Depression is the Cloud Hanging Overhead Even in the Best of Times

by Crissie Seals, WHNP, Salud Spa

Support for someone suffering from depression is vital for the individual, their relationships and the family. Recognizing an individual may be depressed is the first step.

Depression can be described as a “kind of numbness, an enervation, an odd fragility — as if my body had become frail, hypersensitive and somehow disjointed and clumsy” in the words of author William Styron.

Depression is a medical condition that may cause an individual to feel sad, unable to enjoy activities, have no energy, have difficulty concentrating, and have suicidal thoughts. It is a brain disorder and a state of mind.

Depression affects tens of millions of people in the United States. The types of depression include mood disorders, situational depression, postpartum depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety. Family history, situational factors and hormones may cause depression or affect symptoms.

Serotonin is the hormone in the brain that increases when an individual is laughing or is happy, breathes deeply or exercises. Individuals with depression have depleted serotonin levels, a common belief.

Chronic pain may cause depletion of serotonin levels as the individual struggles.

The suffering individual may inadvertently shut out family members and friends. A depressed person may not perform well at work. Clinical studies show that parents suffering from depression do not make eye contact with infant children, which leads to delayed development in the child.

Suicide as an endpoint for a depressed individual has far-reaching final consequences for family and relationships. Some individuals suffering from depression may attempt to use unhealthy or risky behaviors to feel better — drug use, compulsive shopping, excessive exercise, or risky sexual behavior.

There have been great strides in treating depression with medication. Many patients will start medication treatment with their primary care provider, nurse practitioner, physician assistant or doctor.

Complex cases need a referral to a higher level of care or a psychiatrist. Behavioral health counseling may be beneficial for the depressed individual, and referral along with medication is the gold standard.

Other modalities that have shown benefit include self-care — eating healthy, taking time for oneself, talking through issues with family and friends, and exercising. Deep breathing exercises or meditation can cause feelings of well-being with the release of endorphins, a brain hormone similar to morphine.