Many forms of psychotherapy are effective at helping depressed individuals, including some short-term (10-20 weeks) therapies. Talking therapies (psychotherapies) help patients gain insight into their problems and resolve them through verbal give-and-take with the therapist. Behavioral therapists help patients learn how to obtain more satisfaction and rewards through their own actions. These therapists conduct behavior therapy to help patients to unlearn the behavioral patterns that may contribute to their depression.
Depressive disorders are mood disorders that have been with mankind since the beginning of recorded history. In the Bible, King David, as well as Job, suffered from this affliction. Hippocrates referred to depression as melancholia, which literally means black bile. Black bile, along with blood, phlegm, and yellow bile were the four humors (fluids) that described the basic medical physiology theory of that time. Literature and the arts have portrayed depression, also referred to as clinical depression, for hundreds of years, but what do we mean today when we refer to a depressive disorder? In the 19th century, people thought of depression as an inherited weakness of temperament. In the first half of the 20th century, Freud linked the development of depression to guilt and conflict. John Cheever, the author and a modern sufferer of depressive disorder, wrote of conflict and experiences with his parents as influencing his becoming clinically depressed.
Some of the newer antidepressant drugs, however, appear to have particularly robust effects on both the norepinephrine and serotonin systems. These medications seem to be very promising, especially for the more severe and chronic cases of depression. (Psychiatrists and other mental health professionals, rather than family practitioners, see such cases most frequently.) Venlafaxine (Effexor), duloxetine (Cymbalta), desvenlafaxine (Pristiq), and levomilnacipran (Fetzima) are four of these dual-action compounds. Effexor is a serotonin reuptake inhibitor that, at lower doses, shares many of the safety and low side-effect characteristics of the SSRIs. At higher doses, this drug appears to block the reuptake of norepinephrine. Thus, venlafaxine is an SNRI, a serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor. Cymbalta and Pristiq tend to act as equally powerful serotonin reuptake inhibitors and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors regardless of the dose, Fetzima even more so. They are, therefore, also SNRIs.
Fluoxetine is a commonly used SSRI and was the first of the SSRIs to become available in the United States. It selectively inhibits presynaptic serotonin reuptake with minimal or no effect on reuptake of norepinephrine or dopamine. It is commonly prescribed for many indications that are not FDA approved, including fibromyalgia, posttraumatic stress disorder, Raynaud phenomenon, social anxiety disorder, and selective mutism.
Depression, also known as clinical or major depression, is a mood disorder that will affect one in eight Canadians at some point in their lives. It changes the way people feel, leaving them with mental and physical symptoms for long periods of time. It can look quite different from person to person. Depression can be triggered by a life event such as the loss of a job, the end of a relationship or the loss of a loved one, or other life stresses like a major deadline, moving to a new city or having a baby. Sometimes it seems not to be triggered by anything at all. One of the most important things to remember about depression is that people who have it can’t just “snap out of it” or make it go away. It’s a real illness, and the leading cause of suicide.
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are the most commonly prescribed antidepressants. They are highly effective and generally cause fewer side effects than the other antidepressants. SSRIs help to alleviate symptoms of depression by blocking the reabsorption or reuptake of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is a naturally occurring neurotransmitter (chemical) that is used by brain cells to communicate. As SSRIs mainly affect the levels of serotonin and not levels of other neurotransmitters, they are referred to as “selective.”
Americans are obsessed with happiness, yet we are increasingly depressed: Some 15 million Americans battle the disorder, and increasing numbers of them are young people. Mental anguish is hard on your health. People suffering from depression have three times the risk of experiencing a cardiac event. In fact, depression affects the entire body. It weakens the immune system, increasing susceptibility to viral infections and, over time, possibly even some kinds of cancer—a strong argument for early treatment of depression. It interferes with sleep, adding to feelings of lethargy, compounding problems of focus and concentration, and generally undermining health. Those suffering from depression also experience higher rates of diabetes and osteoporosis. Sometimes depression manifests as a persistent low mood, a condition known as dysthymia. It is usually marked by years-long periods of low energy, low self-esteem, and little ability to experience pleasure.
On March 5, 2019 the FDA approved a new nasal spray medication- Spravato (esketamine) for treatment-resistant depression, available only at a certified doctor’s office or clinic. Ketamine represents a major step forward in the treatment of depression and suicide prevention. ADAA recognizes that clinicians want to offer their patients evidence-based options which have passed through the numerous stages of FDA testing, and this marks the first FDA approval of a ketamine product for a psychiatric indication. This is also the first antidepressant with a novel mechanism of action that we have had in decades.
