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Category: Mental Health Disorders

6 Types of Depressive Disorders

Depression is one of the most common types of mental health disorders in the US. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 4.7% of adults had regular feelings of depression in 2022. One reason depression is so common is that there are different types of depressive disorders with a range of symptoms and severity.

What Are the 6 Most Common Types of Depressive Disorders?

Not everyone with depression experiences it the same way. Depressive symptoms vary in severity and presentation as well as the causes of your depression. In other words, different causes of depression lead to different types of depressive disorders.

The following are the six most common types of depression:

#1. Major Depressive Disorder (MDD)

According to an article in JAMA Psychiatry, 20.6% of US adults will experience major depressive disorder (MDD) at some point in their lives. Thus, MDD—also called clinical depression or major depression—is the most common type of depression.

Symptoms of MDD include:

  • Difficulty sleeping and fatigue
  • Change in appetite (resulting in weight changes)
  • Overwhelming feelings of sadness, worthlessness, or hopelessness
  • Lack of motivation
  • Loss of interest in pleasurable activities
  • Thoughts of death and dying
  • Self-harming behaviors
  • Suicidal ideations or actions

Major depression impacts your ability to function in everyday life. For instance, you might stop going to work because you can’t get out of bed. Or, you could have significant relationship problems because you withdraw from spending time with others.

#2. Persistent Depressive Disorder (Dysthymia)

Persistent depressive disorder—sometimes called dysthymia—isn’t as debilitating as major depression. Because of this, many people with persistent depression don’t seek treatment. However, persistent depression can still have a major impact on your overall quality of life.

Symptoms of persistent depressive disorder include the following:

  • Feeling unhappy or dissatisfied
  • Under- or over-eating
  • Insomnia (or the opposite: sleeping too much)
  • Low self-esteem
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Thoughts of self-harm
  • Feeling tired most of the time

Although your symptoms are usually mild, you could have episodes of major depression—especially when you don’t get treatment. For a diagnosis of persistent depression, your symptoms must last for two or more years. Persistent depression is commonly associated with silent depression or high-functioning depression.

#3. Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression affects women after they give birth. According to PostpartumDepression.org, “Approximately 1 in 10 women will experience postpartum depression after giving birth, with some studies reporting 1 in 7 women.”

Furthermore, symptoms usually last about 3-6 months, and 80% of women with postpartum depression make a full recovery. The symptoms of postpartum depression are similar to major depressive disorder.

Having a new baby causes a lot of changes in your life. You could feel a loss of control and independence or be overwhelmed with newfound responsibility. In addition, you might struggle to sleep while caring for a newborn or have a sudden change in hormones after birth. All of these factors contribute to developing postpartum depression.

#4. Bipolar Disorder (Manic Depression)

Bipolar disorder, once called manic depression, is another type of mood disorder characterized by cycles of depression and mania. Due to the cycles of depression, bipolar disorder is often considered a type of depressive disorder.

During the depressive cycle of bipolar disorder, your symptoms will be similar to those of major depression. However, during the manic cycle, you will have an increase in energy, euphoria, insomnia, racing thoughts, and rapid speech. Sometimes, people during the manic phase have psychotic symptoms of hallucinations or delusions.

#5. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) typically affects people during the fall or winter. Some causes of SAD could be a lack of sunlight, being less active during colder weather, and shorter days. Thus, this type of depression is more common in northern regions of the United States.

Symptoms of SAD are similar to major depression, but they are triggered by the onset of fall or winter. Thus, most people with SAD feel better as the spring season begins. Unique treatments like red light therapy can help with SAD.

#6. Depression With Psychotic Features

Another type of depression is depression with psychotic features, sometimes called simply psychotic depression. Psychotic depression is rare, however, it can be very debilitating. This is because, in addition to the symptoms of MDD, you experience hallucinations and delusions.

  • Hallucinations are seeing, feeling, or hearing things that aren’t real. Common examples include hearing voices, feeling bugs crawling on your skin, or seeing people who aren’t there.
  • Delusions are thoughts and beliefs with no basis in reality. Examples include thoughts of being pursued by the government or believing oneself to possess magical powers.

Due to the psychotic features—i.e., losing touch with reality—this type of depression can be distressing for family members and loved ones to witness.

How Can Treatment Help Me With My Depression?

