At first glance, the question “Is depression contagious?” might seem almost nonsensical. After all, depression lacks the physical manifestations typically associated with communicable diseases. Yet, depression being contagious gains depth and relevance in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. During this global crisis, a significant uptick in mental health issues was observed. For instance, a study published in The Lancet revealed a 25% increase in the prevalence of depression worldwide in 2020, underscoring the profound impact of societal and environmental stressors on mental health.
What is Depression?
Depression, clinically known as Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), is far more than just feeling sad or going through a rough patch. Depression is a serious mental health condition characterized by persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and a lack of interest or pleasure in activities. These symptoms must persist for at least two weeks for a diagnosis of depression. Depression can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, or background, and its causes are a complex interplay of genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors.
How Does Depression Develop?
The development of depression is multifaceted and unique to each individual. It can stem from genetic vulnerabilities, imbalances in brain chemicals like serotonin and dopamine, traumatic life events, chronic stress, or medical conditions. These factors can interact in complex ways, making the precise cause of depression often difficult to pinpoint.
In addition, depression frequently coexists with several other mental health disorders, indicating a higher rate of comorbidity. This means that individuals suffering from depression often simultaneously experience other mental health conditions, such as anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, personality disorders, and substance use disorders.
Is Depression Contagious: Can You “Catch” Depression?
No, you cannot “catch” depression in the same way you would a cold or the flu. However, those that suffer from depression typically have a significant impact on those most close to them. Studies suggest that, particularly in close relationships, symptoms of depression can be mirrored or internalized by partners, family members, or close friends, leading to a phenomenon sometimes referred to as “emotional contagion.”
What Does Depression Do To The Brain?
Depression can cause real, tangible changes in the brain. Research has shown that it can alter the brain’s structure and function. For example, the hippocampus, known for its role in memory formation, can shrink in those with prolonged depression. This shrinkage is linked to the impaired cognitive functions often reported in depression including reduced concentration, impaired memory, and lower processing speed. Depression can also affect the brain’s neurotransmitter systems, disrupting the balance needed for mood regulation.
How is Depression Treated?
While depression is not known to be contagious, getting help for depression is possible. Depression treatment can exist in a variety of forms in multiple types of intensities depending on the severity of the disorder.
Inpatient Depression Treatment
Inpatient depression treatment offers round-the-clock care where individuals reside at a treatment center. This environment provides a safe space free from external stressors where individuals can focus intensely on their recovery. Inpatient programs typically include a combination of individual counseling, group therapy, and, where necessary, medication management. The goal is to stabilize the patient’s condition and lay a foundation for long-term recovery
Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP)
A Partial Hospitalization Program or PHP, is an outpatient form of rehab where individuals go to a treatment center during the day and return either to home or a structured, supportive living environment at night. This level of care is intense and can be an alternative to inpatient treatment for some. Treatment includes group therapy, holistic therapy, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, and more.
Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP)
Intensive Outpatient Programs require attendance for a minimum of three hours per day for several days a week. They are designed for those who need more support than traditional outpatient therapy but less than PHP. Typically Intensive Outpatient Programming includes group therapy, psychiatry, and individual therapy.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy is a form of cognitive-behavioral therapy specifically formulated to treat individuals with borderline personality disorder, and it has proven effective in treating depression. DBT emphasizes the development of skills in mindfulness, emotion regulation, distress tolerance, and interpersonal effectiveness. This approach helps individuals understand and manage their emotions better and improve relationships and personal coping strategies.
Psychiatry often plays a critical role in managing depression, particularly when medications are involved. Psychiatrists can prescribe antidepressants, adjust dosages, and monitor side effects, ensuring that the pharmacological aspect of treatment is tailored to what the client needs.
Find Depression Treatment in Georgia Today
If you or someone you know is struggling with symptoms of depression, the first step is to reach out for help. Remember, depression is not a sign of weakness, but a treatable medical condition. At Novu Wellness, our mental health treatment programs in Georgia can help you today.