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What is Depression?

At some point, nearly everyone faces a loss of interest in everyday activities or periods of sadness. But when do those feelings indicate a more serious mental health issue like depression?

Before answering those questions, we’ll answer one question that will provide context: What is depression?

DEPRESSION: DEFINITION AND SYMPTOMS

Depression, also known as major depressive disorder (MDD), is a serious medical illness that can have a profound impact on how you feel, think, and act.

This condition is far more than just feeling sad or going through a rough phase. It’s a persistent and pervasive feeling of sadness or loss that lasts for weeks, months, or even years and can significantly disrupt your daily life.

According to the World Health Organization, 280 million people suffer from depression worldwide.

Depression Symptoms

The symptoms of depression vary and can manifest differently from person to person.

Common symptoms include:

  • Changes in appetite and weight, insomnia, or oversleeping
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of pleasure or interest in previously enjoyable activities
  • Persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, irritability, and emptiness
  • Thoughts of self-harm or suicide

These symptoms can significantly disrupt your personal and professional life, leading to functional impairment and reduced quality of life.

Causes of Depression

The exact cause of depression isn’t fully understood, but it typically stems from a combination of genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors.

Some common triggers for depression include:

  • Major life changes (e.g., loss of a loved one, job loss): Significant life events can trigger feelings of depression, especially if they are unexpected.
  • Chronic stress: Long-term stress can overwhelm the body’s ability to cope, leading to depression.
  • Traumatic events: Experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event like physical or emotional abuse can increase the risk of developing depression.
  • Medical conditions (e.g., chronic illness, hormonal imbalances): Certain medical conditions like Alzheimer’s can cause changes in brain chemistry, leading to depression.
  • Substance abuse: Alcohol and drugs can also disrupt the brain’s chemical balance and contribute to feelings of depression.

It’s essential to note that everyone experiences depression differently, and not all individuals who experience these triggers will develop depression. It’s a complex condition that requires individualised treatment.

Co-occurrence With Other Mental Health Issues

Depression often co-occurs with other mental health issues. This is because depression and other mental health disorders share similar underlying factors, such as imbalances in brain chemicals and genetics. Additionally, living with one disorder can increase the risk of developing others.

Some common mental health issues that may co-occur with depression include:

  • Anxiety disorders: Anxiety and depression share some common symptoms, like changes in sleep patterns, difficulty concentrating, and irritability.
  • Substance abuse disorders: People with depression may turn to alcohol or drugs to cope with symptoms, leading to the development of a substance use disorder.
  • Eating disorders: Depression can coexist with eating disorders like bulimia, anorexia nervosa, and binge eating disorder.
  • Personality disorders: Borderline and avoidant personality disorders have high comorbidity rates with depression.

It’s essential to address these co-occurring conditions in conjunction with depression treatment for better outcomes.

Managing Depression

While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to managing depression, some strategies may help alleviate symptoms. These include traditional and non-traditional treatments.

Traditional Treatment Options For Depression

Traditional treatment options for depression primarily revolve around medication and psychotherapy.

Medication

Doctors often prescribe antidepressant medications, like serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, to alleviate depressive symptoms.

These medications regulate neurotransmitters in the brain to improve mood and emotional stability. A 2020 report backs up evidence showing antidepressants are effective treatments for chronic, moderate, and severe depression.¹

Psychotherapy (Talk Therapy)

Psychotherapy, particularly cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), is another cornerstone of traditional depression treatment.

CBT identifies and modifies negative thought patterns or behaviours, empowering individuals to develop healthier coping mechanisms. This therapeutic approach has demonstrated efficacy in reducing depressive symptoms and preventing relapse.

Other forms of psychotherapy that may aid in managing depression include:

  • Dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT): DBT focuses on developing skills to manage emotions, improve relationships and reduce impulsivity. It’s shown to decrease moderate to severe depressive symptoms in people diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and co-occurring substance abuse disorders.²
  • Trauma-focused therapy: This type of therapy, which includes narrative exposure, targets traumatic experiences that may contribute to depression. There’s evidence showing that trauma-focused therapy helps decrease depressive symptoms in individuals diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.³

Innovative Approaches to Depression Treatment

While traditional treatments are invaluable, approaches like deep transcranial magnetic stimulation (DTMS), ketamine-assisted healing, and lifestyle psychiatry offer a more nuanced, comprehensive approach to treating depression.

These alternative approaches to treating depression highlight the importance of personalised care and finding the right treatment plan that works for each person’s unique needs. With advancements in technology and a better understanding of mental health, it’s now possible to explore a variety of treatment options and find relief from depression.

Deep TMS

Deep TMS is a non-invasive neurostimulation technique that specifically targets key areas of the brain associated with mood regulation. Each session lasts around 20 minutes, and treatment typically lasts five to seven weeks. There are little to no side effects beyond a brief headache.

