Depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the country — and the Iowa City and Cedar Rapids areas are no exception. The good news is that depression is one of the most treatable mental health conditions. The bad news is that many people don’t know where or how to get help.
How do you know if you have depression? And if you do, what should you do about it? Let’s start with depression symptoms.
Symptoms of depression
Depression is a mood disorder that affects the way you think and feel. Depression can be experienced in different ways. For some this may be a persistent depressed mood or it may be the loss of interest or pleasure or both. In addition, it's characterized by a combination of some of these other symptoms:
- Unintentional weight loss/weight gain or unexplainable increase/decrease in appetite
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Feeling keyed up and restless or slowed down and sluggish
- Decreased energy or feeling more tired
- Feeling worthless or guilty
- Difficulty concentrating
- Thinking about death or suicide
Causes of depression
Certain factors may trigger depression. Any of these factors, or a combination of them, can make depression more likely. And in some cases, the reason for depression is unclear.
Factors that can contribute to depression include:
- Stress. Financial strain, a demanding job, an unfulfilling relationship and other life stressors may wear on you over time—causing a change in the way you think, feel and behave. In some cases, years go by before the depression sets in.
- Loss or major life changes. Normal grief over a death or a breakup can lead to depression. A phase of life change such as going to college, children growing up and leaving the home, retirement or other loss can also turn into depression when left unresolved.
- Trauma. Abuse, an unexpected life altering event, a major illness or unresolved issues from the past may trigger a depressive episode.
- Family history. The tendency to develop depression is known to run in families. This can be due to genetics, learned behavior and/or unhealthy forms of coping. If one or more of your close relatives (parents, grandparents or siblings) has had depression or some other mental health problem, you may be more susceptible.
- Drugs or alcohol. Drugs and alcohol can upset the chemical balance in the brain. This can lead to depression. Some depressed people turn to drugs or alcohol to numb the pain. But in the long run, doing so just makes depression worse.
- Medications. Depression can be a side effect of some medications for high blood pressure, cancer, pain and other health problems. Tell your doctor about all medications you take. But never stop taking one without your doctor's okay.
- Physical illness. Being sick can make anyone feel frustrated and sad. But some health problems may cause actual changes in your brain that lead to depression. Other health problems—such as an underactive thyroid or vitamin deficiency—may be mistaken for depression.
- Hormones. Hormones carry messages in the bloodstream. They may affect brain chemicals, leading to depression. Women may get depressed when their hormone levels change quickly, such as just before their period, after giving birth or during menopause.
Two options for treating depression are medication and psychotherapy. Which is better? There are multiple factors that go into determining what approach is right for you—including underlying factors contributing to the depression, severity and personal preference.
Furthermore, there are a number of medications used to treat depression, as well as a variety of therapeutic approaches that are effective. Research shows that a combination of both approaches is most effective at treating depression.
Medication can help to get your depression symptoms under control. Most medications prescribed for depression take a while to work. This can be frustrating, but you will probably start to notice some improvements within four to six weeks. Often, your friends or family notice a change before you do. It’s important to remember that it may take some time to find the right medication and dosage for you.
As the medication begins to work, you’ll find it easier to implement the tools you’ll learn in therapy. These tools can help you counteract negative thoughts, manage challenges and find new opportunities for happiness.
Finding a therapist that you click with is as essential as finding the right medication. There are various therapy techniques and approaches, as well as specialties that different therapists have training in to match your needs.
To find a Psychiatric Associates provider who might be a good fit for you, go to our providers page. And remember that it’s okay to change providers if the style or technique doesn’t match your needs.
How to get help
There are several types of providers when it comes to mental health care. Psychiatrists (who are medical doctors) and psychiatric advanced registered nurse practitioners (ARNPs) prescribe medications. Other types of providers, such as licensed Independent social workers (LISW), psychologists, licensed marriage and family therapists (LMFT), licensed mental health counselors (LMHC) and psychologists offer therapy. To learn more about the types of mental health care providers, read our blog post on the topic.
If you live in the Iowa City or Cedar Rapids area, Psychiatric Associates can help. Our team of mental health experts includes psychiatrists, licensed social workers, psychologists, licensed mental health counselors, licensed marriage and family therapists and advanced registered nurse practitioners. We use a team-based approach to provide optimal care for every patient—and to make it easy for patients to get the care they need. Call (319) 356-6352 to schedule an appointment, or use our Request an Appointment form.
Devona Siron, LISW
Devona specializes in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), mindfulness, acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), solutions focused therapy and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR). Devona has extensive experience treating anxiety, depression, trauma, self-esteem, binge eating, interpersonal relationship problems, life stressors and phase of life problems. She enjoys working with adults and adolescents to help them become the best versions of themselves and to feel fulfilled in their lives.