Why Mental Health Matters: Signs and Treatment of Depression

It may surprise you to learn that your mental and physical health are connected in powerful ways. How your body feels can affect how your brain feels — and vice versa. Mental health conditions — particularly depression — can increase your risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke. In fact, depression is just as significant a risk factor for heart disease as smoking and high cholesterol. The good news is that just like many other health disorders, depression is treatable.

Sometimes depression can be difficult to identify on your own, but it helps to know the signs. Your healthcare provider may ask:

  • Do you have less energy than you used to?
  • Do you lack interest in activities you used to enjoy?
  • Do you struggle with making simple decisions or finishing small tasks?
  • Do you feel “fake” when you smile?
  • Does it feel like there’s a glass wall between you and the rest of the world?
  • Do you get irritable about minor things?
  • Do you feel like there’s nothing to look forward to?

Often, a stigma persists that says we should be able to force ourselves into a better mood or that if we are depressed we haven’t been “trying hard enough.” This simply isn’t true. Depression — and other mental health disorders — are the result of chemical changes in the brain. Help is available. Your healthcare provider may recommend:

  • Lifestyle changes. Exercising and eating nutritious foods can help many people reduce depression symptoms.
  • Talk therapy. Talking with a therapist can help you learn to deal with stressors in a healthy, productive way.
  • Medications. Antidepressant medications are a common treatment for depression that work by balancing the chemicals in your brain to ease depression symptoms.

Your mental health should take the same priority as other health concerns. Just like with heart disease, diabetes and other chronic health conditions, getting treatment for depression can make a huge difference in your overall well-being.

By Adventist Health in consultation with Rebecca Dragomani, Adventist Health Ukiah Valley behavioral health nurse practitioner

Featured in: September/October 2021