It is relevant for everyone to understand depression these days. Australian statistics say 1 in 5 of us will experience depression. For this reason you will know someone with depression.
Depression is a distressing condition. A persistent flat mood characterises depression. Additionally negative thinking dominates.
Feeling stuck is a common description. People feel trapped in negative feedback loops. Subsequently, thoughts and feelings are self reinforcing.
Depression ranges from mild to severe. Episodes may last from weeks to months. Many people suffer for years. There can be a single episode or several episodes.
With mild depression you can still work. However the drive or spark is gone. Furthermore life often feels pointless. Accordingly people are ‘just going through the motions.’
Severe depression interferes with functioning. Consequently it impacts all areas of daily life. In chronic cases you cannot mange your usual roles. Either at home or at work.
Generally certain mood regulation chemicals are out of kilter. It is noteworthy that in a majority of cases depression stems from specific experiences. Certainly, this is an area where counselling makes a big difference.
For the most part, life seems too hard with depression. The sufferer feels hopeless. They cannot see how it can change. Ironically, their feelings and thoughts prevent helpful action. For instance they stop doing the very things that will help them feel better. In particular, social contact and pleasurable activities fall away.
It is noteworthy that socially isolated people are most at risk of depression.
Non Drug Options
In many cases, non drug options help recovery. Counselling is extremely helpful.
Research shows walking and meditation are very effective. Also, time in nature is very healing. Similarly, mindfulness techniques are excellent. Likewise gratitude journaling can significantly reduce depression. Furthermore, there are many studies on the impact of food and nutrition on mood.
One of the most important factors is social support. Feeling connected into a supportive network makes a huge difference.
Finally, friends and family can unintentionally make you feel worse. In large part this due to a lack of knowledge. For example, telling you to ‘snap out of it’ is not helpful. This is like expecting someone with a broken leg to run. First comes healing. Healing needs the right steps and conditions. Accordingly, there is great value educating family and friends. They can learn how to best support you.
‘Normal’ Responses vs Depression
We use the depression word liberally. Although their responses are ‘normal’ people say they feel depressed. For instance upsetting situations can leave you feeling flat or down for a little while. Maybe you’ve been criticised. Or you weren’t included in some event. Similarly, at first you can feel defeated by setbacks and disappointments. Probably everyone experiences occasional flat moods or sadness. These feelings pass and we bounce back to our usual selves.
Likewise, motivation can flag for various reasons. Amongst the most common are stress and tiredness.
Clinical depression is different to these ‘normal range’ reactions. For instance it has a significant impact on your daily functioning. Furthermore it feels impossible to escape its grip. In particular, the down feelings persist over time.
Below are some of the more common symptoms of depression:
- Depression is extremely isolating. You withdraw socially. Commonly you decline invitations. There is little or no energy to socialise.
- You have stopped doing things you used to enjoy. Similarly you can’t find any pleasure in life.
- Moods are often irritable, tense and agitated.
- Energy is low with a sense of exhaustion. Accordingly even the simple seem like too much effort. For example taking a shower, getting dressed or preparing a meal.
- People often experience underlying anger, guilt, regret and frustration.
- A sense of hopelessness is deep and pervasive. People say “I can’t see a way out” or “this will never change.”
- Sleeping problems are common. Also, depressed people may use sleep to shut out the world.
- Eating habits usually change. For example you’ve lose your appetite or over-eat for comfort.
- Alcohol and substances use may increase as a strategy for coping.
- Libido and interest in sex fades.
- Difficulty concentrating is common. Additionally it can be a struggle to think clearly. Similarly making decisions or taking positive action seems beyond you.
- Self esteem is low. Accordingly you have lost confidence in yourself and your life.
The debilitating effects of depression are devastating. Particularly if you are used to being in control of your life.
Depression is categorised as a mental illness. Consequently this label frightens many people. It is important to realise that most people can become free of depression. The underlying issues can be addressed.
You can read more here about the causes of depression and treatment.
Remember you do not need to continue suffering. Professional counselling and therapy is a very effective treatment. Seeking help is the first step to take back control and enjoy life again.