While nothing can completely vanquish clinical depression, there are times when symptoms go into “hiding,” so to speak. You may think that if your symptoms disappear, you’re “cured.” Let’s look at some depression symptoms, how it’s diagnosed, and why symptoms fluctuate over time.
How Is Depression Diagnosed?
Doctors diagnose depression with a physical examination and an intake that asks questions about the patient’s personal and family history. You will be asked about specific symptoms and how long you’ve had them. Symptoms may include:
- Pervasive feelings of sadness or hopelessness
- Losing interest in activities you used to enjoy
- Significant changes in weight (gained or lost)
- Insomnia, excessive tiredness, or loss of energy
- Difficulties concentrating at work or school
- Recurring thoughts of suicide or self-harm
Clinical depression is diagnosed when at least five of these symptoms persist for two weeks or longer.
Is It Normal for Depression to Disappear and Reappear?
Some mental health professionals call an absence of depression symptoms a “remission.” That term implies that it can come back at some point in the future, which it does for many. If your depression symptoms appear to be fading, that’s excellent news. However, before you stop your treatment, you should be aware of some of the following reasons this could be happening:
Your Treatment Plan Is Working
If you have depression, the most likely reason you feel better is that your treatment, be it therapy, medication, or both, is working as it’s supposed to. If you stop your treatment, it’s likely for your symptoms to return. Just as a cancer patient completes chemotherapy even when scans show that the tumor has shrunk, it’s essential to follow through with depression treatment to keep your symptoms under control.
Your Depression May Not Be Clinical
Only your doctor can verify if this is the case. For some people, depression symptoms result from a specific life change, such as grief or loss, rather than a chemical imbalance in the brain. Some people feel better after a period of therapy and don’t experience depression symptoms again. Others need ongoing treatment, the same way one manages other lifelong conditions.
There is no shame in managing clinical depression for the majority of one’s life. If you wouldn’t feel guilty about managing diabetes, please don’t feel ashamed about having to manage depression.
What Are the Best Treatments for Depression?
Once diagnosed with clinical depression, your doctor may recommend one or both of the following:
There are many therapeutic techniques for improving mental health, but Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) remains the most popular. This type of therapy involves working one-on-one with a mental health professional to learn how to “reframe” negative thought patterns.
Medication tends to work best when paired with therapy, but it is quite effective at helping people manage depression triggers. The most common antidepressants include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which increase the brain’s supply of serotonin, and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), which address co-occurring disorders like depression and anxiety.
Is It Ever Okay to Stop Taking Antidepressants?
There is no correct answer to this question, as it highly depends on the person and how bad their symptoms are. However, it is highly unadvisable to stop the medication abruptly without a discussion with your doctor first. Doing this could potentially worsen the symptoms that the drug was intended to treat.
If you’re considering stopping medication due to adverse side effects, it’s possible the prescription isn’t the right one for you. Different people respond to medicines differently, so it’s not uncommon to try a few different types before finding the right one.
How Else Can I Prevent a Recurrence of Depression?
The success of certain treatments depends highly on the person. Mental health professionals recommend a combination of lifestyle changes to help keep depression symptoms at bay, including:
Keeping in Touch With Your Community
Having an emotional support system is crucial for people with depression. These could be family members, friends, or a mentor you trust. These are the people who can encourage you when you’re feeling down and motivate you when you need a pick-me-up. We encourage you to turn to this network when depression symptoms creep in.
Taking Care of Your Health
You may be surprised at how simple lifestyle changes, such as eating a balanced diet, limiting alcohol, and exercising regularly, can help improve your mood. It’s also important to be aware that mixing certain antidepressants with alcohol is dangerous.
Getting a Good Night’s Sleep
Depression is a known sleep disrupter. Not getting enough sleep can worsen the effects of symptoms already present. Experts recommend 7 to 9 hours of sleep for adults and consistent sleep schedules. That means going to bed and waking up at the same time every day. Talk to your doctor if you’re having trouble falling asleep at night.
Doing Things You Enjoy
Boost your mood and feel better about life by setting aside some time for an enjoyable activity like reading, watching a favorite show, walking your dog, or eating a favorite meal.
Unplugging as Needed
Social media and anxiety-inducing news headlines can take a toll on our emotional well-being, whether we have depression or not. Consider turning off your phone for a few hours at a time, or set aside a day you don’t sign on to social media.
Whether your depression is due to a chemical imbalance in the brain, or a challenging life change, there’s no shame in reaching out for help. The licensed mental health professionals at Crownview Co-Occurring Institute of Oceanside, California, are here to help. We don’t believe in a “one size fits all” approach in therapy; we recognize that some patients benefit from medication, treatment, or both. Our therapeutic practice meets state requirements and involves a variety of techniques, depending on the patient’s unique needs. The feedback we have received from our patients speaks to the success of these techniques. You, too, can benefit from depression treatment, no matter how bad your symptoms may seem right now. For questions about our treatments, call us today at 760-231-1170. We also have a contact form on our website and helpful information regarding insurance coverage.
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