Clinical depression can affect people of all ages, genders, cultures and ethnicities. In the United States alone, some 17 million people suffer from the condition, making it a fairly common disease. Though prevalent, clinical depression is often unrecognized and misunderstood, and as a result, untreated.
A major cause of misunderstanding is the notion that this is a normal, passing condition. People say that it is normal for someone who experienced a tragic loss, such as the death of a loved one, to be sad and depressed. This may be so, but if the sadness and depression continues for a long time, without lessening in intensity, and continuously making it impossible for the person to live a normal life, then this is no longer normal or healthy. This condition is called clinical depression. It is a serious medical illness that needs to be professionally treated. It is not a condition that can just be willed away by the person, or that will go away on its own with the passing of time.
The good news is, there is treatment for this condition. It is possible to break away from the sadness, hopelessness, helplessness and apathy to life, which demonstrate a depressive condition. The usual route is through professional treatment, but there are also self-care activities that the person can do to cope with his depression.
Medical treatment is often the first step, because the depressed person usually does not have enough interest, desire, energy or resources to get well on his own. He may know what to do, but he lacks the will or desire to carry those things out. Also, when a person starts to entertain thoughts of suicide, medical treatment becomes a must. He should not be left on his own, as such is clearly unsafe.
Treatment typically involves a combination of psychotherapy and medication. Psychotherapy aims to help the person cope with things present in his daily life that may trigger depression or contribute to it, while medication eliminates or reduces the symptoms of depression. These symptoms include feeling sad all the time, having trouble sleeping, disturbed eating patterns, fatigue, and loss of interest in daily activities.
The usual drugs given to treat depression are antidepressants. There are various kinds of antidepressants, including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which appear to be the safest and have the fewest side effects. Other types are tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs). Each person has a unique set of biochemical characteristics, and depending on this, the doctor will determine which type of antidepressants will be most effective for him.
There are also different types of counseling and psychotherapy that the physician may employ, again considering the unique characteristics of the person to be treated. They include interpersonal therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), and psychodynamic therapy.
When the traditional methods combining medication and therapy fail to achieve the desired results, more aggressive treatment options may be used, such as electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). There are many treatment options, and there is at least one that will successfully treat a clinically depressed person.
On his own, ideally while the treatment is ongoing, the person can do the following self-care activities to help manage his condition:
• Eat a healthy, balanced diet.
• Exercise regularly.
• Get adequate sleep.
• Develop time- and stress-management skills.
• Learn to acknowledge feelings rather than suppress them.
• Have a support system consisting of family and friends.
There is clearly help for people with clinical depression. The condition can, and should, be treated so that one can start to live normally and happily again.