The Food and Drug Administration approved DTMP for MDD and anxious depression. It’s shown promising results in improving depressive symptoms and is particularly beneficial for individuals who haven’t responded to traditional treatments.

Lifestyle Psychiatry

Lifestyle psychiatry emphasises the importance of addressing all aspects of a person’s life.

By focusing on holistic wellness, it aims to improve overall mental health and prevent future episodes of depression. This approach is beneficial for individuals who struggle with chronic stress or have a history of relapse.

Lifestyle psychiatry involves addressing lifestyle factors that may contribute to depression, such as:

  • Exercise: Regular physical activity increases endorphin levels and promotes overall well-being.
  • Diet: A balanced, nutritious diet can positively impact brain function and improve mood.
  • Mental and physical health: Poor physical health can lead to depression and vice versa. Lifestyle psychiatry aims to improve overall health through mindfulness and stress management techniques.
  • Sleep: Sleep plays a crucial role in mood regulation, and people with depression often struggle with sleep disturbances. Lifestyle psychiatry can address sleep hygiene and provide strategies to improve sleep quality.
  • Social interactions and relationships: Having a strong support system and participating in activities that bring joy and fulfilment can improve overall well-being.
  • Stress: Chronic stress may lead to depression. Lifestyle psychiatry aims to identify stressors and provide coping mechanisms to manage them effectively.
  • Substance use: People with depression may turn to drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism, but this can worsen symptoms and lead to addiction. Lifestyle psychiatry can address substance use and provide healthier coping strategies.

Ketamine-Assisted Healing

Ketamine, originally used as an anaesthetic agent, has emerged as a promising treatment for severe and treatment-resistant depression.

A 2021 report shows that ketamine can rapidly alleviate depressive symptoms within hours of administration.⁴ When combined with talk therapy, ketamine-assisted healing can reverse chemical imbalances and provide long-term relief.

A medical provider administers ketamine treatments in a controlled and monitored setting, typically in a clinician’s office. A person undergoing treatment experiences an altered state of consciousness, allowing them to tap into their subconscious minds and address underlying issues that contribute to depression.

Finding the Right Treatment For You

Everyone’s journey with depression is unique, and what works for one person may not work for another.

Work with a mental health provider to develop a personalised treatment plan that considers factors like age, gender, medical history, and lifestyle choices.

Here are some tips to help you during the process:

  • Research and educate yourself about different treatment options. Familiarise yourself with different types of treatment for depression. Weigh the pros and cons of each option before making a decision.
  • Keep an open mind and be willing to try new approaches. Sometimes, the best treatment for you may be something you never would have considered.
  • Communicate openly with your provider and ask questions. Share your concerns, fears, or doubts about different treatments so they can better understand your needs and preferences.
  • Note any changes, improvements, or setbacks in your symptoms during treatment. This can help you and your provider assess the effectiveness of your treatment plan and make any necessary adjustments.
  • Stay encouraged if a particular treatment approach doesn’t provide relief. Be open to exploring other options until you find what works best.

Get Expert Care at All Point North (APN) London

We understand the importance of personalised care and offer a range of mental health services to help clients struggling with depression. Our experienced specialists will work closely with you to develop treatment plans tailored to your needs.

Some of our treatment options for depression include:

  • CBT, DBT and trauma-focused therapy
  • DTMS and ketamine-assisted healing
  • Lifestyle psychiatry
  • Massage therapy
  • Nutritional therapy

At APN London, we’re committed to providing a comfortable and safe space for you to heal. Our compassionate team of therapists will guide and support you through your treatment journey every step of the way. If you’re ready to take the first step towards healing or know someone who is, contact us at 0203 984 7699 or complete the online contact form on our website.

References

  • InformedHealth.org [Internet]. Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2006-. Depression: How effective are antidepressants? [Updated 2020 Jun 18]. Available from: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK361016
  • Buono FD, Larkin K, Rowe D, Perez-Rodriguez MM, Sprong ME, Garakani A. Intensive Dialectical Behavior Treatment for Individuals With Borderline Personality Disorder With and Without Substance Use Disorders. Front Psychol. 2021 Aug 23;12:629842. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2021.629842. PMID: 34497550; PMCID: PMC8419465. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8419465
  • Dominguez SK, Matthijssen SJMA, Lee CW. Trauma-focused treatments for depression. A systematic review and meta-analysis. PLoS One. 2021 Jul 22;16(7):e0254778. Doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0254778. PMID: 34292978; PMCID: PMC8297785. pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34292978
  • Riggs LM, Gould TD. Ketamine and the Future of Rapid-Acting Antidepressants. Annu Rev Clin Psychol. 2021 May 7;17:207-231. doi: 10.1146/annurev-clinpsy-072120-014126. Epub 2021 Feb 9. PMID: 33561364; PMCID: PMC8170851. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8170851