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There are many specific subgroups of depression, but the psychological condition is characterized by consistent low mood, feelings of guilt or hopelessness, and physical fatigue. The mood disorder affects how a person is able to interact with their job, education, and loved ones. Depression can manifest as insomnia or oversleeping, changes in appetite like overeating or undereating, reduced pleasure in hobbies or previously enjoyed activities, feeling sad or afraid much of the day, or experiencing no emotions. A psychologist or physician diagnoses depression if this mood persists for two weeks or more with no relief.
Specific types of depression include:
There are many therapies available to help people struggling with depression. Medication is often used, but it is not an effective treatment on its own. Most medical practitioners recommend a combination of therapy and medication. Everyone has different experiences with medication and may not find available treatments effective; instead, they find alternative or holistic treatments more effective in long-term management of depression. The specifics of medicinal treatment and holistic treatment are outlined below.
There are several types of medications available to treat depression. All of these medications function by adjusting the level of neurotransmitters in the brain, which can elevate mood. However, they affect different neurotransmitters in slightly different ways. These medications include:
Common side effects of antidepressant medications include:
It is important to keep the prescribing doctor up to date on side effects, original symptoms of depression, and the severity of all issues. Medication can be adjusted, although it is important to work with a professional therapist to understand the underlying causes and triggers for depression. Understanding this mental health condition can make coping with symptoms easier.
Some people may simply not respond to antidepressant medications, however. This can be a frustrating process and lead the person to feel overmedicated or out of control of their mental stability. People who go through this difficult experience may turn to other methods of treating symptoms when they appear or when they worsen. Holistic treatments or alternative health treatments can also work for some people, in conjunction with psychotherapy or mindfulness.
If a person experiences very negative reactions to antidepressant medications, does not experience any benefit from taking medications, or simply does not want to be concerned with the potential physical effects of taking medication, they may turn to holistic treatments to treat their depression. Holistic medicine is based on an inclusive approach to treating illness, which includes treating the body, mind, soul, and emotions. By balancing all of these together, instead of trying to focus on one area or another, holistic treatments aim to create a more balanced, stable, and satisfying life for the person in need.
Medical treatment for depression typically involves a combination of medicine and therapy; similarly, holistic treatments for depression likely combine several recommendations rather than relying on just one area. Some of the common holistic treatment recommendations for depression include:
While holistic treatment for depression can work well for some people, the reported benefits are largely self-reported and unscientific. In contrast, medication and psychotherapy have the best objective, scientifically supported outcomes. Working with a physician can also uncover potential underlying conditions, such as a thyroid or pituitary problem, that may be causing depressive symptoms but resolves with different treatment.
Holistic therapies often work best in combination with medical treatment for depression. It is important for the person choosing any or all of these options to make sure practitioners on all sides know about all treatments that are being given. For example, St. John’s wort interacts with many prescription medications, including antidepressants, and can negate their effects.
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People with untreated mental health problems are more likely to struggle with addiction or substance abuse, often as a method of self-medicating the symptoms of their mental health condition. People who struggle with substance abuse are also at risk of changing their brain chemistry enough to induce a mental health issue, such as depression. In these cases, symptoms of one disorder are likely to make symptoms of the other condition worse.
Fortunately, many rehabilitation programs are equipped to help people struggling with co-occurring disorders like substance abuse and depression. Medical detox can ease the person off their physical dependence on an addictive and intoxicating substance; individual therapy and group therapy help the person learn about triggers for their substance abuse and/or addiction; and prescription medication can ease symptoms of both withdrawal and depression. Some rehabilitation programs may also offer complementary, holistic, or alternative therapies, which work in concert with more traditional, evidence-based treatments.