Understanding Depression

By | March 20, 2019

Lesser seen, but still sometimes present symptoms may include delusions (a view or belief that is strongly held despite overwhelming evidence or proof to the contrary), hypersomnia (sleeping too much, or oversleeping), and sometimes even hallucinations (seeing, hearing, smelling or tasting things that aren’t really there). As if these symptoms were not serious enough on their own, there are some physical conditions that depression could possibly make an individual more susceptible to, such as certain types of cardiovascular diseases.

It is quite common to have some comorbidity with depression. Comorbidity is just a fancy way of saying two or more medical conditions being present at the same time. The most common comorbid condition with depression is anxiety, be it social anxiety or generalized anxiety, and PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). In some cases, conditions such as ADD/ADHD and alcohol or drug addiction are present.

Now that this article has you sufficiently worried about anyone you know who has any of these symptoms, it’s time to talk about treatment. Depression is often a condition that a person will have for life, but the symptoms can be suppressed in different ways. If you choose to take the pharmaceutical approach (as many do), there are a few types of drugs the individual might take.

First, let’s have a brief chemistry lesson. There are a few major chemicals that cause or exacerbate (make worse) depression. The first is Serotonin, which is the chemical believed to cause happiness and a sense that everything is OK. You can see why someone with too little of this might easily become depressed. Secondly, we have Norepinephrine, the chemical believed to be in charge of prolonged concentration. The final chemical I will cover in this article is one you may have heard of: Dopamine. Dopamine has a similar job to Norepinephrine, except instead of helping a person concentrate, it is charged with keeping an individual alert for an extended period of time, keeping the person motivated and many of the “highs” one might feel in life. It is not difficult to see how a lack of any of these three chemicals in the brain could lead to depression. Now that we know the chemistry, let us look at treatments of these imbalances.

Medications are often prescribed, such as SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) and SNRIs (Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors) to even out the chemistry in the brain that we discussed. By inhibiting the reuptake of these chemicals, more of the chemicals are present and the individual tends to feel better.

There are also counseling and therapy to help the depressed individual “retrain” their brain essentially. These methods do not rely on medications (though the patient may also be taking medications), but on talking and “homework” assignments to try to relieve the symptoms of the patient’s depression. Many people prefer trying this before resulting to pharmaceuticals, but the opposite is also true. In the end, it is the patient or their caregiver along with a professional with a psychological background, such as a social worker or psychologist, who must decide where to start. There is no single “right way” to approach the problem, but even with treatment, it can still be crippling for the patient. It is not something that someone can just “get over,” but something they need to work at for a long period of time to ease the symptoms and get back out into the “real world” as they say.