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Understanding Depression: Symptoms, Diagnoses, and Treatment


“The sun stopped shining for me is all. The whole story is: I am sad. I am sad all the time and the sadness is so heavy that I can’t get away from it. Not ever.” -Nina LaCour

These profoundly revealing words from Nina LaCour help illustrate what many people suffering from depression feel on a daily basis. While experiencing feelings of sadness is normal, depression is persistent, and can affect a person's ability to function in life.

According to the World Health Organization, 300 million people suffer from major depression on a global scale, with 16.2 million—6.7 percent—of Americans experiencing at least one episode in a given year. It's no secret that depression is a major issue facing the mental health of our nation, and major depression is one of the more severe and common diagnoses. To further gain understanding of this mental health disorder, let's dive into the symptoms, diagnoses and treatment options surrounding depression today.

Symptoms of Depression

While each depression diagnosis comes with its own unique symptoms, the most general symptoms of depression that carry over into a majority of diagnoses include:

  • Persistent feelings of sadness
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Concentration difficulties
  • Feeling hopeless and empty
  • Anxiety
  • Loss of interest in things once enjoyed
  • Lack of motivation
  • Loss of appetite
  • Increased appetite
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Insomnia
  • Hypersomnia
  • Self-isolation


Classifications of Depression

The DSM-V classifies depression in a variety of ways based upon multiple factors including symptoms, how long the symptoms have lasted, and any known triggers. The different depression diagnoses include:

  • Major Depression (MDD): This involves a high percentage of the aforementioned symptoms persistent for at least two weeks. Other factors are taken into account during diagnosis such as other illnesses or disorders, bereavement, etc. to determine that this is not an adjustment disorder or comorbid symptom of another illness.
  • Dysthymia: Depression symptoms that last for over two years and are milder than symptoms of major depression.
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder: Depression that presents with the changing of the seasons, such as during fall or winter in colder climates that have reduced sunlight during these months.
  • Perinatal Depression: Depression symptoms during or just after childbirth lasting 2 weeks or longer.
  • Psychotic Depression: Depression paired with psychosis which could present as delusional thoughts or beliefs, or even hallucinations. This form of depression is present in those who suffer from schizoaffective disorder.
  • Bipolar Depression: Depression that rotates between mania or hypomania, causing a person with bipolar disorder to experience extreme highs and lows.
  • Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder: This is a severe form of PMS (premenstrual syndrome) that is accompanied by symptoms of depression.  Approximately three to eight percent of women suffer from PMDD.
  • Disruptive Mood Dysregulation: This is a new diagnosis for children ages 6-18 who experience extreme outbursts of anger, irritability or a persistently angry mood three times or more every week for one year or longer. The onset must occur before age ten, and the reactions must be out of proportion to the situation
  • Substance/Medication-Induced Depression: This is depression occurring as a side-effect of drug, alcohol or prescription medication use.
  • Depressive Disorder Due to Another Medical Condition: It's very common for someone with a life-altering illness (such as cancer) to develop depression as a side-effect.
  • Other Specified Depressive Disorder: This is depression that cannot fit into the other categories. Symptoms could be fewer, shorter, etc.
  • Unspecified Depressive Disorder:

    This is depression that presents with unique symptoms that cannot fit into any other diagnosis. 

    Subtypes of Depression

  • In addition to the several categories of depression, there are also a variety of subtypes that categorize how some of the symptoms present in different individuals. These include:

  • Melancholic: This is depression that causes weight loss, difficulty eating or sleeping, and an inability to feel pleasure or interest in things once enjoyed. Positive events do not influence mood.
  • Atypical: This form of depression causes overeating and oversleeping, a lack of motivation and fatigue. Mood may improve in the presence of positive events.
  • Anxiety: Symptoms of anxiety present alongside depression. Anxiety is common in 40% of depression cases.
  • Vascular: This category is new, present in sufferers of silent cardiovascular disease, typically over 60 years of age.

    Treating Depression

    Studies show the best method for treating depression is a combination of therapy and medication. While this is seemingly an effective line of defense for some people, 50 percent of those diagnosed with depression do not respond to antidepressants. This leaves many to opt for more holistic depression treatment methods, as well as an integrative approach toward mental health.

    Some holistic, integrative approaches include:

    • Getting 15 minutes of direct sunlight exposure each day (before putting on sunscreen)
    • Regulated sleep cycles (7-9 hours per night within 30 minutes of the same time)
    • Regular exercise
    • Healthy eating habits with balanced nutrition
    • Essential micronutrient supplements
    • Mindfulness and yoga
    • Social support systems

    One of the largest obstacles facing the mental health community as it relates to treating depression is the prevalence of substance use to self-medicate symptoms. Using alcohol, drugs, or other prescription medications (not intended for depression treatment) oftentimes makes the depression symptoms worse, or simply masks the underlying root cause of the disorder so that once the medication or substance wears off, the person ends up feeling worse than before taking anything. It also causes imbalances in the neurotransmitters which have a direct impact on mood.

    One of the newest, most effective methods for treating depression that's been researched today involves using just the right mix of essential micronutrients to give the body and mind what it needs to function better. Such nutrients studied involve all of the essential vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and essential fatty acids our bodies need to perform at an optimal level. There are a variety of blends out there, but not all of them are created equally.

    I recommend Focus Essentials, as they didn't compromise on any of the ingredients when distributors didn't have what its creators needed. They took their time to source the right people to make their formula from the highest quality ingredients at the appropriate concentrations for treating not only depression, but also a variety of mental health disorders such as ADHD, anxiety, bipolar II, trauma, psychosis, and more. If you suffer from any of the symptoms or disorders mentioned above, you owe it to yourself to try a bottle and see how you feel. If it doesn't help you feel better, you'll be given a full refund.

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