Mental health issues like depression and anxiety affect many Americans. It’s important to understand the symptoms and effects of depression so you can recognize these things in yourself and your loved ones.
It is also important to understand how mental health can affect your insurance rates. The factors that affect life insurance and depression are complicated and depend on the severity of the depression and the other health conditions that might be affected by depression.
Professional help may be vital to help loved ones experiencing the symptoms of depression. There are different types of treatment available, and depression may get worse without professional treatment.
Everyone experiences sadness and the occasional case of the blues. The difference is when the occasional sadness turns into a more constant feeling or interferes with normal, daily activities.
What is depression?
Depression is a condition or disorder that affects mood. The symptoms of depression may vary for each individual, but it is usually characterized by extreme feelings of sadness, anger, or despair.
Depression can affect anyone regardless of age, sex, gender, ethnicity, race, or socioeconomic background. Older adults are at higher risk of depression because of grieving the loss of friends or family members, lack of socialization, and increased health issues.
Feeling sad or hopeless on a regular basis can affect many areas of life. Depression can result in struggles with employment, friendships, relationships, daily hygiene, and eating behaviors.
Sometimes depression can be caused by life events, circumstances, or situations. Individuals who have experienced abuse or trauma are at a higher risk of developing depressive symptoms.
Other causes of depression include a family history of mood disorders, drug use, certain medical conditions, medications, hormones, or when certain areas of the brain are less active. Depression can also be caused by a chemical imbalance or unknown factors.
How to identify the symptoms
In general, depression results in overwhelming feelings of sadness and a lack of interest and enjoyment in life’s activities. Depression makes normal daily activities like personal care, eating, going to work, exercising, spending time with friends and family, and hobbies more difficult or even impossible to participate in and enjoy.
One common symptom is changes in mood. This could mean feelings of intense sadness, mood swings, despair, or crying. It could also result in feelings of anger or irritability.
Individuals with depression may experience changes in their appetite. This can result in eating more or less and can cause changes in weight. Individuals experiencing depression may also lose their sexual interest and desire.
Cognitive abilities may also be affected. Depression may cause it to be more difficult to concentrate, focus, complete tasks, or engage in conversations with friends or family.
Those who are feeling depressed may experience extreme fatigue, tiredness, and trouble sleeping. It may be difficult to even get motivated to get out of bed each day.
Some individuals with depression may experience thoughts of suicide or other types of reckless behavior. If someone is experiencing these thoughts, they need immediate professional help.
Remember, we all have feelings of sadness, anxiety, or loneliness from time to time. These feelings are a normal reaction to life’s events, stressors, and grief. However, depression causes these feelings to persist and interfere with normal daily activities.
What are the different types of depression?
There are different types of depression. The signs and symptoms may vary from individual to individual, but there are similar characteristics in the different types of depression. Knowing the type of depression is helpful in getting the proper treatment.
Major Depressive Disorder
Major depressive disorder is a serious form of depression. Individuals usually experience extreme sadness and hopelessness that remain for two weeks or more.
Persistent Depressive Disorder
Mild depression is also called persistent depressive disorder. This type of depression is less severe than major depressive disorder, but is chronic and lasts longer. Symptoms can last for two years or more but are milder than the symptoms of major depression.
Postpartum depression can occur after the birth of a child. Seasonal affective disorder is when individuals experience more depressive symptoms in the winter months.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can affect those who have experienced a traumatic event or seriously threatening situation. PTSD affects the neurological system, and symptoms must persist for over 30 days to be diagnosed with this condition.
Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder characterized by mood swings between depressive episodes and manic episodes. Manic episodes are the opposite of depression and include extreme energy levels. There has been a startling increase in instances of Bipolar disorder among Millennials.
Treatment for Depression
Treatment is necessary for individuals with depression. The difficult thing is that treatment plans vary depending on the individual, so it may take some trial and error to find the right treatment. The good news is that proper treatment can result in improved symptoms within a few weeks.
Common treatment options include medication, therapy or counseling, diet improvements, or healthy eating. Medications such as antidepressants, anti-anxiety medication, and antipsychotic medications can be used to treat depression.
Talk to your healthcare provider before taking any herbal supplements or alternative remedies. Some of these may be marketed to help treat depression, but may not actually have research to back up their claims. Some herbal supplements may also interfere with prescription medications.
Therapy and counseling are important to help individuals struggling with depression recognize and deal with their feelings and moods. Regular therapy can help manage depression and improve mood and relieve feelings of sadness.
Exercise and physical activity also have a positive effect on your mind and mood. Exercise is another great treatment for depression because it helps increase the production of endorphins. Even just a 30-minute walk a few days a week can be useful in treating depressive symptoms.
How can we prevent depression?
It can be difficult to prevent depression, but keeping yourself healthy is important. Lifestyle, sleep, and exercise changes can help prevent or manage depressive symptoms.
Avoiding alcohol and drugs can make depressive symptoms worse, so some individuals may need to avoid these substances. Alcohol and some other drugs are central nervous system depressants, which is why they can make symptoms worse.
Using effective coping methods helps manage the life events that may cause sadness or stress. Stress management techniques also help improve overall mental health and well-being.
Ultimately, taking care of your overall health by getting enough sleep, socializing, exercising, having a good support network, and eating healthy can go a long way in preventing and managing depression.
Melissa Morris writes and researches for the life insurance comparison site, LifeInsuranceTypes.com. She has a master of science degree in exercise science, is a certified exercise physiologist, and a certified sports nutritionist.