Depression is a mood disorder characterized by a persistent feeling of sadness, hopelessness, and loss of interest in life activities. It shouldn’t be confused with “the blues,” temporary mood fluctuations that most people experience as a normal part of life.
Especially when depressive episodes are recurrent and moderate to severe in intensity, depression can become a serious health condition, leading to:
- Isolation and detachment
- Poor performance at school or work
- An inability to form and maintain social and family interactions
Depression is the main cause of disability worldwide, affecting an estimated 3.8% of the population. Fortunately, though, there are treatments that can help.
There are some simple things you can do to help improve your depression symptoms on your own, but they work best when combined with this powerful approach.
What causes depression?
Depression results from a complex interaction of biological, social, and psychological factors. You’re more likely to develop it if you’ve gone through grief or trauma; on the flip side, being depressed can increase your level of stress and worsen dysfunction.
Depression and physical health are closely related. For example, cardiovascular disease can lead to depression, but being depressed can worsen cardiovascular disease.
Other factors that likely play a role include:
- Genetics — you’re more likely to develop the disorder if a close relative has it
- Changes in brain neurotransmitter levels, especially serotonin and norepinephrine
- Other physical or mental conditions, including bipolar disorder, anxiety, and diabetes
Every person is unique, so the contributing factors vary from one individual to the next. Women are twice as likely as men to develop the condition.
As with causes, symptoms of depression can vary from one person to another. They may include any or all of the following:
- Blue mood
- Decreased interest in hobbies, sports, or social gatherings
- Loss of libido
- Changes in appetite
- Unintentional weight loss or gain
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Overwhelming fatigue
- Feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, or guilt
- Difficulty thinking, focusing, or making decisions
- Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
- Suicide attempt
These symptoms tend to occur more often in women: irritability, anxiety, mood swings, and dwelling on negative thoughts. Closely related conditions that only appear in women are postpartum depression and premenstrual dysphoric disorder.
You need to experience a depressed mood for at least two weeks to be diagnosed with depression.
Simple things you can do to improve depression symptoms
If you’re depressed, there are things you can do to improve your mood:
- Exercise, which boosts endorphin levels
- Get enough quality sleep, which helps heal tissues and reset neurotransmitters
- Maintain a healthy diet to provide the nutrition necessary to feel better
Avoiding alcohol, which is a depressant, is also a good idea.
Support is critical to beating depression. Talk with your family members and friends about what you’re experiencing, and ask for practical solutions. They can also help you research the condition. Knowledge is power.
Consider talking with a psychotherapist or undergoing cognitive behavioral therapy, which teaches you how to respond to triggers more positively and productively.
How ketamine works
Up to a third of patients with depression have treatment-resistant depression, meaning conventional therapies such as psychotherapy and antidepressant medications aren’t effective. For these people, ketamine offers a way out of the dark hole.
Unlike most antidepressants, ketamine affects glutamate, the brain’s most common excitatory neurotransmitter, regulating the brain’s processing of emotions, thoughts, and neuroplasticity. It’s a major part of the process by which a person learns, remembers, and responds to experiences.
Glutamate produces and balances GABA, a calming neurotransmitter. Since depleted glutamate and GABA can result in depression, ketamine increases glutamate receptors to restore normal levels of both.
Once the levels have returned to normal, ketamine helps the brain grow new neural connections, which can reset the brain and your mood.
If you’re suffering from any of the symptoms of depression and conventional treatments aren’t helping, it’s time to come into ReYou for an evaluation. To learn more or to determine if you’re a good candidate, call us at 908-638-1133, or book a consultation online today.