We all feel a little down on occasion. It’s a natural state to be in but when you find yourself low most of the time and it’s difficult to get out of that well of despondency, you could actually be suffering from major or clinical depression. This can affect not only the way that you look at the world around you but can also begin to impact on your day to day living. It can stop you feeling connected and can even lead to thoughts of suicide.
Depression is not a sign of weakness or something that you should be encouraged to shrug off. Millions of people around the world suffer from it at some time in their lives and it’s one of the biggest public health problems we face today.
The good news is that spotting the warning signs and doing something about it can lead to a full recovery and a much better sense of wellbeing.
The Symptoms of Depression
There are many things that make us feel ‘depressed’ or low. Problems at work, the breakup of a relationship, the loss of a favorite pet are just a few. These little episodes of depression become more problematic when they engulf our every thought and begin to affect our day to day lives. When this happens and it continues unabated, overwhelming you, then you are more likely to be suffering from clinical depression.
The depth and darkness of clinical depression has led some to explain it as akin to living in a black hole. You may not feel sad and low but just empty and lacking self-worth. Depression can affect the genders differently. In men it can often lead to greater periods of aggression and irritability. Men are more likely to commit suicide even though the rate of depression is higher in women.
Types of Depression
A major depressive episode is usually considered as one that last more than a couple of weeks and the symptoms can range from mild disaffection to times when your mind and state are severely impacted.
People can have clinical depression and function reasonably well or it can have a big effect on their day to day activity, even stopping them working. It’s characterized by long periods of feeling low, an inability to enjoy life and the sense that it’s all just not worth living. A sufferer may lose weight because they are not eating properly or feel perpetually tired because they are not getting enough sleep. Clinical depression needs to be medically diagnosed and if you think you have it then a visit to your doctor is a good idea.
Recurrent Mild Depression
Many people suffer from dysthymia or mild depression that reoccurs – you don’t feel as low as when you have a major depressive episode but this kind of depression can happen more frequently and last a long while. While it’s difficult to really enjoy life, people with dysthymia are generally able to function at reasonably normal levels. That doesn’t mean you should simply resign yourself to it and seeking help can give you the tools to overcome this condition.
Depression After Pregnancy
Postpartum depression is a common condition and occurs after the birth of a child. It can last for months afterwards and cause problems with bonding, leaving the mother feeling terrified by the fact that she wants to avoid her baby. Neither does it always occur immediately after birth. Some mothers have suffered from this form of depression up to a year after.
Other Kinds of Depression
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is another form of depression that is linked to the changing of the seasons. Sufferers often start to feel low during the Fall and this doesn’t dissipate until spring comes around. Another condition is manic depression or bipolar disorder that involves periods of extreme highs and deep lows.
Causes of Depression
Depression is a complicated condition. There may be any number of factors that affect it and that can make it difficult to treat and diagnose. There may be emotional factors such as the loss of a loved one or difficulty dealing with a traumatic event. There may also be physical problems such as pain from a chronic illness or suddenly losing mobility or cognitive function. In all, there are a range of biological, social and psychological factors involved in any diagnosis.
There is no one size fits all solution to depression. If you are suffering from a mild form of the condition, support from family and friends and more exercise might be just the ticket to get you back to living well and feeling better. If you are suffering from manic episodes you might require a more medicalized approach and be given mood changers by your physician.
When you feel that you are suffering from more than just the blues, it is important to get the right help and support. This might initially be talking to friends and family and admitting that you are having difficulty coping. Strong support is needed for any mental health condition but particularly depression where feelings and emotions can soon spiral out of control.
Reaching out for help is not a sign of weakness but actually a sign of strength. If you don’t want to involve friends and family, for whatever reason, then finding a local support group where you can talk to people who have been through the same thing is equally important.
Sometimes depression can be helped by making lifestyle changes. That can be something as simple as getting out more and meeting new people, perhaps taking a class or learning a new hobby that brings you into contact with others. It could be about changing your eating habits and becoming healthier, perhaps improving your exercise regime and building better fitness. You may want to try different techniques such as mindfulness and meditation to help you through difficult periods or find a way to change your negative thoughts through something like cognitive behavior therapy.
Getting Professional Help
Making all these changes will no doubt help combat your depression but if symptoms still persist then it’s time to seek professional help. Most mental health professionals will have a variety of tools that can help you combat your condition from different angles.
This includes therapies such as CBT or cognitive behavior therapy where you learn to frame and explore your condition in a different way that is less damaging. Therapy can also help you get to the core of your depression and why it is happening.
Medication can be given for depression but it is normally a last resort or a short term solution if you are going through a particularly bad episode. Anti-depressants come with side effects and these can be almost as damaging as the depression itself. Neither are they a cure for depression and they will normally be prescribed in conjunction with some form of therapy.
Helping Someone with Depression
The key to getting over and coping with depression is to get the support get. All too often people suffer in silence and try to cope. Only when things reach critical point does intervention take place. When you suspect that someone you know is suffering from depression, it’s time to reach out a helping hand. Getting them to talk and finding solutions together is far better than letting things be.
Accepting that you have a problem is not always easy. Many of us simply soldier on, not wanting to burden anyone else with our problems. It happens more in the case of depression and mental health than any other area. This is exactly the opposite of what we should be doing. After all, if you have a physical health problem you don’t hope it will simply go away, you get yourself down to your local physician or pharmacist and get it treated.