Mental health treatment can help you with your depression in several ways.

For one thing, treatment can help to reduce your symptoms of depression. Psychotherapy and psychiatry are the first lines of treatment for depression. Psychiatric medications called anti-depressants restore chemical imbalances believed to cause depression.

In addition, antipsychotic medications and mood stabilizers can help with psychotic depression and bipolar disorder, respectively.

Treatment can also help you with your depression by learning more about the causes of your symptoms. Oftentimes, significant life events and stress trigger depressive symptoms, which can lead to depressive disorders when left unaddressed. During therapy, you can learn more about the causes of depression as well as coping skills to help you manage symptoms.

Lastly, it’s no secret that a healthy lifestyle can also reduce depressive symptoms. That is why mental health treatment programs also focus on holistic approaches. These approaches treat the whole person—including your physical, emotional, social, and spiritual health.

Get Help For Your Depression Today

Depression is one of the most common mental health disorders among US adults. North Atlanta Behavioral Health has solutions for all types of depressive disorders. Our comprehensive treatment programs can help you overcome your symptoms to free yourself of depression.

Contact us to get help for your depressive symptoms today.

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Is Silent Depression Real? Here’s What You Need to Know

Depression is one of the most common types of mental health disorders in the US, affecting millions of adults each year. But can you have depression and not even know it? If you notice a negative change in your overall mood, energy levels, and attitude, you might have silent depression.

North Atlanta Behavioral Health is here to help you or your loved one struggling with depression. We offer outpatient mental health programs that use evidence-based therapies and client-centered approaches for the best outcomes in treating depression.

Can Someone Be Depressed Without Knowing It?

Yes, you can be depressed without knowing it. Depressive symptoms can be subtle. Your symptoms might be at a low level for years (sometimes called “high-functioning depression“). Furthermore, your symptoms can come on—and worsen—gradually.

In fact, your symptoms can worsen so gradually that you don’t even notice it. Instead, your loved ones might be the first to see the changes in your mood and demeanor. When you suffer from depression and are unaware of it, this is known as silent depression.

What is Silent Depression?

Silent depression is when you have depressive symptoms, but either aren’t aware of it or aren’t acknowledging it. Thus, you struggle silently with your symptoms, either keeping them to yourself, denying them, minimizing symptoms, or lacking any awareness of the issue at all.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 4.7% of US adults age 18 and older have regular feelings of depression. But this only counts the people aware of their depression. Therefore, it is important to know the signs of silent depression.

10 Signs of Silent Depression

Silent depression can sneak up on you. But, if you know what to look for, you can recognize depression before it gets out of control.

The following are ten signs of silent depression:

#1. Lack of Energy

Everyone has good days and bad days. However, if you consistently feel drained at the end of every day or fatigued most of the time, you could be depressed.

#2. Sleeping Problems

Sleeping problems go hand in hand with a lack of energy. People with depression often struggle to fall asleep due to ruminating thoughts of guilt, shame, or anxiety. Because of this, you might stay in bed longer than usual to catch up on your rest.

#3. Change in Appetite

A change in appetite without a physical cause could be a sign of psychological distress. Stress, anxiety, guilt, and shame—feelings that accompany depression—can suppress your appetite. On the other hand, you might overeat as an unhealthy coping mechanism for underlying depression.

#4. Isolating and Social Withdrawal

Do you find yourself saying “no” to social activities more frequently? Are you spending more time alone than usual? Oftentimes, people with depression withdraw from friends and family due to low energy or feeling unworthy. Thus, if you find yourself spending more and more time alone, you could be feeling depressed.

#5. Drug and Alcohol Abuse

One of the most common causes of drug and alcohol abuse is an underlying mental health issue. If you are drinking or using drugs to elevate your mood or to cope with negative emotions, you most likely have an underlying mental health issue like depression.

#6. Loss of Interest in Hobbies

Depression isn’t just about feeling sad. Instead, it’s a lack of feeling anything—especially pleasure, joy, and satisfaction. You might not be as engaged in hobbies or other pleasurable activities anymore if you are depressed.

#7. Overworking

When you have silent depression, you could be in denial of your feelings. Or, you might fear facing what’s troubling you. As a result, you could be distracting yourself by spending more time at work, bringing work home with you, or using work as an excuse for your low mood and irritability.

