The Genesis Health Blog
Comprehensive Mental Health Care: 5 Questions to Ask Your Doctor
Depression is one of the world’s most common mental illnesses, and millions of people have been diagnosed with some form of it. Although some medical providers might see depression as a disease that only lives in the brain, we, as comprehensive mental health practitioners, know better.
Depression is a disease of the mind — but it also affects your body, relationships, and spirit. It’s important to ask the right questions to get the answers you need to start looking at your depression holistically. Here are five questions to start with.
What kind of depression do I have?
Not all depressive disorders are created equal. What works for one type of depression might not work for yours. Although the core symptoms of depression remain consistent across types, you might feel things that other people with depression don’t.
Some common types of depression include:
- Major Depressive Disorder (MDD): This is what most healthcare providers are referring to when they diagnose someone with depression. MDD is usually characterized by a low mood, loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy, and feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness.
- Bipolar Depression: People with bipolar depression swing between depression and mania. Manic episodes come with feelings of elation and impulsive behaviors like spending too much money, risky sex, or substance abuse.
- Seasonal affective disorder (SAD): People with SAD get depression symptoms with changes in the seasons and weather. Most people associate SAD with the “winter blues,” but there are people who feel depressed in the sunny months of the summer too.
It’s clear to see why distinguishing between these different types of depression would be so important. A treatment that is recommended for one type of disorder might not work for another. Identifying the type of depression you have can also help you get to the root causes behind your depression.
How might my depression affect me physically?
We think of depression as an emotional disorder, but it actually affects our bodies, too. It’s important to ask about the physical symptoms of depression so that you can take care of your body in the right way. Some common physical symptoms of depression include:
- Frequent headaches
- Stomach problems
- Excessive tiredness
- Problems sleeping
- Changes in your appetite (eating more or less than usual)
- A decrease in sex drive
- Pain in your body or muscles
It’s important to be aware of the physical manifestations of depression so you can quickly recognize it when it comes on.
Are there any actions I can take that will help with depression?
Yes, receiving treatment is an important part of dealing with depression, but it’s also important to identify the steps toward healing that are within your control. What changes can you make to your life that will make an impact on depression symptoms? This is something that you can get your doctor’s guidance on.
Your doctor will probably advise you to get some regular physical activity in your life. The research overwhelmingly says that physical activity is one of the best things you can do to increase your own happiness and beat depression. Strive for at least 20 minutes of physical activity three days per week. You don’t need to go to the gym if that’s not your thing; taking a morning walk with friends can be just as effective for depression.
Other lifestyle changes you can make that will probably make a big difference in your depression are starting on medication, eating a healthy diet, getting enough restful sleep every night, and intentionally connecting to your social support network. Connecting to faith communities and spiritual practices may also help.
What are my treatment options?
There is now a wide variety of treatment options for depression available, from medications to therapy methods to holistic treatments. What works for another person might not work for you, and it’s important to keep trying until you find something that makes you feel better. Depression is an illness, and you don’t need to suffer with it forever.
Some common treatments for depression are:
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT, is often the first-line treatment that’s recommended for people who’ve been diagnosed with depression or anxiety. CBT teaches people that their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are all connected. In essence, your feelings of depression can be linked back to negative thinking patterns; if you can learn how to change your thoughts, then you can take control of your emotions and feel better.
The most common type of medication that’s prescribed for depression is called Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor, or SSRI. Brand names for SSRIs include Prozac and Zoloft. SSRIs change the amount of serotonin that’s available in your brain; serotonin is a chemical that’s responsible for regulating your feelings and improving your mood. Other types of medication might also be helpful, including tricyclic antidepressants.
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation
Transcranial magnetic stimulation, more commonly known as TMS therapy, is an innovative technique that involves sending electromagnetic pulses to certain areas of your brain. It’s so effective that the FDA has approved it for the treatment of depression, and it’s also being studied for its potential benefits for post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and anxiety.
TMS therapy could be an especially great option for you if you’ve tried other types of treatment for your depression and haven’t seen improvement. This is called treatment-resistant depression.
These are only three of the most common types of treatment options for depression. Ask your doctor about all the options that are available to you.
Could other health conditions be contributing to my depression?
If you feel like your depression symptoms get worse when you’re having a flare-up of another health condition, then you’re probably right. Research has shown that people with certain physical illnesses, including chronic pain conditions, asthma, and Hepatitis C, are more likely to have depression than people who don’t.
It isn’t hard to see why: living with physical illnesses, especially chronic and painful ones, is incredibly difficult and stressful. That can absolutely cause someone to feel depressed.
Other physical conditions could cause depression more directly. Hypothyroidism, for example, can cause people to experience the symptoms of depression (although they are two completely different diseases).
Genesis Behavioral Health, San Antonio, Texas
If you are struggling with depression, please know that you don’t have to suffer alone. At Genesis Behavioral Health, we want to aid you in your journey to healing. We want to help you thrive, not just survive. To learn more about how we can help you improve your mental health, please reach out to our intake office by email or by phone (210-404-9696).
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