People with chronic anxiety disorders may find themselves having lots of thoughts about death, and worry this means they are suicidal, or even homicidal. People with Panic Disorder often have lots of worrisome thoughts about dying, particularly of heart attacks and terrible diseases. People with OCD may have thoughts in which they wonder what stops them from committing some terrible crime, like killing people they love. People with Generalized Anxiety Disorder may have "what if" thoughts in which they worry about becoming so anxious and hopeless that they become suicidal.
People should try to avoid mixing medications of any kind (prescribed, over the counter, or borrowed) without consulting their doctor. Patients should inform their dentist or any other medical specialist who prescribes a drug that he or she is taking antidepressants. Some medications that are harmless when taken alone can cause severe and dangerous side effects when taken with other medications. This may also be the case for individuals taking supplements or herbal remedies. Some addictive substances, like alcohol (including wine, beer, and liquor), tranquilizers, narcotics or marijuana, reduce the effectiveness of antidepressants and can cause mental health and/or physical symptoms. Patients should avoid these. These and other drugs can be dangerous when the person's body is either intoxicated with or withdrawing from their effects due to increasing the risk of seizure or heart problems in combination with antidepressants medications.
The so-called "baby blues" happen in many women in the days right after childbirth. A new mother can have sudden mood swings, such as feeling very happy and then feeling very sad or angry. She may cry for no reason and can feel impatient, irritable, restless, anxious, lonely, and sad. The baby blues may last only a few hours or as long as one to two weeks after delivery. The baby blues do not always require treatment from a health care professional. Often, sharing childcare duties, maintaining contacts with loved ones, joining a support group of new moms, or talking with other moms helps.
Another type of depression is bipolar disorder, which encompasses a group of mood disorders formerly called manic-depressive illness or manic depression. These conditions often show a particular pattern of inheritance. Not nearly as common as the other types of depressive illnesses, bipolar disorders involve cycles of mood that include at least one episode of mania or hypomania and may include episodes of depression, as well. Bipolar disorders are often chronic and recurring. Sometimes, the mood switches are dramatic and rapid, but most often they are gradual, in that they usually take place over several days, weeks, or longer.
MAOIs are older drugs that treat depression. They work by stopping the breakdown of norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin. They’re more difficult for people to take than most other antidepressants because they interact with prescription drugs, nonprescription drugs, and some foods. They also can’t be combined with stimulants or other antidepressants.
Sticking to your treatment plan is one of the most important things you can do. It’s easy to get discouraged in the first few weeks of treatment. You may not want to continue. All types of treatment can take a few months before you notice a difference. It’s also easy to feel like you’re doing much better and stop treatment all together. Never stop treatment without consulting your doctor first.
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Following a major life-changing event like a disabling illness, it is normal to feel a great deal of stress. Stress can build up over time and can lead to anxiety. Anxiety can be a response to a specific situation such as learning to walk all over again; it can also be more generalized such as not wanting to leave the house after being discharged from the hospital.
Some medical conditions can trigger depressive symptoms in individuals. This is called depressive disorder due to another medical condition. Endocrine and reproductive system disorders are commonly associated with depressive symptoms. For example, people with low levels of the thyroid hormone (hypothyroidism) often experience fatigue, weight gain, irritability, memory loss, and low mood. When the hypothyroidism is treated it usually reduces the depression. Cushing's syndrome is another hormonal disorder caused by high levels of the hormone cortisol which can also cause depressive symptoms. Other conditions that have been found to cause depression include conditions such as HIV/AIDS, diabetes, strokes, Parkinson’s disease etc.
Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors or SNRIs are the newest class of antidepressants. SNRIs work by increasing the levels of serotonin and norepinephrine that are active in the brain. Serotonin and norepinephrine are produced by nerves and released into the surrounding tissues where they can attach to nearby receptors on other nerves, thereby stimulating the other nerves. The released serotonin and norepinephrine then are taken up and released again by the nerves that produce them. SNRIs block the uptake ("reuptake") of the serotonin and norepinephrine so that more of the serotonin and norepinephrine are free in the tissues surrounding the nerves.
Not only does it take time to get an accurate depression diagnosis, finding the right medication to treat depression can be a complicated, delicate process. Someone may have a serious medical problem, such as heart disease or liver or kidney disease, that could make some antidepressants unsafe. The antidepressant could be ineffective for you or the dose inadequate; there may not have been enough time to see an effect, or the side effects could be too bothersome -- leading to a failure of treatment.
Interestingly, the researchers propose that the way Botox may work is by preventing people from frowning. The facial feedback hypothesis — which dates back to Charles Darwin — proposes that using the muscles in your face can have an effect on your emotions. In other words, that smiling can make you happier, and frowning can make you sadder. Botox temporarily paralyzes the muscles that control frowning — and in effect, that might play a role in turning that frown upside down.
