Depression is a mood disorder categorized by persistent sadness and a general loss of interest. A staggering 1 in 5 Americans experience depression at some point during their lifetime, so you’re not alone if you suspect you may have depression.
It can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems. Those who suffer may experience the inability to perform routine tasks like getting out of bed. Depression is not just feeling “sad” or “unmotivated” — it is the continued and overwhelming presence of these feelings even if there’s no external cause.
How do I know if I have depression?
There is no simple answer to this question. Depression can look different for every person. That being said, there are a few places where you can start looking for help.
First, it’s helpful to know the main symptoms of depression. People with depression often:
- – Feel helpless or hopeless
- – Lose interest in simple pleasures
- – Change their sleeping and eating patterns
- – Frequently feel angry or irritable
- – Lack energy and concentration
If some of these common depression symptoms are familiar to you, you might benefit from taking a free self-assessment such as this one, which clinicians use to measure depression severity.
This tool can also help track how you’re doing, so that you have a better sense of whether or not you should seek care. Of course, this is just an online tool. It’s not meant to replace the opinion of a mental health professional.
I think I have depression. What are my treatment options?
If you or someone you know is living with depression, there are many options for treatment. Some of the most popular options include psychotherapy and medication.
There are three main types of psychotherapy (also known as talk therapy): cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), interpersonal therapy, and psychodynamic therapy.
CBT focuses on challenging negative thoughts that worsen depressive symptoms. Interpersonal therapy focuses on you and your relationships with others. Psychodynamic therapy places an emphasis on interpreting mental processes rather than trying to “fix” behavior. The goal with psychodynamic therapy is to find patterns in yourself and, as a result, gain better self-understanding. Therapists often use a blend of all three approaches.
The other common option is medication. Over 60% of people who choose to use antidepressants report a reduction in their depressive symptoms, and medication can be an effective, long-term solution.
Many people choose to use either psychotherapy or medication alone, and many use both. In fact, research shows the combination of both produces the best outcomes.
However, what works for one person might not work for another, so it is important to remember that your journey to mental health is your journey.
Luckily, personalizing your path to mental health is getting easier. Today, technology like genetic testing helps clinicians make better recommendations for your care.
Your genes drive 90% of your response to a medication. By understanding your genetic makeup, you may save yourself months of trial and error with different antidepressants.
And remember, no matter what treatment you do or do not choose to try, there is help out there. Even though your journey is unique, you don’t have to be on your own.