Doesn’t everyone get sad?
All of us feel sad or low at some points in our lives, and having passing, brief feelings like these don’t mean someone is depressed. Normal emotions are those that don’t control us. We may feel sad but it doesn’t last too long and it doesn’t interfere with our life. Depression is a state where not only does someone feel sad, or empty, or mad, but the person also experiences a lot of other symptoms at the same time, like having low energy, feeling excessively guilty, not enjoying things they normally would, poor concentration, and changes in appetite or sleep. When even a few of these symptoms happen together, your feelings begin to change your thought patterns and your behaviors in unhelpful ways and that makes it different than experiencing everyday emotions.
Does depression affect everyone similarly?
Not at all. One person with depression may have some overlap with another person’s symptoms but it can look very different in different people. Some people get sad, others feel empty or mad. Some people feel extremely anxious, and others feel like they don’t worry as much because they feel so low. Some sleep or eat too much, while others too little. Some people have thoughts of suicide (thoughts don’t necessarily mean someone intends to do it though.)The constellation of symptoms in each person can be very different, and they can come out in very different ways.
How long does depression last?
By definition an episode of depression lasts at least two weeks, but typically, it can continue for a few months to a couple years. However some people experience symptoms of depression, but their symptoms don’t rise to the definition of a depressive episode. In these cases, the person’s symptoms may not be consistent daily but they can come and go. Just because they come and go and aren’t a full episode, that doesn’t mean that the symptoms still are not affecting someone’s life in profound ways, so catching and treating these symptoms early can be life changing.
Is depression treatable?
Yes! Acknowledging that you’re experiencing depression is the first step. Then you work with someone to figure out what are the different factors that are making it better or worse. Next, you make a plan with small steps to start tackling it. Everyone can begin to take some steps, and the more steps you take, the further you can get in moving past the depression.
How long does it take to treat depression?
Usually, it will take a few months to get a full positive effect, but a number of people begin to feel significantly better within 2 to 4 weeks. Improvement doesn’t happen over night, but rather as a person get better, they will gradually notice that their symptoms are less frequent, or less intense. In some cases of more chronic depression, it might take much longer to treat, but over time, there will be noticeable improvements.
Will I need to take medicine?
Most people that experience a mild or moderate depression can improve with a number of lifestyle changes and therapy. Some of these people will still choose to add medicine to their treatment plan and it may help them get better even faster. For others with more severe symptoms and when the depression is really interfering significantly in their lives, like with work or relationships, it often makes sense to start a medicine first, as therapy and lifestyle changes alone may not be enough. Even when someone takes medicine and it helps significantly, it’s often still not enough by itself and needs to be combined with other strategies.
Will I need to be on medication forever?
It’s usually recommended to take a medicine for depression for one year after you’ve recovered so that you stay well and have less of a chance of falling back into a depressive episode. After one year, you would begin a medically supervised taper off the medicine that typically could take a few months to fully be off. Some people choose to discontinue medicine earlier than the one year mark and others choose to keep it on preventatively.
Do mood swings happen in bipolar disorder or depression?
Mood swings happen in both bipolar disorder and depression. Bipolar disorder is known to be defined by “highs” and “lows” that a person “cycles” through at various time points. In depression, a person is consistently in a “low” state. This is such a simplistic definition though that it often doesn’t apply to most people. Like most things, people don’t easily fit into boxes. Most people with depression experience “mood swings” too, like periods of high anxiety or irritability. Their low moods could be punctuated by short periods of feeling particularly good. This doesn’t mean it’s not depression, but rather that depression doesn’t present in just one way. When mood swings during depression are particularly severe though, this could mean that the depression is more like a bipolar depression.
Why does my brain feel slower?
Depression isn’t just about feelings and behavior, but its strongest effects are on our brains. Depression predominantly affects our cognition, the way our brain perceives, emits, functions, processes, and so when these areas are affected, it makes sense that we may feel “slowed” or “not as sharp”. Many people feel that thier memory is worse, or that they just can’t focus anymore. Others describe persistent brain fog. Luckily, all these symptoms improve once depression is treated.