If feeling anxious or depressed, it is important to admit to it and get help. Even when family and friends are around for support, professional attention is best. A good first step is to discuss concerns with your regular doctor. He or she can provide advice about the best treatment and suggest a qualified therapist. There are several types of mental health professionals who can provide psychotherapy (counselors, social workers and psychologists), but any medications must be prescribed by a physician (your regular doctor or a psychiatrist). It is important to select a therapist with whom you fee comfortable and can talk honestly about your feelings. Psychotherapy can be done individually, with other family members, or in a group.
Explore options if it doesn't work well. If you have bothersome side effects or no significant improvement in your symptoms after four weeks, talk to your doctor about changing the dose, trying a different antidepressant (switching), or adding a second antidepressant or another medication (augmentation). A medication combination may work better for you than a single antidepressant.
Social abuse, such as bullying, are defined as actions of singling out and causing harm on vulnerable individuals. In order to capture a day-to-day observation of the relationship between the damaging effects of social abuse, the victim’s mental health and depressive mood, a study was conducted on whether individuals would have a higher level of depressed mood when exposed to daily acts of negative behavior. The result concluded that being exposed daily to abusive behaviors such as bullying has a positive relationship to depressed mood on the same day.
People who wonder if they should talk to their health professional about whether or not they have depression might consider taking a depression quiz or self-test, which asks questions about depressive symptoms that are included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), the accepted diagnostic reference for mental illnesses. In thinking about when to seek medical advice about depression, the sufferer can benefit from considering if the sadness lasts more than two weeks or so or if the way they are feeling significantly interferes with their ability to function at home, school, work, or in their relationships with others. The first step to getting appropriate treatment is accurate diagnosis, which requires a complete physical and psychological evaluation to determine whether the person may have a depressive illness, and if so, what type. As previously mentioned, the side effects of certain medications, as well as some medical conditions and exposure to certain drugs of abuse, can include symptoms of depression. Therefore, the examining physician should rule out (exclude) these possibilities through a clinical interview, physical examination, and laboratory tests. Many primary care doctors use screening tools, which are symptom tests, for depression. Such tests are usually questionnaires that help identify people who have symptoms of depression and may need to receive a full mental health evaluation.
Self-help approaches to treating depression are best thought of as adjuncts or additions to professionally prescribed treatments. Don't delay treating your depression professionally, or attempt to treat your depression solely on your own. Instead, seek a professional diagnosis at the earliest opportunity. Early diagnosis of depression is critical. The sooner your depression has been properly diagnosed and treated, the sooner you will have a good chance of recovering. Many people think that their low mood is temporary and will resolve by itself. While some depressions are temporary and relatively mild conditions, others really aren't. Delaying treatment in such cases allows symptoms to worsen and can cause serious problems to occur such as severely impaired health and occupational functioning, damage to your interpersonal relationships, and suicidal thoughts and behavior. A small but significant minority of people die from depression-caused suicides each year.
We are close to having genetic markers for bipolar disorder. Soon after, we hope to have them for major depression. That way, we can know of a child's vulnerability to depression from birth and try to create preventive strategies. For example, we can teach parents the added importance of providing a supportive and otherwise healthy environment given their child's vulnerability. Parents can also be taught the early warning signs of depression so that they can get treatment for their children, if necessary, to ward off future problems.
It’s the Catch-22 of depression recovery: The things that help the most are the things that are the most difficult to do. There is a big difference, however, between something that’s difficult and something that’s impossible. You may not have much energy, but by drawing on all your reserves, you should have enough to take a walk around the block or pick up the phone to call a loved one.
Anxiety disorders are the most common type of mental disorder. 50-60% of migraine patients will suffer from an anxiety disorder. Most anxiety disorders involve chronic worry or fear and avoiding things that trigger these feelings. In panic disorder, the patient has recurrent, unexpected feelings of intense fear or terror that seem to come from out of the blue. The heart starts beating rapidly and breathing becomes strained. Other symptoms may involve sweating, fear of dying, or losing control. Although attacks don’t last very long and are not dangerous, many people develop significant anxiety between attacks and come to fear normal body sensations.
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) were launched in the mid to late 1980s. This generation of antidepressants is now the most common class used for depression. Examples include citalopram (Celexa), escitalopram (Lexapro), paroxetine (Paxil, Pexeva), fluoxetine (Prozac, Sarafem), and sertraline (Zoloft). Two medicines, classified as "serotonin modulators and stimulators" or SMS's (meaning they have some similar properties as SSRIs but also affect other brain receptors) are vilazodone (Viibryd) and vortioxetine (Trintellix) Side effects are generally mild, but can be bothersome in some people. They include nausea, stomach upset, sexual problems, fatigue, dizziness, insomnia, weight change, and headaches.
Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder; a severe form of Pre-Menstrual Syndrome that is diagnosed when a woman experiences severe symptoms of depression, tension, and irritability in the week prior to menstruation. While it isn’t uncommon for most women to experience emotional and physical changes prior to menstruation, women who meet criteria for PMDD experience changes that impact their lives in more profound ways.
Offidani, E., Fava, G. A., Tomba, E., & Baldessarini, R. J. (2013). Excessive mood elevation and behavioral activation with antidepressant treatment of juvenile depressive and anxiety disorders: A systematic review. Psychotherapy and psychosomatics, 82, 132-141. Retrieved from https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/467a/0936752c67af496c727d48b6513f3f48d2f3.pdf
Patients with generalized anxiety disorder can’t control their constant worry. They worry about life events that may never even happen. They are “worry warts” who often expect the worst possible outcome of every situation. Physical symptoms such as fatigue, trouble concentrating, and having tense muscles are common in these patients. Phobias are fears of specific objects or places, such as an intense fear of social interactions that causes the patient to avoid most social situations (social phobia). Physicians and mental health professionals assess these symptoms through interviews, surveys, and observing patient behavior.
Many migraine patients suffer from symptoms of depression and anxiety. Migraine patients are between two to five times more likely to have these symptoms than patients without migraine. About 25% of patients with migraine have depression, and about 50% have anxiety. Some patients have symptoms of these disorders after living with migraine for years. Others develop them before migraine. At this time, scientists don’t know the exact answer why all are so common. One of the brain chemicals involved in all these conditions is called serotonin. Hormone changes in women can also trigger both conditions.
There is no single known cause of depression. Rather, it likely results from a combination of genetic, biologic, environmental, and psychological factors. Major negative experiences—trauma, loss of a loved one, a difficult relationship, or any stressful situation that overwhelms the ability to cope—may trigger a depressive episode. Subsequent depressive episodes may occur with or without an obvious trigger. Depression is not an inherent consequence of negative life events; research increasingly suggests that it is only when such events set in motion excessive rumination and negative thought patterns, especially about oneself, that mood enters a downward spiral.
Antidepressants can have central and peripheral anticholinergic effects, as well as sedative effects, and can block the active reuptake of norepinephrine (NE), serotonin (5-HT), and dopamine. SSRIs are metabolized via the cytochrome P-450 system and may have drug interactions on that basis. The degree of enzyme inhibition varies among SSRIs. Effects on blood levels and bioavailability of coadministered drugs, as well as pharmacodynamic interactions, account for most clinically significant SSRI-drug interactions.
In major depressive disorder, these types of thoughts are persistent most of the day, more days than not for weeks on end. If an individual vacillates between a very low and very high mood state, then a diagnosis of bipolar disorder may apply. However, for any variant of a mood disorder, the low mood state is likely to be characterized by the type of thinking described above.
Even though depression isn’t simply a matter of having too little serotonin, that doesn’t mean that antidepressants don’t work. Going back to our aspirin analogy: headaches aren’t caused by an aspirin deficiency, but they still go away when you pop a couple of pills. Is the same true with antidepressants and depression? Again, the evidence may surprise you.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) symptoms vary from person to person, and can last for days to months without periods of remission. Symptoms of MS include sexual problems and problems with the bowel, bladder, eyes, muscles, speech, swallowing, brain, and nervous system. The early symptoms and signs of multiple sclerosis usually start between age 20 and 40. MS in children, teens, and those over age 40 is rare. Treatment options for multiple sclerosis vary depending on the type and severity of symptoms. Medications may be prescribed to manage MS symptoms.
Occasional anxiety is a normal part of life. It’s common for people to feel anxious if there’s conflict in a relationship, a problem at work, a big test looming or a major decision dead ahead. But anxiety disorders involve more than temporary worry or fear. For people with an anxiety disorder, the anxiety does not go away. It often gets worse over time to the point where feelings interfere with their daily functions.3
While some people describe depression as “living in a black hole” or having a feeling of impending doom, others feel lifeless, empty, and apathetic. Men in particular can feel angry and restless. No matter how you experience depression, left untreated it can become a serious health condition. But it’s important to remember that feelings of helplessness and hopelessness are symptoms of depression—not the reality of your situation. There are plenty of powerful self-help steps you can take to lift your mood, overcome depression, and regain your joy of life.