as well. Complex webs of shame and guilt can exist that don’t reflect reality and serve only as emotional weight.
When depression becomes debilitating, it can be difficult to hold down a job, maintain relationships, and manage basic life tasks, like nutrition and hygiene. The best solution for anyone experiencing the pain of a major depressive disorder is to get help from professionals and support from family or a trusted network of care.
Dysthymic disorder, also known as dysthymia or persistent depressive disorder, is a type of depression that is characterized by less intense symptoms that last for two years or more. Dysthymia involves depressive symptoms over a long time punctuated by temporary spans of normal mood.
These episodes of elevated mood usually last no longer than two months before lowering once more. While major depressive disorder is characterized by five or more symptoms over a matter of weeks, people suffering from dysthymia experience two or three signs of depression over an extended period.
With dysthymia, a person experiences similar symptoms of poor appetite or overeating, insomnia or hypersomnia, loss of energy, decreased self-esteem, problems with concentration, difficulty making decisions, or feeling of hopelessness. Signs of dysthymia can fluctuate and are often less dramatic in presentation than with major depressive disorder.
A person with dysthymia can often continue to function in their daily lives, but they operate at lower mood levels than someone without depression. As a result, dysthymic disorder can be more difficult to diagnose than major depressive disorder. At SoCal Mental Health, we have the proper evaluations to recognize dysthymia that may have gone otherwise undetected.
To treat depression and depression symptoms, therapy and medication can be used on an as-needed basis. A licensed mental health professional can collaborate with the client to evaluate the diagnosis and symptoms to see if medication is the best fit.
Treatments for depression include:
- Medication – antidepressants are a form of treatment for depression symptoms. Common antidepressants are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs).
- Psychotherapy – also known as talk therapy, is a beneficial way to treat many mental health disorders including depression. Collaborative efforts between the therapist and client will help establish treatment goals.
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) – the “golden standard” of psychotherapies that is evidence-based and used to treat many mental health disorders including depression. This therapy is based on the idea that thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are all intertwined, and changing one can affect them all.
- Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) – a type of psychotherapy that focuses on practices of mindfulness that can help align beliefs and morals with behaviors. With this therapy tools to stay present, find acceptance, and commit to action are taught and practiced.
- Holistic Therapy – mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), meditation, art therapy, and aromatherapy are used to complement evidence-based therapeutic methods and enhance the effects of treatment.
How We Can Help
At SoCal Mental Health, our team of mental health professionals and licensed psychiatrists will work with you to create a treatment plan to help you overcome depression. Our clinicians conduct comprehensive assessments to determine accurate diagnoses for depression and any other co-occurring mental health conditions. Our community environment provides support to individuals suffering from depressive disorders while giving them the space they need to heal.
We tailor evidence-based treatments to the preferences of the people for which we care. Customized treatment plans allow clients to see the progress they make. We provide talk therapy and other therapeutic services while ensuring that personal needs are met so the focus remains on recovery.
Our highly trained staff work with clients step-by-step to develop new skills for managing depressive disorders and maintaining a realistic, positive state of mind. New skills are practiced in a safe, controlled community environment where real-world problems are solved within a supportive network of staff and peers.