Fighting Depression

Depression is a serious mood disorder that affects the body and the mind, including your mood and thoughts. It touches every part of your life. It’s important to know that depression is not a weakness or character flaw. It’s a chemical imbalance in your brain that needs to be treated.

In fact, it’s suspected that half of the Americans who suffer from some form of depression, never even seek treatment. But that no longer has to be the norm. Through the RWJBarnabas Health’s Behavioral Health Network, patients can find easy access to stigma-free care.

Depression is caused by an imbalance of brain chemicals in junction with other factors. It also tends to run in families and can be triggered by life events or certain illnesses. It can also develop without a clear trigger.

Symptoms of depression include the following:

  • Lasting sadness or anxiety – a feeling of “emptiness”
  • Loss of interest in normal activities
  • Changes of appetite and bodily weight
  • Changes in sleep patterns, such as an inability to sleep or sleeping too much
  • Slowing of physical activity, speech, and thinking, as well as increased restlessness and irritability
  • Loss of energy and motivation
  • Ongoing feelings of worthlessness and/or feelings of guilt
  • Trouble concentrating or making decisions
  • Repeating thoughts of death, suicide, wishing to die, or attempting suicide
    • Note: Suicidal thoughts in yourself or a loved one deem immediate emergency treatment

If you experience five or more of these symptoms for at least 2 weeks, you may be diagnosed with depression. These feelings are a noticeable change from what’s “normal” for you.

The symptoms of depression may look like other mental health conditions. Always see a healthcare provider for a diagnosis. If you have one episode of depression, you are at risk of having more throughout life. If you don’t get treatment, depression can happen more often and be more serious.

Treating Depression

Treatment for depression may include one or a combination of the following:

  • Medicine. Antidepressants work by affecting the brain chemicals. Know that it takes 4 to 6 weeks for these medicines to have a full effect. Keep taking the medicine, even if it doesn’t seem to be working at first. Never stop taking your medicine without first talking to your healthcare provider. Some people have to switch medicines or add medicines to get results. Work closely with your healthcare provider to find treatment that works for you.
  • Therapy. This is most often cognitive behavioral and/or interpersonal therapy. It focuses on changing the distorted views you have of yourself and your situation. It also works to improve relationships, and identify and manage stressors in your life.
  • Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). This treatment may be used to treat severe, life-threatening depression that has not responded to medicines. A mild electrical current is passed through the brain. This triggers a brief seizure. For unknown reasons, the seizures help restore the normal balance of chemicals in the brain and ease symptoms.

With treatment, you should feel better within a few weeks. Without treatment, symptoms can last for weeks, months, or even years. Continued treatment may help to prevent depression from appearing again.

If you or a loved one are suffering from the effects of depression, you don’t have to have to suffer in silence. Learn more about your mental health options by calling our Access Center. Contact us 24 hours a day at 1-800-300-0628.