Summer is upon us, the air is warming, the flowers are in bloom, and the winter blah is over…or is it? Maybe someone you love is dealing with the “summer blues.” We assume that when the weather improves, so will our feelings of isolation and lethargy. But for over 16 million American adults, depression is a daily struggle.

So what is depression? What causes depression? What can be done about depression?

What is depression?

Depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain. Typical symptoms are that a person feels tired, does not want to socialize, and has overall feelings of sadness. Imagine what it feels like to wake up in the morning and not want to get out of bed (me most mornings). Now imagine if that was 10x worse, where it felt impossible to get out of bed. With depression, it feels like isolating, laying around, and not moving is the easiest path. It can be a very difficult road for clients that don’t receive help.

What causes depression?

Depression can be caused by a number of things: brain chemistry, traumatic events, or life circumstances. For some people, depression is a life-long struggle, while for others they can learn coping techniques that will help improve and manage symptoms. A Harvard Medical article says, “Onset of depression more complex than a brain chemical imbalance.” Regions that affect mood may be damaged, life circumstances may have changed DNA known as “epigenetic.” Also, stress, loss, and medical issues can increase depressive symptoms.

For someone dealing with depression, it can feel difficult to get the snowball of treatment started. However, once it starts, the positive feelings reinforce themselves. This creates a chain of positive habits that will reduce depression symptoms.

What can be done about depression?

Depression may seem complex, but there are three standard treatments for depression: psychiatric medication, counseling, and exercise. A University of Michigan study found that the mixture of all three was most effective, but that counseling and exercise was the most effective combination of two of the three. Other treatments are to increase meaningful work, improve socialization, change eating habits, and improve the quality of sleep.

For someone that is chronically tired, sad, or lacks socialization, a professional is usually the next best step. As well, working with a doctor to look at other explanations is important. It could be thyroid issues or other imbalances that are causing the symptoms. Talking about past trauma, hurt, and sadness with a therapist can help. Also, exploring mindfulness through meditation and yoga has been shown to improve symptoms.

For most people, summer is a time of excitement and joy. If you or someone you love may be dealing with the “summer blues” talk to someone to determine if there is help to improve the symptoms.

Mental Wellness Counseling assists teens and adults with depression and anxiety. This article is not a replacement for professional services.