The number of people affected by depression in the United States is eye-opening — 8.4% of adults (about 21 million people) have had at least one major depressive episode. These numbers don’t reflect those who have had undiagnosed or unreported depression, so the rate is likely even higher.
If you’re reading this, you may suspect that you or a loved one are struggling with depression, and you want to learn more. To that end, Dr. Matthew Goldenberg has put together the following information with the hope that you understand that there are solutions and tools that can help you break free from the darkness.
Symptoms of depression
Depression goes far beyond simply being sad or experiencing grief, which are normal emotions that we all encounter from time to time. With depression, the sadness is pervasive, global, and can be all-consuming. Not even your favorite friend, meal, or activity can lift it away or make you feel any better.
Outside of the sadness, people with depression often experience:
- Low interest in activities and hobbies that are normally enjoyed
- Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness and/or feelings of guilt
- Trouble with concentration or memory
- Sleep issues (too much or too little)
- Fatigue and loss of energy
- Changes in appetite (increased or decreased)
- Headaches and body aches
Major Depressive Disorder, as the National Institute of Mental Health considers clinical depression to be, “A period of at least two weeks when a person experienced a depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure in daily activities, and had a majority of specified symptoms, such as problems with sleep, eating, energy, concentration, or self-worth.”
Depression can make you forget the last time you felt good even if it was days or weeks ago. Depression can make you feel as if you are stuck in a pit of darkness, and you will never feel good or normal again.
This helps to understand why, in severe cases of depression, suicidal thoughts or ideation often occur. Suicide can be the most devastating consequence of the disease of depression.
We want to single out postpartum depression, as this type of depression has some unique characteristics. Estimates on postpartum depression range from between 1 in 7 and 1 in 10 women in the United States. This makes it fairly common. However, stigma and shame can make it hard for new mothers to reach out for help.
Postpartum depression shares the same symptoms outlined above, but also includes:
- Frequent episodes of crying
- Feeling numb
- Extreme mood swings, including angry outbursts
- Frustrating easily
Making matters more complex, postpartum depression can strike immediately after giving birth, or it may be delayed by weeks or months.
It can be hard to know what is normal exhaustion and fatigue from caring for an infant. However, if you feel you might have postpartum depression, there is no shame and no negative for getting assessed and getting care if you need it.
If you recognize any of the symptoms described above, we urge you to meet with a psychiatrist to get evaluated. During your initial session, Dr. Goldenberg thoroughly reviews your symptoms and the timeline of these symptoms and seeks to establish a diagnosis, before recommending any treatments.
Sometimes there can be co-occuring conditions or other mental health diagnoses that can cause symptoms of depression.
Therefore, meeting with a mental health expert such as a psychiatrist is key to receiving a proper diagnosis and to obtaining a better understanding of your condition.
After making a proper diagnosis, Dr. Goldenberg provides individualized and patient-specific treatment recommendations. As a general rule, if the frequency and severity of your symptoms are such that they’re preventing you from functioning and enjoying daily activities, medications can be a helpful tool to improve and reduce your symptoms.
Medication aims to reduce negative symptoms like depression and serve as a safety net so that symptoms do not recur.
Most importantly, the medications reduce your depressive symptoms to allow you to do the things you need to do to feel better: namely, diet, exercise, sleep, therapy, hobbies, interest, and finding meaning and purpose.
These non-medication-based interventions serve as longer-term solutions to help prevent depression from recurring and to be able to get off of medication.
Improving your lifestyle and making changes to your environment can do wonders for helping you feel better and more in control of your life and moods. But it is nearly impossible to make these changes while you are depressed and having trouble with basic functioning. That is where medications come in. They can provide a bridge to better health and to a place where you can make the changes in your life that are needed to overcome depression long-term.
Dr. Goldenberg generally doesn’t view medication as a long-term solution for depression, but as an effective way to stabilize your symptoms so you can concentrate on creating a more solid mental health and mental wellness foundation. In many cases, he aims to use medication for a period of 4-6 months of stability and without depression, which allows time for your nervous system to reset itself.
Meeting with a psychiatrist can help determine if starting a medication or making a medication change would help you to better achieve your goals and overcome depression. You do not have to go through this alone. There are medication and non-medication treatment options that can help. Meeting with a psychiatrist can be the first step to getting things back on track.
If you would like to be evaluated to determine if you have depression and to review your treatment options, contact our office in Santa Monica, California, by calling or booking a consultation online today.
Dr. Goldenberg also offers telemedicine services, and he is licensed in California and Alaska.