If there is one thing that has been improved upon in recent times, it is our approach to mental health. That being said, there is still much work to be done to encourage the general public to explore their own wellbeing and look for signs that they or their loved ones are struggling to manage in their day-to-day lives.
As of 2017, an estimated 17.3 million adults in the United States had been diagnosed with having at least one major depressive episode. At the time, that figure represented 7.1% of all US adults aged 18-25. In addition, 35% of adults who suffered these major depressive episodes did not receive treatment.
There is a societal reason for this to some extent; there are still plenty of men and women who refuse to acknowledge their condition, believing it to be a weakness. However, with only 6% of adults choosing a medication solution after suffering from an episode, it is apparent to us that using medicine to support mental health is still stigmatized.
Therefore, we thought it would be beneficial to explore the signs of depression and how medication seeks to address them.
What are considered the signs of depression?
Symptoms of depression vary far beyond feeling sad. Feelings akin to hopelessness, numbness or a clouded head could all be signs that you are struggling with poor mental health.
The condition can manifest in three different ways:
Psychological – Feeling permanently fearful and guilt-ridden? There is a possibility that these feelings you are experiencing are not a bout of anxiety but a sign of depression. Being intolerant of others and having a sense of rawness to your emotions often precedes suicidal thoughts or immense worry. A feelings diary can help to document the frequency of these emotions and better inform you of your need for medical assistance.
Physical – Constipation, aches and pains or disturbed sleep point to signs of depression. It is easier to register them if you are already experiencing psychological distress; however, for some, the depression can be so deeply rooted that the condition manifests itself physically first. Stay alert to slowed speech or a loss of libido.
Social – Perhaps much harder to quantify, social symptoms of depression relate to the external experiences you have. It may be that your performance at work is noticeably getting worse or the hobbies you used to actively pursue have since fallen by the wayside. Signs of self-imposed exclusion also include a toxic family life and avoiding friends.
If any of the above relate to you currently, it may be necessary for you to keep a log of these feelings. Should the emotions persist for a period longer than two weeks, speak to a medical professional.
How medication can support you
The cost of a psychiatrist or counsellor can leave sufferers of depression in lifelong debt. That is why medication is so widely available across the US. Although, knowledge of drugs and their effectiveness is not widely understood enough.
While it is agreed that antidepressants (like Prozac) work by interacting with our neurotransmitters, the exact nature of antidepressants is not entirely known. So, ensure you have a firm understanding of the effectiveness of each antidepressant you’ve been prescribed prior to use.
The majority of these prescribed antidepressants are referred to as SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors). They boost serotonin in the brain and feature products such as Celexa and Paxil. Studies have shown all antidepressants (SSRIs more so than others) to work better than a placebo. In fact, according to a study published in The Lancet, around 60% of people taking medication notice a 50% reduction in symptoms after two months.
Usually, these antidepressants are taken in tablet form. In most cases, you will start on the lowest possible dose believed necessary to improve your symptoms. Bear in mind that most antidepressants require one or two weeks of regimented dosage before the benefit is registered. These treatment plans will then typically run for at least six months.
You can experience withdrawal if you begin missing your dosage. The symptoms of withdrawal typically include:
- Upset stomach
- Flu-like symptoms
- Return of negative thinking patterns
Your course of medication should be reduced over several weeks. If you wish to cease taking your medication or swap to another solution, be sure to contact your doctor first. For more information regarding the science behind antidepressants, see our previous discussion covering the variations of depression medication.
Alternatives for those suffering from mild depression
It is important to remember that medication is better suited to individuals with moderate or severe depression. Those suffering from mild depression could find themselves developing a dependency on the drug, further aggravating their symptoms.
If you believe yourself to be suffering only mild symptoms, there are a number of solutions available to you. For example, unlike expensive talking therapies, exercise is free and can promote the production of serotonin (and dopamine) in the brain. Exercising regularly boosts self-esteem and is considered to prevent negative thought patterns from occurring.
Similarly, meditation will help your brain fight these patterns, particularly in times of great stress. Anxiety attacks and negative thinking can lead to symptoms of depression, so being able to manage such patterns means you are better equipped to control your mood. In addition, by performing breathing exercises, you will increase the likelihood of a good night’s sleep, allowing you to feel genuinely rested.
Finally, communicate to your friends and family. They say a problem shared is a problem halved, after all. View your brain at times of stress like an open wound and invest in treatments for your condition while taking every opportunity to rest.
Medication should be used when you need assistance in restoring yourself back to normal. It is not a weakness to ask for help, nor are antidepressants a sign that you have given up. Both are appropriate courses of action in the face of internal strife.
If you are uncertain of your symptoms and would like the guidance of an expert, our pharmacists can be contacted here. If your inquiry is urgent, our customer service team are available 24/7 on 1-866-500-6633 (toll-free phone number) or +44 1438500111 (international phone number).