By Dr. Dawn Bantel, Medical Director
Everyone experiences feelings of sadness at times. For those with depression, it is persistent. They often don’t find joy in those things that used to bring them joy. Fatigue may be present and there may be sleep issues. Often, people struggling with depression feel hopeless, and may even have suicidal thoughts. Even if there aren’t overt suicidal thoughts, people frequently describe not wanting to wake up or being okay with something happening to them. They may feel like they are a burden to others.
It is important to get good counseling. A therapist can assist with navigating life’s challenges, including the struggles related to having depression. Having an objective person available to explore beliefs, self-talk and to offer support, can be profound. It is important to identify possible underlying issues such as toxic relationships, trauma, addictions etc.
It is important to get a medical work-up to rule out medical issues that can cause or contribute to depression. A simple blood test can identify conditions like hypothyroidism or anemia that result in people having symptoms of depression. An imbalance in reproductive hormones or adrenal hormones may do this too.
Anti-depressant medication can be critical to those fighting chronic depression. Research has shown that patients with severe depression respond better to both therapy and medication working in tandem.
Most people that I work with are already taking anti-depressants. So I have an interest in keeping up with what else may be available to support one’s mood. Research continues to support exercise as an important tool for depression. Both aerobic and resistance training have been shown to be effective. Obviously, it can be hard for someone with depression to initiate exercise. Starting slow and increasing the intensity and duration of exercise seems to be the best approach. I encourage people to set a goal of doing some movement every day.
There’s some really fascinating information coming out regarding the role of inflammation, the immune system and the microbiome. All these were not connected to mental health and depression until recently. While the specifics are still being figured out, it makes sense to begin to assess a person for possible issues in any of these areas. This might include dietary adjustments, digestive and/or immune support.
Obviously, depression is complex and unique to the individual that it affects. It makes sense that its treatment and resolution is too.