#8. Low Self-Esteem

It’s hard to feel good about yourself when you don’t feel good about anything. More often than not, low self-esteem accompanies depression.

#9. Negative Thoughts and Attitude

Do you find that your thoughts constantly drift to the worst-case scenario? Are you expressing a pessimistic attitude to friends, family, and co-workers? Depression can alter your outlook on life toward pessimism and negativity.

#10. Mood Swings

If you have depression, you could have mood swings from low to high. Or you might be easily triggered by stressors and appear irritable to others. Silent depression could also be a sign of other mood disorders, like bipolar disorder.

How is Depression Treated?

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to treating depression. Depression is treated with a combination of psychiatric medications, psychotherapy, and holistic approaches, like exercise, mindfulness, and nutrition. That way, you can find your own pathway to recovery from depression.

If you have signs of suffering from silent depression, talk to your healthcare provider today to begin treatment.

Get Help for Depression Today

Depression is among the most common mental health disorders in the US. Some people suffer and don’t even realize what they are going through—or that things can get better. But, depression is treatable, and there is hope for you or your loved one struggling with silent depression symptoms.

Contact North Atlanta Behavioral Health today to get help for depression today.

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11 Signs of High-Functioning Depression

High-functioning depression is often left untreated and undiagnosed. When your life appears fine on the outside, it can be hard to accept that you feel unhappy and unfulfilled beneath the surface. In turn, this can lead to guilt or shame—and even worsening depressive symptoms.

North Atlanta Behavioral Health offers outpatient solutions to treat depression—including higher-functioning forms of this common mental health disorder.

11 of the Most Common Signs of High-Functioning Depression

High-functioning depression can be hard to spot. For one thing, you probably appear fine to family and friends. In addition, things in your life are probably going pretty well, so you could deny that you feel depressed on the inside.

Here are some of the top signs that you could have high-functioning depression:

#1. You feel a little down most of the time. Anytime that you do feel a glimmer of happiness, it doesn’t last long. Overall, you almost always have a low mood that you cannot seem to shake.

#2. You are tired most of the time. While you do the things that you are supposed to do—like go to work, do household chores, spend time with your kids, etc.—it all feels like a huge effort.

#3. You might appear lazy to others or think of yourself as lazy. In truth, all your energy is spent just getting through the day and keeping up the appearance of being happy.

#4. You feel bad about yourself. People with high-functioning depression often feel unworthy of happiness and fulfillment.

#5. You feel like an imposter. Since your life generally looks good from the outside, feeling unhappy on the inside feels like you aren’t authentic and are faking it through life.

#6. You’re a harsh self-critic. It might even be hard for you to receive a compliment from others. Oftentimes, you downplay your achievements.

#7. You lose or gain weight without intending to do so. Changes in appetite are a common sign of depression. This can result in either a loss of appetite or overeating as a maladaptive coping mechanism.

#8. You cry without any clear reason. Everyone feels sad from time to time due to certain life events, like grieving over a loved one or going through a breakup. However, if you find yourself overwhelmed and crying for no reason, you might have high-functioning depression.

#9. You perform well at work, school, or other activities—but it is difficult for you to focus. Depression can cause you to struggle with your ability to concentrate and make decisions.

#10. You force yourself to socialize. Most things for you—even fun activities—can feel taxing. Oftentimes, you would rather withdraw from others and be alone.

#11. You have other issues that crop up. For instance, you might abuse drugs or alcohol to improve your mood. You could also have chronic pain and headaches or problems in relationships.

Essentially, your inner life doesn’t line up with your outer life. You have a lot of good things going for you, yet you struggle to feel happy. And unlike severe depression, you are able to do all the things that you need to do.

This is the biggest problem with having high-functioning depression. Your depressive symptoms are so mild that they can be ignored for long enough to get through the day. But even mild depression can worsen over time when left untreated.

What is Mild Depression?

Depressive symptoms occur on a spectrum from mild to severe. If you have high-functioning depression, this means that your symptoms are relatively mild. Mild depression is also called persistent depressive disorder or dysthymia.

According to StatPearls, about 3% of the US population has persistent depressive disorder. Furthermore, this form of mild depression can occur along with episodes of major depressive disorder.

Thus, with high-functioning depression, you could function well for long periods of time and then crash into a more severe depressive episode. So, you might go back and forth between high- and low-functioning depression. However, your baseline mood is still somewhat low—characteristic of mild depression.

