What to do if Experiencing Depression

I’ve experienced clinical depression once in my life as a teen (17-ish). I can only tell you that it felt awful. It’s like every cell in your body just gives up. Joy is a distant memory; One is a living husk; Everything is sepia; Food loses its flavor; Thoughts of death are welcomed and entertained. It’s feels like a perpetual chasm with no bottom. Many try to self medicate or start putting their affairs in order for, what seems to the sufferer, the most obvious next step.

Depression can be debilitating and is co-morbid with OCD (studies show about 31%+ of those with OCD can have depression). As to which comes first, is still debated among professionals.

  • Acknowledge that there is a problem.
  • Visit your PCP and get some blood work done to rule out a hormonal/metabolic issue that may mimic depression.
  • Move your body despite your feelings to want to stay idle (go for a walk, hang out with friends). Exercise releases endorphins and can alleviate some of the aches and pains that are associated with depression..
  • Find a support group (whether family of friends or through an organization, it’s important to develop connections to people)
  • Understand that there is a chemical or cognitive issue inside the brain that is causing depression.
  • Find a therapist that has successfully treated depression. Depression and anxiety are fortunately one of the most treatable mental illnesses. I favor ACT/CBT therapists over traditional psychoanalysis.
  • Do not fear SSRI’s; Should your mental health professional recommend it, SSRI’s can increase the efficacy of cognitive treatments and reduce symptoms. As someone who is in a healthcare related field. Many people are taking SSRI’s with positive results even if they aren’t talking about it. This is also changing as people are opening up about their mental health issues as the stigma seems to be diminishing
  • Understand that having a mental illness does not mean you are “crazy.”
  • Be patient and results will follow.

As to what causes depression it isn’t completely known. The brain is very complicated and experiments are hard to test since the brain acts like networks within networks which doesn’t lend itself to obvious answers. Serotonin seems to have an important role. Serotonin is an inhibiting neurotransmitter which is why it works for both anxiety and depression. How SSRI’s work is not completely understood. While the chemical imbalance theory is probably the most prevalent, research is showing that the human brain has more than one “serotonin level” depending on which part of the brain is being examined which  adds a layer of complication to the chemical imbalance theory.

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