Many medications and therapies help with symptoms of depression and anxiety. Antidepressants reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety because they change how the brain sends chemical signals. Sometimes a single method can help both symptoms of depression/anxiety and headache. However, many patients require two different drugs or behavioral treatments for a period of time. They need one to treat depression/anxiety and another to prevent migraines.
During the holidays, our thoughts may gravitate to memories of our youth, growing up and time spent with family and friends. But as often happens when we age, family members and friends pass away. Loved ones move far away because of family and job obligations. Feelings of isolation and loneliness can take hold, especially during the holidays, a time that in the past was filled with activities and traditions with family and friends.
Nurture yourself with good nutrition. Depression can affect appetite. One person may not feel like eating at all, but another might overeat. If depression has affected your eating, you'll need to be extra mindful of getting the right nourishment. Proper nutrition can influence a person's mood and energy. So eat plenty of fruits and vegetables and get regular meals (even if you don't feel hungry, try to eat something light, like a piece of fruit, to keep you going).
Behavioral activation is the practice of gradually increasing activity to experience more pleasure and mastery in life, according to Joel Minden, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist at the Chico Center for Cognitive Behavior Therapy. The therapeutic technique is relatively new, so it has a limited amount of research backing it. Nonetheless, it did spring from cognitive behavior therapy [CBT], which has mountains of research to support its efficacy.
Clinical trials are research studies that look at new ways to prevent, detect, or treat diseases and conditions, including depression. During clinical trials, some participants receive treatments under study that might be new drugs or new combinations of drugs, new surgical procedures or devices, or new ways to use existing treatments. Other participants (in the “control group”) receive a standard treatment, such as a medication already on the market, an inactive placebo medication, or no treatment. The goal of clinical trials is to determine if a new test or treatment works and is safe. Although individual participants may benefit from being part of a clinical trial, participants should be aware that the primary purpose of a clinical trial is to gain new scientific knowledge so that others may be better helped in the future.
Clinical depression is different from normal sadness — like when you lose a loved one, experience a relationship breakup, or get laid off from work — as it usually consumes a person in their day-to-day living. It doesn’t stop after just a day or two — it will continue for weeks on end, interfering with the person’s work or school, their relationships with others, and their ability to just enjoy life and have fun. Some people feel as if a huge hole of emptiness has opened inside when experiencing the hopelessness associated with this condition. In any given year, 7 percent of Americans will be diagnosed with this condition; women are 2 to 3 times more likely to be diagnosed than men (American Psychiatric Association).
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.
Another type of depression is related to changes in the length of days or seasonality. This type of depression is called Seasonal affective disorder (SAD). People with SAD suffer the symptoms of a Major Depressive Disorder only during a specific time of year, usually winter. This appears to be related to the shorter days of winter, and the lack of sunlight in many parts of the country.
Recovery from a depressive episode takes time as well as a desire and willingness for change. You can start by talking to someone — anyone — about your feelings, and finding some immediate emotional support through the sharing. Many people start their journey of recovery off by going to see their family physician for an initial diagnosis. Such a professional can also help connect you with referrals or encouragement to continue your treatment with a mental health specialist.
There is a danger that, in some people, antidepressant treatment will cause an increase, rather than a decrease, in depression. In fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires that all depression medications include a warning label about the increased risk of suicide in children and young adults. The suicide risk is particularly great during the first month to two months of treatment.
Researchers once thought the relationship between pain, anxiety, and depression resulted mainly from psychological rather than biological factors. Chronic pain is depressing, and likewise major depression may feel physically painful. But as researchers have learned more about how the brain works, and how the nervous system interacts with other parts of the body, they have discovered that pain shares some biological mechanisms with anxiety and depression.
For patients who are unable to switch from an older SSRI to either a newer SSRI or to another class of antidepressants either because of lack of tolerance or lack of therapeutic response, the doctor may consider adding another medication to the SSRI. For example, some doctors have reported success by adding bupropion to SSRIs to improve sexual function.
The most important thing anyone can do for the depressed person is to help him or her get an appropriate diagnosis and treatment. This help may involve encouraging the individual to stay with treatment until symptoms begin to go away (usually several weeks) or to seek different treatment if no improvement occurs. On occasion, it may require making an appointment and accompanying the depressed person to the doctor. It may also mean monitoring whether the depressed person is taking medication for several months after symptoms have improved. Always report a worsening depression to the patient's physician or therapist.
To search for a clinical trial near you, you can visit ClinicalTrials.gov. This is a searchable registry and results database of federally and privately supported clinical trials conducted in the United States and around the world (search: depression). ClinicalTrials.gov gives you information about a trial's purpose, who may participate, locations, and contact information for more details. This information should be used in conjunction with advice from health professionals.