How is High-Functioning Depression Treated?

The treatment options for depression are similar whether your symptoms are mild or severe. The first step is talking to a healthcare professional about your symptoms. You can talk to your primary care physician first since they can rule out any medical reasons for your symptoms.

If you get a diagnosis of mild depression, your treatment options may include the following:

  • Psychiatric medications. Psychiatrists can prescribe anti-depressants to treat mild symptoms of depression. These medications restore balance to brain chemicals responsible for your symptoms.
  • Psychotherapy. Talking to a mental health professional about your depression can help you find healthy ways to cope with symptoms. You can also attend group therapy to gain further insight from others with similar disorders.
  • Support groups. While support groups are not run by professionals, they can offer additional coping skills and support. Many people benefit from sharing and hearing others share their experiences. This can help you feel less alone in your struggle with depression.
  • Holistic approaches. Depression affects all aspects of your health and well-being. By taking your whole-self into consideration—mind, body, and soul—you can find new avenues for treatment. Some common holistic approaches include yoga, mindfulness, breathwork, and exercise.

Heal from High-Functioning Depression Today

Mild depression can make you feel hopeless and even undeserving of treatment. But there is hope for healing from every type of depression—including high-functioning depression. North Atlanta Behavioral Health offers treatment options that can help you find long-lasting joy and fulfillment in life.

Contact us today to start a life free of mild depression.

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What is Secondary Trauma?: Signs and Symptoms

Traumatic experiences can leave long-lasting mental health issues. Sharing your story and experiences with others can help you heal. However, if you are helping someone deal with their trauma, you need to be aware of having similar symptoms called secondary trauma.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) affects not only the person with the disorder, but it can also impact those around them, including caregivers and family members. North Atlanta Behavioral Health is here to help those with PTSD as well as those who develop secondary trauma.

What is Secondary Trauma?

Secondary trauma, also called compassion fatigue, affects people who help others with their traumatic experiences. People in helping professions, like EMTs, social workers, doctors, nurses, and psychotherapists, sometimes develop symptoms that mirror post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Secondary trauma is the result of hearing about another person’s traumatic experiences. You can also develop secondary trauma from witnessing how these experiences affect another person’s mental health and well-being. As a result, your own mental health suffers, and you could experience burnout if you work in a helping profession or have a loved one who struggles.

How Does Secondary Trauma Differ From Primary Trauma?

Secondary trauma differs from primary trauma because you don’t directly experience the traumatic event. Instead, you hear another person’s story of trauma, which, in turn, affects the way you feel about other people and the world at large. Oftentimes, compassion fatigue results from repeated exposure to the stories and lives of those with PTSD. That is why it is common among those in the helping professions.

Examples of traumatic events that can lead to primary trauma include the following:

  • Near-death experiences, like car crashes or surviving a natural disaster
  • Combat during military service
  • Living in a dangerous neighborhood or war-torn country
  • Sexual or physical assault
  • Abuse or neglect during childhood
  • Witnessing acts of violence or horrific accidents

According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), approximately “one in 11 people will be diagnosed with PTSD in their lifetime.” An important aspect of the healing process is to share the trauma story with others—especially peers and professionals. However, after hearing many people’s stories, professionals must be aware of how these stories could impact their own mental health.

Understanding the signs and symptoms of secondary trauma will help you maintain your own mental well-being so that you can continue to help others.

The Signs and Symptoms of Secondary Trauma

As previously mentioned, the signs and symptoms of secondary trauma or compassion fatigue mimic those of PTSD. This is because, like PTSD, compassion fatigue impacts the way you feel about other people and the world.

For instance, hearing traumatic stories every day could make you feel that the world is unjust. In other words, your perspective can shift from a positive outlook to a negative one. In turn, you might feel hopeless about the harmful events that can happen to other people.

Signs and symptoms of secondary trauma or compassion fatigue include the following:
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Apathy or a lack of concern for others
  • Rigid thinking and perfectionism
  • Guilt and anger
  • Sadness
  • Feeling numb
  • Withdrawing from friends and family
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Changes in appetite
  • Hypervigilance and irritability
  • Being easily startled
  • Increased heart rate
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Abusing drugs or alcohol to cope

While these symptoms can be distressing, recognizing them is the first step to getting better. However, if you ignore compassion fatigue, you could develop mental health issues yourself. This can negatively impact your ability to help others who struggle with PTSD.

