Guest Blog by Misty Schutterle, WSU Graduate Student in Clinical Mental Health and Addiction
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), depression is a common illness that affects an estimated 280 million people worldwide. Depression is caused by complex interactions between biological, psychological, and social factors. Symptoms often develop during the late teens to mid-20s; however, they can manifest at any time. Depression causes physical, mental, and emotional stress and turmoil, which increases dysfunction and problems in day-to-day life, including work, school, social activities, and relationships. The severity, frequency, and duration of symptoms depends on the type of depression and its stage. Some sufferers experience multiple symptoms, while others experience only a few. Depressive symptoms are unique to each individual, vary from mild to severe, and typically include the following:
- Agitation, anxiety, frustration, or restlessness
- Changes in appetite – weight loss / weight gain
- Feeling hopeless, sad, worthless, or guilty nearly every day
- Frequent or reoccurring thoughts of death or suicide
- Issues with concentration, decision making, and other cognitive processes
- Loss of interest or pleasure in activities you once enjoyed
- Low energy level / feeling sluggish – small tasks require tremendous effort
- Sleep disturbances – insomnia or hypersomnia
- Somatic complaints – unexplained physical problems such as stomach pain or headaches
To check for depression and other mental health issues, free self-assessments are available online. You can use screening tools from Mental Health America (MHA), which are free, easy to understand, take less than 5 minutes to complete, and indicate symptom severity. Take a confidential, mental health self-assessment from Mental Health America.
Types of Depression
There are many types of depression including Major Depressive Disorder, Atypical Depression, Persistent Depressive Disorder, Perinatal Depression, Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder, Seasonal Affective Disorder, and depression that occurs as part of a bipolar disorder. Depression is highly complex and requires skilled professionals to determine a diagnosis and develop an individualized treatment plan.
Risk Factors for Depression
There are several factors that play a role in depression and include the following:
- Biochemistry – Differences in certain chemicals in the brain known as neurotransmitters (dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin) may contribute to symptoms of depression.
- Environmental factors – Continuous exposure to violence, neglect, abuse, or poverty may make people more vulnerable to depression.
- Genetics – Depression can run in families.
- Personality – People with low self-esteem, who are easily overwhelmed by stress, or who are generally pessimistic, appear to be more likely to experience depression.
Diagnosis & Treatment
Experiencing depressive symptoms is common. However, when changes in your behavior, thought patterns, personality, level of functioning, or other signs of depression occur, it is time to see your healthcare team for a comprehensive evaluation. Physicians and psychotherapists work collectively to diagnose your condition(s) and will explain available treatment options. Doctors may prescribe a number of medications to treat depression including the following:
- Citalopram (Celexa)
- Escitalopram (Lexapro)
- Fluoxetine (Prozac)
- Paroxetine (Paxil, Pexeva)
- Sertraline (Zoloft)
Medications have the potential to help sufferers feel better and get back on track. However, medication alone will not solve the problems that contribute to depression. Psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy, is an essential component in the fight against mental unwellness. Studies strongly suggest the combination of an antidepressant and psychotherapy is the most effective method of treating depression and is considered the gold standard of care. Depending on the diagnosis, severity, and pattern of depressive episodes, WSU counselors offer specialized treatments including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), and Interpersonal Psychotherapy, just to name a few. Connect with Counseling Services at Winona State University.
WSU has professors, staff, therapists, students, and others who genuinely care and can help you get back on the path to happiness, health, and wellness. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, it is a sign of tremendous strength. I know because I ask for help with my mental health and wellness woes often. I can attest to the positive changes brought about by the combination of medication and psychotherapy. Today, I have tools necessary to help manage my thoughts, understand my feelings, as well as express my emotions effectively. Psychotherapy has helped me realize I have the power to manage my depressive symptoms and take control of my life. I hope this post helps others with wellness woes and mental health issues realize you are not alone. WSU has an army of mental health and wellness warriors who are ready to go into battle with you. All you need to do is reach out and let us know you need help.
What is Depression? – Article, psychiatry.org, October 2020.
Adding psychotherapy to antidepressant medication in depression and anxiety disorders: a meta-analysis – Research report, World Psychiatry, February 4, 2014.
Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors – Article, mayoclinic.org, September 17, 2019.
Depression – Article, WHO.int, September 13, 2021.
WSU Rochester Staff
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