As part of Fox 13's You Are Not Alone campaign with NAMI Utah, we talked with Rob Wesemann, Executive Director of NAMI Utah.
He told us that depression can present different symptoms, depending on the person. But for most people, depressive disorder changes how they function day-to-day, and typically for more than two weeks.
Common symptoms include:
- Changes in sleep
- Changes in appetite
- Lack of concentration
- Loss of energy
- Lack of interest in activities
- Hopelessness or guilty thoughts
- Changes in movement (less activity or agitation)
- Physical aches and pains
- Suicidal thoughts
Wesemann says depression does not have a single cause. It can be triggered by a life crisis, physical illness, or something else—but it can also occur spontaneously. Scientists believe several factors can contribute to depression:
- Trauma. When people experience trauma at an early age, it can cause long-term changes in how their brains respond to fear and stress. These changes may lead to depression.
- Genetics. Mood disorders, such as depression, tend to run in families.
- Life circumstances. Marital status, relationship changes, financial standing and where a person lives influence whether a person develops depression.
- Brain changes. Imaging studies have shown that the frontal lobe of the brain becomes less active when a person is depressed. Depression is also associated with changes in how the pituitary gland and hypothalamus respond to hormone stimulation.
- Other medical conditions. People who have a history of sleep disturbances, medical illness, chronic pain, anxiety, and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are more likely to develop depression. Some medical syndromes (like hypothyroidism) can mimic depressive disorder. Some medications can also cause symptoms of depression.
- Drug and alcohol misuse. 21% of adults with a substance use disorder also experienced a major depressive episode in 2018. Co-occurring disorders require coordinated treatment for both conditions, as alcohol can worsen depressive symptoms.
Although depressive disorder can be a devastating illness, it often responds to treatment. The key is to get a specific evaluation and treatment plan. Safety planning is important for individuals who have suicidal thoughts. After an assessment rules out medical and other possible causes, a patient-centered treatment plans can include any or a combination of the following:
- Psychotherapy including cognitive behavioral therapy, family-focused therapy, and interpersonal therapy.
- Medications including antidepressants, mood stabilizers and antipsychotic medications.
- Exercise can help with prevention and mild-to-moderate symptoms.
- Brain stimulation therapies can be tried if psychotherapy and/or medication are not effective. These include electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) for depressive disorder with psychosis or repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) for severe depression.
- Light therapy, which uses a light box to expose a person to full spectrum light in an effort to regulate the hormone melatonin.
- Alternative approaches including acupuncture, meditation, faith, and nutrition can be part of a comprehensive treatment plan.
Visit namiut.org for more information at if you are in need of suicide prevention support, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text TALK to 741741.