Can Secondary Trauma Cause a Mental Health Disorder?

Secondary trauma could result in developing mental health issues. For one thing, a common cause of any mental health disorder is an inability to cope with stress. So, if compassion fatigue increases the amount of stress in your life—and you don’t address it—this could lead to a mental health disorder.

If you experience compassion fatigue, you could develop anxiety, depression, or even PTSD yourself. In addition, if you abuse substances to cope with compassion fatigue, you can develop an addiction on top of a mental health disorder. For these reasons, it is vital to seek treatment for secondary trauma.

How is Secondary Trauma Treated?

One important aspect of treating secondary trauma involves lifestyle changes that help you cope with your symptoms and protect yourself from the effects of compassion fatigue. For example, if you work in a high-stress environment like an ER or fire department, you must find a balance between your work and personal life. This means finding meaningful activities and healthy relationships to focus on during your time off of work.

Additionally, it helps to find coping skills for on-the-job stress. This can include some of the following:

  • Peer support groups with others in the helping professions
  • Relaxation techniques like meditation or mindful breathing
  • Learning to take a break or get help from a co-worker when overwhelmed
  • Setting limits with your job to maintain a healthy work/life balance
  • Recognizing times when you experience success on the job

Despite engaging in self-care activities like those listed above, you might still feel overwhelmed and distressed. In that case, professional mental health treatment programs can help you manage symptoms of compassion fatigue.

Treatment for secondary trauma can be similar to PTSD treatment and include the following:

  • Psychiatry services to treat symptoms with medications
  • Brainspotting, a specialized form of therapy for treating trauma
  • Holistic approaches that help you focus on all aspects of your health and well-being
  • Group and individual therapy sessions can help you develop coping skills for stress and trauma

Secondary trauma can be distressing for those in the helping professions or for the loved ones of those with PTSD. However, self-care and trauma treatment programs can help you build the skills that you need to regain a healthy sense of mental well-being.

Get Help for Secondary Trauma Today

Secondary trauma can mimic symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). That is why it’s important for family members and professionals exposed to stories of trauma from others to maintain their own mental well-being. Otherwise, they could get compassion fatigue and feel burnout from trying to help those they care about.

North Atlanta Behavioral Health is here to help those with compassion fatigue and secondary trauma. Contact us today to begin treatment.

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Panic Attack Hangover: The After Effects of a Panic Attack

If you’ve ever had a panic attack, you know how exhausting it can be. Panic attacks trigger a series of intense physical and emotional reactions in a short amount of time. The after effects, commonly called a panic attack hangover, leave you feeling drained and run down.

Panic attacks are a symptom of an anxiety disorder. Anxiety, along with depression, is one of the most common types of mental health disorders in the US. In February 2023, 32.3% of adults reported symptoms of anxiety or depression, according to KFF.

The good news is that you can find evidence-based treatment for anxiety. While anxiety feels overwhelming, you can learn to cope with your symptoms and reduce your chances of having panic attacks.

What Are the Symptoms of a Panic Attack?

A panic attack sets off your body’s flight or fight response. This response system helps you when you are threatened or are in imminent danger. Essentially, the flight or fight response releases hormones that help you either escape or combat danger.

But, with a panic attack, there is no imminent threat. So, your body builds energy, yet you have no outlet for it—nothing to fight or run away from. As a result, this energy expends itself within your body and can cause a panic attack.

The following are common symptoms of a panic attack:

  • Pounding and racing heart
  • Sweating
  • Chest tightness
  • Nausea and dizziness
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Numbness and tingling
  • Chills or hot flashes
  • Stomach pain
  • Feeling weak

These symptoms are intense and usually peak within about 10 minutes. After about 20-30 minutes, most of these symptoms go away. Afterward, you will feel the after effects.

What Are the After Effects of a Panic Attack?

The after effects of a panic attack, or a panic attack hangover, can occur for several hours or even days after a panic attack. After an intense surge of physical reactions within a short period of time, most people feel drained.

