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Brockport / Health Center / Common Ailments / Depression

Depression

What is it?

  • Everyone feels sad at times. People with depression feel sad all the time.
  • These feelings can affect everyday life and relationships.
  • There are several forms of depression which are grouped under the title of Mood Disorders. These include:
    • Major Depressive Disorder
      • Major Depressive Disorder is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. for people between 15 and 44 years of age.
      • This is more prevalent in women than in men.
      • Major depressive disorder affects approximately 7% of the U.S. population every year.
    • Dysthymic Disorder
      • These symptoms of chronic mild depression must last for at least 2 years.
      • Dysthymic disorder affects approximately 1.5% of the U. S. population each year.
    • Bipolar Disorder
      • Bipolar disorder is characterized by recurrent episode of depression alternated with periods of elation.
      • This affects approximately 2.5% of the U.S. population each year
    • Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
      • This is a pattern of depression related to the changes in seasons and a lack of sun exposure. People in our region frequently experience this during the winter, but may or may not recognize or acknowledge it.

Signs and Symptoms

  • Feeling of sadness
  • Things that you used to enjoy do not make you happy any more
  • Change in eating habits. Sometimes people increase their eating and gain weight. Other people decrease their eating and lose weight.
  • Sleep disturbances. This is another area where different people do different things. Some people sleep all the time. Others cannot fall or stay asleep.
  • Feeling fatigued all the time
  • Feeling irritable or agitated
  • Difficulty concentrating or thinking
  • Feeling guilty and/or hopeless
  • Decreased interest in sex
  • Thoughts of death/dying/suicide

Causes

  • There is no single known cause for depression. There have been factors identified that contribute to depression. These factors can include:
    • Heredity
    • Stress
    • Medications
    • Illness
    • Certain Personality Types
    • Alcohol, nicotine or other drug abuse
    • Hormones, including postpartum
    • Traumatic events such as a death of a loved one
  • Most experts believe that a genetic vulnerability combined with an environmental factor may trigger an imbalance in the brain’s chemicals - serotonin, norepinephrine, and/or dopamine.

Treatment

Treatment for depression is generally done in a 2 pronged manner – psychotherapy and medication. There are some people who require other treatment methods, but those would be provided by a psychiatrist after initial treatments failed.

  • Psychotherapy is available through the Counseling Center at 395-2207. Therapy sessions may be done individually or in groups depending on the problem being addressed and the need of the client.
  • Some medications can be prescribed through the Health Center staff. These medications are not going to change the person that you are. They will simply help to make it easier to deal with some of the issues that are triggering your depression. Medications do not work quickly. They take time to build up and become effective.
    • SSRIs such as Prozac, Lexapro, etc. effect the serotonin levels in the brain
    • SNRIs such as Effexor or Cymbalta effect the serotonin and norepinephrine levels in the brain
    • Wellbutrin effects the dopamine levels in the brain
  • Alternative medicines are sometimes used.
    • St John’s Wort – Some European studies suggest that this may be as effective as prescribed antidepressant when taken correctly. However, there are other studies that show that the St. John’s wort is ineffective treating major depression.
    • SAM-e – This chemical substance is available over the counter as a dietary supplement in the U.S. It is available in prescriptive form in Europe. It’s thought to increase levels of serotonin and dopamine in the brain.
    • 5-HTP – One of the raw materials that your body needs to make serotonin is the chemical 5-HTP. The theory is that if you increase the amount of this raw material, you will increase the levels of serotonin in the brain. There hasn’t been enough research to determine if this is effective or safe.
    • Omega-3 fatty acids – These fatty acids found in fish oil and some plants are being evaluated for their effect as a mood stabilizer for people with bipolar disorder and some other psychiatric disorders.

Self Care

  • See your provider regularly, both your medical provider and you mental health counselor.
  • Take your medications.
    • It may take several weeks before you feel the full impact of the medication you are taking, so don’t give up on it.
    • Don’t stop taking your medication once you are feeling better.
  • Don’t become isolated. Try to participate in your normal activities.
  • Take care of yourself
    • Eat healthy foods
    • Exercise regularly
    • Get the “normal” amount of sleep
  • Avoid alcohol and recreational drugs.

Resources:

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Last Updated 5/21/12

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