Over 3 million people across the nation struggle with depression each year. Despite the high prevalence rate, individuals who experience depression continue to feel totally alone in their struggle. Some of these people have a stronger predisposition for depression which means stressful life events and unfortunate situations likely affect you much more than someone else who may have experienced a very similar situation. This in itself can be frustrating and difficult to manage.
People of different ages and stages of life may experience depression in slightly different symptoms clusters. This is important to understand so we aren’t missing warning signs or mistaking symptoms for something else.
In children and adolescence depression most commonly presents in the form of irritability, somatic complaints (headaches, body aches), and disconnection/withdrawal from family and friends. These serve as both symptoms and initially as warning signs for depression in youth. Additional warning signs include changes in sleeping habits, eating patterns, and other areas of functioning (e.g., academic). Since adolescence is such a busy time of development it is often difficult to pinpoint whether changes in mood and behavior are due to “typical teenage stuff” or a bigger issue.
Early adulthood in full of life changes and decisions that shape the rest of our lives. Often these experiences cause feelings of stress and overwhelm. Some young adults have the coping resources to manage these stressors and seek support but other struggle to adapt to adulthood and depressive symptoms can quickly set in. Since many individuals go away to college or move out of the house it is important that they they know about the resources available to them in their new environment. Some cases of depression in early adulthood resolve after a period of adjustment; however, for other this may be the onset of a more serious depressive disorder.
Depression in adulthood typically follows a more typical trajectory and symptom profile including losing interesting in things one used to enjoy, a pervasive sense of hopelessness, changes in appetite and sleeping patterns, and isolation/withdrawal. More severe depression may be accompanied by perceptual disturbances (hallucinations, delusions).
It is definitely a common myth that depression is a normal part of growing older. Yes, there are changes one must adjust to with aging but pervasive sadness and disconnection is likely a sign of a more serious and treatable condition. Additionally, older adults may struggle with managing different physical disorders and as always, providers should work together to assist them in navigating these issues in an integrative manner.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is an evidenced based, effective treatment for depression across the lifespan. CBT is based on the relationship between our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Through increased awareness of this relationship and the identification of specific thoughts feelings and behaviors, clients are supported in making small changes in their thinking and behavior than can have a positive impact on mood. Although CBT is highly effective, there are other treatment modalities which are helpful as adjuncts including acceptance and commitment therapy, dialectical behavior therapy skills, family or couples therapy, and relational approaches (link to pages talking about this?)
In some cases, medication management may be recommended, even if it is just temporarily. In these cases medication can decrease symptoms and help you to engage and benefit from therapy interventions.