The effects of a panic attack hangover include the following:

  • Fatigue and exhaustion
  • Body pains
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Feeling on edge or uneasy
  • Muscle soreness
  • Trembling and shaking
  • Chest pain

In addition, some symptoms of a panic attack hangover can include lingering symptoms of the panic attack itself—but less intense. And, you could also feel somewhat down or vulnerable after a panic attack. Some people feel ashamed or embarrassed about their panic attacks, which can lead to emotional and mental health symptoms.

What Causes a Panic Attack Hangover?

A panic attack hangover is a result of your adrenaline levels returning to normal. During a panic attack, adrenaline levels spike, increasing your alertness, energy, and blood flow to your muscles. This intense burst of energy and alertness leaves you feeling fatigued and emotionally drained.

In other words, your body expends a tremendous amount of energy within a short amount of time during a panic attack. As a result, you feel these effects as a panic attack hangover.

How to Recover From a Panic Attack Hangover

You can recover from a panic attack to lessen the severity of the after effects. The following holistic tips can help you recover from a panic attack hangover:

  • Light exercise and movement: A panic attack can leave you feeling fatigued, however, moving your body can help with the after effects. Exercise improves blood flow and releases endorphins that help you stabilize your mood after a panic attack. You can do something with low intensity, like stretching, yoga, or going for a walk.
  • Get some rest: If you can take a short nap, this can also restore some of your energy. However, try not to nap too long or you may disrupt your sleep cycle. This can make things worse if you don’t get restful sleep at night.
  • Eat a healthy snack: Eating something healthy like nuts or fruit can restore glucose levels in your blood. In turn, this can give you energy and reduce symptoms like headache and fatigue.
  • Go someplace else to recover: Oftentimes, an overwhelming environment can trigger a panic attack. So, to recover, go to a restful and secluded place. That way, you can recover and reduce your chances of triggering another panic attack.
  • Practice mindfulness: Mindfulness exercises can help you redirect your focus. You can try deep breathing, listening to music, taking a walk in nature, or body scanning. The important thing is to focus on something in your environment to take your mind off your panic triggers.
  • Call a loved one: Talking to someone you can trust about what happened can help you recover from a panic attack hangover. This can help you vent and process your feelings. You might also figure out what triggered your panic attack by talking things through.

Panic attacks are distressing and can make you feel like something horrible is happening to you. However, these are often the result of a specific trigger or a buildup of unresolved anxiety. So, if you struggle with panic attacks, finding a mental health treatment program can help you learn healthy ways of coping with stress and anxiety.

Get Help for Panic Attacks and Anxiety Disorders Today

At North Atlanta Behavioral Health, we understand that panic attacks can be draining and overwhelming. Afterward, the panic attack hangover can leave you feeling weak, fatigued, and even ashamed. However, anxiety disorders that cause panic attacks can be treated, and many people make a full recovery from their disorders.

Contact us today to begin treatment for anxiety and panic attacks.

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Signs Your Antidepressant Dose is Too High

Antidepressants, combined with therapy, can be life-changing for people with mental health disorders like obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), and depression. However, it takes some time to work with your psychiatrist to find the right medication and dose. That is why it is important to understand the signs that your antidepressant dose is too high.

If you’re taking an antidepressant, it could take some time to notice the effects and to get the balance just right. In addition, over time, you might find that medications are not as effective as they had been in the past. North Atlanta Behavioral Health can help you find the right medication and dose to treat your mental health disorder.

Before you can know if your antidepressant dose is too high, you need to know how your antidepressant is supposed to work.

What Is an Antidepressant?

In addition to depression, antidepressants also treat obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), anxiety disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Common symptoms among these disorders include difficulty regulating mood and managing stress. Antidepressants alleviate these symptoms, which in turn, helps you engage in treatment programs more effectively.

How Do Antidepressants Work?

Antidepressants work by balancing chemicals in your brain called neurotransmitters. More specifically, they target neurotransmitters linked to emotional regulation and mood. The two main neurotransmitters targeted are serotonin and norepinephrine (also called noradrenaline).

  • Serotonin: This neurotransmitter regulates nearly every human behavior including sleep, appetite, sexual drive, and mood. When you don’t have enough serotonin, you could have insomnia or oversleep, eat too much or not enough, experience a low sex drive, and feel low or down. All of these are symptoms of depression and other mental health disorders.
  • Norepinephrine: Some mental health disorders are caused by either too much or too little norepinephrine. This neurotransmitter increases your blood pressure and heart rate, helps you focus, and gives you energy. Too much norepinephrine can cause insomnia, irritability, and anxiety. On the other hand, too little can cause a lack of focus, low energy, and depression.

