Many people are ill informed regarding depression, or are not sure what is meant when the word depression is used medically. This is much more than feeling down or blue on a bad day. Depression is a relatively common disorder in which some one feels down or depressed for two of more weeks consecutively for most of the day. Approximately 20-25% of adults will experience at least one episode of depression in their life time. This is likely an under estimate due to the social stigma associated with feeling depressed. Depression is the leading cause of disability world wide and is the most common mental health disorder (WHO). Depression looks a little different from person to person. So what is depression? To meet criteria for depression, a person must have:
1. Depressed Mood
2. Anhedonia or sudden loss of pleasure in things you used to enjoy
They will also have some combination of the following:
3. Sudden, unintentional weight changes and appetite changes
4. Moving much more rapidly or slowly than is normal.
5. Insomnia or Hypersomnia
6. Chronic fatigue or loss of energy every day
7. Feelings of worthlessness
8. Excessive guilt
9. Decreased ability to think of concentrate and make decisions (indecisiveness).
10 . Thoughts of death or suicide
If you are feeling depressed or if a loved one is, there is hope. There are a number of therapies and medications that are effective in reducing depression. Additionally, increased exercise and changes to sleep habits are also beneficial for increasing mood.
No responsible person can recommend that depression is just a phase, or that a person experiencing depression just needs to pick themselves up by the boot straps and get back to work. I advocate hard work and patience, but once someone is in a pit, they often need a helping hand to boost them out of that pit. If you would not recommend that someone just will their liver back into good health, you should not recommend they just will their depression into happiness. It is true that there are some things a person can do at home to feel better such as exercise, sleep better, and eat healthy, but those are also recommendations for healthful physical living as well. These measures are invigorating and increase energy levels.
The aspect of depression that often makes it hard to snap out of it, is the constant depressive thoughts that many feel. Thoughts of worthlessness, thoughts that make you feel guilty, and thoughts that generally demean and attack you are what help to perpetuate the feelings of depression. It is primarily these thoughts that are the targets of psychotherapy treatments such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
Do not feel ashamed if you struggle with feelings of depression. Do not hide it from those close to you or your doctor. As you bring others in on what many feel is their secret struggle, you will feel the love and support you need to get better. You will receive the treatment necessary to break the self feeding cycle of depression. Talk to your doctor, a psychologist, or a psychiatrist. Your doctor can recommend you to a competent mental health professional. Psychologist can help you work through therapy and psychiatrist can offer you medications to help with depressed mood. The best response to treatment is in those who take medication and do therapy, and then exercise on their own where possible.
Here are some other posts you may be interested in: How do I work towards a more balanced life?, You have your hands full: Children and Family Values