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What is Depression?

Everyone feels sad or depressed at times. It’s a normal reaction to life's struggles.

But clinical depression is a medical condition that goes beyond normal sadness.   When intense sadness -- including feeling helpless, hopeless, and worthless -- lasts for many days to weeks and affects your ability to function, clinical depression is a concern.

And while many people who experience depression don’t seek treatment, it is the most common medical condition world wide, and there are lots of treatment options.  

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Who Experiences Depression?

Anyone can experience depression but it is more common with certain risk factors including family history of depression or significant stressful events over the last year.  

In the United States, 20% of individuals will experience an episode of depression in their lifetime.   That’s way too many people to have not feeling their best!

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How Do I Know If I Need Treatment for Depression?

Depression can be tricky to diagnose.  Sometimes it presents pretty clearly with depressed mood or sadness.  Other times, it’s not nearly as clear cut.  The best way to determine if you have depression that needs treatment is to work with a mental health professional who can thoroughly evaluate your symptoms.  

Clues that you might benefit from working with a psychiatric professional include:

  • A depressed mood during most of the day, especially in the morning

  • You feel tired or have a lack of energy almost every day.

  • You feel worthless or guilty almost every day.

  • You have a hard time focusing, remembering details, and making decisions.

  • You can’t sleep or you sleep too much almost every day.

  • You have almost no interest or pleasure in many activities nearly every day.

  • You think often about death or suicide (not just a fear of death).

  • You feel restless or slowed down.

  • You’ve lost or gained weight.

You may also:

  • Feel irritable and restless

  • Lose pleasure in life

  • Overeat or stop feeling hungry

  • Have aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that don’t go away or get better with treatment

  • Have sad, anxious, or "empty" feelings

While these symptoms are common, not everyone with depression will have the same ones. How severe they are, how often they happen, and how long they last can vary. 

Sometimes, depression even has physical symptoms.  They may include joint pain, back pain, digestive problems, sleep trouble, and appetite changes. You might have slowed speech and movements, too. The brain chemicals linked to depression, specifically serotonin and norepinephrine, play a role in both mood and pain.

If you are struggling with these symptoms and it's affecting your life, it would be worth while to meet with a mental health provider to discuss which treatment options might be helpful.

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Where Can I Get Help for Depression?

If any of this sounds familiar, know that there is help.  A counselor, your primary care provider or a psychiatric provider can all help you reach the right care.  Check out our website to see if we might be a good fit.  We love working with people to improve their mental health and would love to chat more.

Unfortunately though, we aren’t available 24/7.  Anybody who thinks or talks about harming themselves should call 800-SUICIDE (800-784-2433).  If you intend or have a plan to commit suicide, go to the emergency room right away.   We want you to be safe and get the very best care as quickly as possible!

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What Will Happen When I Meet With A Mental Health Provider?

Depression can be caused by many things - chemical imbalances in the brain, other mental health disorders, physical conditions, life events, etc.  Understanding the exact cause of the depression as well as your life circumstances is crucial for creating the best treatment plan.

In order to figure out how best to help you with depression, your healthcare provider should:

●Note and observe which signs of depression you have

●Determine when your symptoms began and whether they have happened before (and, if so, how they progressed)  

●Figure out how your symptoms are affecting your everyday life and relationships

●Ask about factors that could be making your symptoms better or worse (such as stressful life events or a loss)

●Ask whether any of your family members have a history of depression, suicide, bipolar disorder, or other forms of mental illness

●Address any other psychiatric or general medical conditions you may have (such as an anxiety or substance use disorder, or heart disease), and explore whether any of the medications you take could be contributing to your symptoms

●Check whether you have ever had symptoms of what healthcare providers call mania, which is when you feel happy, charged, impulsive, frenetic and grandiose (these could be a sign of another psychiatric condition called bipolar disorder).

At White Pine Mental Health & Wellness, we can do all this over the internet while you are at your home and office.  We pride ourselves not just on being very thorough, but really convenient as well.  Win-win!

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How Is Depression Treated?

Depression can be managed in many different ways.  A healthy diet, exercise, and other lifestyle approaches go a long way in improving the symptoms of depression.  And for people with only mild depression, this may be enough to keep depression in check.  For other people though, counseling and/or medication are needed. 

We work together to fully understand your depression and your life so we can create a comprehensive treatment plan that utilizes all of the options available to us.  

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Are Medications Effective to Treat Depression?

Yes. Now a days there are so many different options for medication to treat depression.  

Because everyone's depression and life situation is unique, it’s difficult to tell in advance how a particular antidepressant medicine will work for you. That’s why it’s so important that you work with an experienced psychiatric provider who knows the intricacies of each medication and is familiar with new psychogenomic testing which might guide treatment.  

As with any medicine, there’s no guarantee that it will work for you, but at White Pine Mental Health & Wellness, we love working with patients to find the right fit.

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How Long Will I Need to Take Medication for Depression?

There is some evidence to suggest that staying on medication for 12 months after achieving good symptom control decreases the risk of depression returning.  So we recommend staying on depression medicines for at least 12 months after a first episode of depression.  

For people who have repeated episodes of depression, we can discuss staying on medications longterm.  Luckily, the medications we use to treat depression are very safe even for long term use.

Can I use medication for depression while I am pregnant or breast feeding?

While we certainly want to be as cautious as possible with babies, there are safe options for use while pregnant or breast feeding.  Good maternal mental health is important not only for mom to be healthy, but also for baby.  If you are struggling with mental health while pregnant or breastfeeding, we would love to chat about your options and come up with a plan that you feel good about.

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Can I Use Medication for Depression While I Am Pregnant or Breast Feeding?

While we certainly want to be as cautious as possible with babies, there are safe options for use while pregnant or breast feeding.  Good maternal mental health is important, not only for mom to be healthy, but also for baby.  If you are struggling with mental health while pregnant or breastfeeding, we would love to chat about your options and come up with a plan that you feel good about.

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Working Together to Treat Your Depression

If you are ready to start treatment or have more questions about depression, I would love to chat more and see how we can work together to help you feel better.

Partnering with patients to better understand their depression and collaborating on their treatment is our goal, and we look forward to hearing from you.

Depression: About Me
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