In short, a lack of or an excess of these neurotransmitters can cause symptoms of depression, OCD, anxiety, and PTSD. Therefore, antidepressants work by restoring a natural balance of these chemicals.

However, your psychiatrist won’t know exactly which antidepressants and dosage will work until you try them out. You and your psychiatrist will work together to find the right type of antidepressant and dosage for your symptoms. The goal is to find the right dose and medication for you to have a therapeutic level in your system.

What Is a Therapeutic Level of Antidepressants?

The therapeutic level of any medication refers to the amount of medication in your system needed for the intended effects. Therapeutic levels of antidepressants will be different for each person due to things like body weight, overall health, and metabolism. It will also vary based on the type of antidepressant that you take as well as any drug interactions from other prescriptions.

The goal of finding a therapeutic level of antidepressants is ensuring that the amount of medication in your system is within a certain range. However, the therapeutic level of antidepressants, unlike other psychotropic medications, isn’t monitored by lab testing. Instead, you and your psychiatrist work together to find the appropriate dose to maintain therapeutic levels based on your mood, behaviors, and symptoms.

How Will My Psychiatrist Find the Right Dose for Me?

Your psychiatrist will start you off at a lower dose and increase from there. This is the best way to ensure that you work your way up to a therapeutic level while monitoring side effects. Furthermore, it will take about 4 to 6 weeks for most antidepressants to have any effect as it builds up in your system.

After about 6 weeks, if you don’t notice any changes, then this is a sign that your antidepressant dose is too low. As a result, your psychiatrist will most likely increase your dosage as long as you aren’t experiencing too many adverse side effects. Following this, you will need to monitor symptoms and side effects to make sure your dose isn’t too high.

What Are the Signs That Your Antidepressant Dose Is Too High?

Overall, the purpose of antidepressants is to balance the chemicals in your brain so that you can engage in other therapeutic activities. Oftentimes, people with depression or other disorders struggle to attend therapy or follow a treatment plan consistently. Antidepressants help to improve your sleep habits and appetite, reduce anxiety, and improve your mood.

However, when your antidepressant dose is too high, you will have adverse effects, such as:

  • Feeling numb or a lack of pleasure
  • Significant changes in weight
  • Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Drowsiness, fatigue, and low energy
  • Increased irritability and anxiety
  • Worsening depression
  • Excessive energy or mania

It is also critical to monitor symptoms over time for signs that your antidepressant dose is too high or too low. Sometimes, medications lose their effectiveness as you become accustomed to them. On the other hand, bodily changes as you get older can change how you respond to certain types of antidepressants. Thus, you must find other ways to treat your symptoms rather than relying on medications alone.

What Else Can I Do to Improve My Mental Health?

The best way to treat mental health disorders is by combining medications with therapeutic activities. The types of therapy that work for you depend on your disorder, severity of symptoms, and personal preferences. The best mental health treatment programs provide options for you to find your own path to recovery.

At North Atlanta Behavioral Health, we offer the following therapies for mental health disorders in addition to psychiatry:

  • Talk therapy: Traditional therapy includes talk therapy. However, talk therapy varies based on which modality will work best for you and your symptoms. Common types of therapy include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT).
  • Brainspotting: This is a specific type of therapy that involves finding spots in your visual field that activate trauma responses. Brainspotting can help you heal from traumatic experiences and PTSD.
  • Red Light Therapy: Treating symptoms of mental health disorders can also include alternative approaches like red light therapy. Red light therapy can improve sleep quality and mental clarity as well as reduce stress.
  • Holistic Therapy: Our holistic approach to treatment includes nutritional support, exercise, meditation, and exercise. Holistic therapy can improve physical health, which in turn improves your mental well-being.

Find Mental Health Services in Atlanta Today

If you notice signs that your antidepressant dose is too high or too low, you need to reevaluate your medication. In addition, you could benefit from adding multiple approaches to your treatment plan, such as brainspotting or red light therapy. At North Atlanta Behavioral Health, we can help you find a mental health treatment plan that will work for you.

Contact us today to begin mental health treatment in Atlanta, Georgia.

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