What is Depression? Depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain that manifests as a mood disorder. Its symptoms include low mood most of the day on most days (for at least 2 weeks), feelings of hopelessness and/or helplessness, loss of pleasure in previously enjoyable activities, irritability, guilt, low energy, fatigue, change in sleep, change in eating, aches or pains, and thoughts of death or suicide. Someone suffering from depression may have some or all of these symptoms.
Treatment of Depression. Depression is best treated as early as possible. Psychotherapy is an extremely effective form of treatment, especially cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). During CBT, patients learn to identify thought patterns that contribute to their depressed feelings, challenge those thought patterns, and replace them with healthier beliefs systems. They will also be encouraged to engage in behaviors that provide them with positive feelings, such as being with friends, exercising, engaging in activities they previously enjoyed or finding new interests. For some, medication is a helpful adjunct to therapy. It can take a few weeks for medication to be effective, and some people do not like the side effects. CBT has been shown to be very effective in alleviating the symptoms of depression and helping individuals back to the path of where they want to be.
CBT, Nutrition, and Sleep. I have been treating people with depression since 2005. For my patients, getting them back to their interests, reminding them of their values and goals, and helping them be active again has been very effective. As mentioned above, challenging unhealthy beliefs is an integral part of the treatment as well. Over the last few years in my work in nutritional psychology, my patients have benefitted from research findings that certain foods can increase serotonin, one of the major neurotransmitters implicated in depression. We can observe your diet and add foods that can provide you with this boost as well. One other area of exploration in treatment is sleep. Many people with depression have interrupted sleep or sleep too much. This can increase depression symptoms. We will work together to get you back on a more consistent and healthy sleep schedule, which in turn will help you with depression symptoms. Please feel free to read the articles below on the relationships between food, sleep and depression, and I hope to hear from you soon.
Suicide and depression
It would be remiss not to speak about the current passing of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. Although as a psychologist I deal with depression and suicidality frequently, there is a phenomenon known as “suicide contagion”, which is important for parents and others to be aware of. Sensationalizing of suicide, as in the news media or television shows, seems to be related to an increase in suicidal behavior particularly for adolescents and young adults who have experienced adverse life events or for those who are depressed. If this describes you are or your child, please make an appointment with a mental health professional today.
–Dr. Melanie S. Levine