Every year, over 7% of American adults struggle with major depressive disorder. Those numbers only include people who have been diagnosed with major depression. The undiagnosed cases would cause that number to be even higher, around 10% according to Harvard’s health department. When other types of depression, such as chronic, bipolar, atypical, seasonal, and postpartum depression are factored in, it is not unreasonable to think almost everyone in the United States is affected or knows someone personally who is living with depression or affected by this mood disorder.
Living with Depression and Comorbid Conditions
Unfortunately, depression is one of the mood disorders most likely to occur alongside other disorders and conditions. Anxiety, substance abuse, bipolar, and eating disorders all occur at higher rates in depressed people than in the non-depressed general population. It can be somewhat of a chicken-or-egg scenario; did the depression cause the substance abuse, for example, or was it the other way around? Regardless of which issue came first, the conditions often must be treated simultaneously for recovery to be successful.
Certain physical conditions are also more likely to occur alongside depression or cause depression to develop. The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance reports that depressed adults are 64% more likely to develop coronary artery disease. Twenty-five percent of cancer patients experience depression, and 50% of Parkinson’s patients struggle with the mood disorder while they deal with the diagnosis and treatment of their physical symptoms.
Lifestyle Changes that Can Help Reduce Symptoms
Harvard’s health research department published the results of a study in 2013 that found exercise to be as effective for some people as antidepressants at relieving symptoms of depression and beginning a domino effect of positive changes in the brain. The release of endorphins during and immediately after exercise has long been credited for exercise’s “feel good” effects, but scientists say the positive changes are much more profound over time. Dr. Michael Craig Miller, a Harvard psychiatrist, explains that the hippocampus – the part of the brain that regulates mood – is often smaller in depressed people. But exercise causes neurotrophic growth factors to be released that encourage brain cells to grow and make connections, actually enlarging the hippocampus and helping with emotional regulation. Over time, this can significantly reduce the symptoms of depression.
Another fantastic and productive lifestyle change that can improve depression and other mood disorders is journaling. Writing consistently – as close to every day as you can manage – forces the brain to structure and order thoughts into sentences that make sense. For people who struggle with tumbling thoughts, anxieties, and negative emotions swirling through their minds, this forced structure provides a way to get that whirling tornado of feelings out of their heads and down on paper. Once the thoughts are organized, it is much easier to form a productive plan to combat issues that can be dealt with by taking action.
Many patients find it is much easier to start and maintain the lifestyle changes that can make a long-term difference when they have a coach for advice and emotional support. Having a coach as a continuous source of motivation and accountability to stay on track with healthy habits, medication, and therapy sessions is a huge resource that can make the difference between continuing to struggle and moving forward with recovery for good.
Seeking Treatment for Depression
Certified specialists, like the ones you will find at Modern Recovery, should be your first line of defense if you or a loved one suffers from depression or any comorbid conditions. Licensed therapists, recovery-focused doctors and staff, and a proactive treatment program that combines therapy with medication and lifestyle support can help you overcome depression and learn new coping skills to reduce or eliminate the symptoms over time. MRS staff are qualified to help you manage comorbid conditions and treat them using effective programs developed specifically for co-occurring disorders.
Call Modern Recovery today to get started with treatment and begin feeling better today.