By: Robert Hunt
Depression is one of the most common disabilities in the United States. In fact, depression affects approximately 15 million American adults, which is equivalent to about 6.7% of the US population age 18 and older. There are two different forms of depression: major depressive disorder and persistent depressive disorder (formerly known as dysthymia), which is a form of depression that usually continues for at least two years. Major depressive disorder, on the other hand, is an illness that includes symptoms that can interfere with the functioning of one’s life. To be diagnosed with major depressive disorder, these symptoms must persist over time (at least two weeks) and cause distress or dysfunction.
If you are suffering from depression, there is treatment that can help. In fact, for most people, treatment has been proven to be effective. Generally speaking, treatment includes the use of antidepressants combined with therapy (often cognitive behavioral therapy). It’s important that a person try to avoid using only medication. While antidepressants are useful, they don’t address the full scope of the illness. Antidepressants can help with minimizing symptoms so that a person can go on with their life. However, only therapy can help a person address the issues that may have contributed to the depression in the first place. Together, medication and therapy are an effective way of overcoming depression.
According to the New York Times, the use of antidepressants has increased significantly among Americans. “One in 10 Americans now takes an antidepressant medication; among women in their 40s and 50s, the figure is one in four.” It is unclear whether this increase is due to more legitimate diagnoses of depression or a pattern of over-diagnosis.
Yet, as mentioned above, treatment for depression appears to be effective for thousands of Americans. For instance, researchers Geddes and colleagues worked with over 4,000 patients and explored the results of switching depression patients blindly to a placebo. Across 31 studies, these researchers found that 41% of patients who were switched to the placebo relapsed. This is compared to 18% of patients who relapsed while remaining on the antidepressant. This study provided significant evidence that antidepressants are effective medication for depression.
In addition to therapy and medication, a person might also include holistic modalities in their efforts to overcome depression. These might include:
- using herbs and supplements (such as St John’s Wort and 5-HTP),
- increased exposure to sunlight which increases Vitamin D and one’s mood,
- avoidance of caffeine which reduces serotonin levels,
- eating foods that enhance serotonin (such as coconut oil, avocados, and fish),
- meditating or practicing yoga,
- staying active with a regular exercise program,
- exploring whether there is a hormonal imbalance causing the depression,
- eating regularly (this balances blood sugar and prevents mood swings), or
- exploring whether there is a circumstantial contributor to the depression, such as the death of a loved one.
Although depression is common among Americans, there are many ways to overcome depression. To find out what might be best for you, talk to a medical doctor and a mental health provider for support.