Depression affects millions of people worldwide. Current estimates are that 121 million suffer from depression globally and that one in ten American adults will suffer some form of depression in their lives. Often people will wonder if what they are feeling is depression or just a case of the “blues”.
The most common mental health issue diagnosed today, depression is often called the “common cold” of mental health. With depression being this common, it is important to know some of the symptoms and causes.
Am I Depressed?
There are several types of depression under the current guidelines used to diagnose mental illness. These include mild to severe depressive mood disorder, bipolar disorder, dysthymia, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and situational depression.
The end result is the same. Depression can and often will affect every aspect of your life if not treated.
To know if you are depressed you will have to match the following symptoms and undergo a simple depression test.
- Sleep disturbances: This can be sleeping all day to hardly sleeping at all.
- Lack of energy or feeling fatigued: This often makes it hard to do even the simple activities of daily living like bathing, getting out of bed or even simple personal grooming.
- Eating disturbances A person may cope with their problems by eating too much or not eating at all.
- Loss of interest in those things they once enjoyed.
- Decreased sex drive
- Inability to concentrate
- Feeling down: You no longer experience joy or pleasure in your life.
- Feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness: You many feel that there is no hope or happiness in life. You many also feel that you have no worth to others.
- Suicidal thoughts or plans: If you feel this way right now, quit reading and immediately contact your local crisis number, police, hospital or call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-Talk (8255). This requires immediate attention from a qualified mental health professional.
- You may feel guilty or that you deserve to be punished.
Often the chronic depressed person will have low self esteem, feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness. This can be accompanied by feelings of a lifetime of failure and as one person put it “I feel like a cosmic joke. God put me here just so he could laugh at my misery” and “I feel like a waste of human skin”.
These statements show how low a depressed person can get. In these cases, medication and immediate help should be given to ensure their safety.
Why am I Depressed?
There are several known causes why you might be depressed. There are also some unknown causes. Some of the most common causes of depression are:
A chemical imbalance in the brain. There are certain chemicals that assist in messages being transmitted throughout the brain, called neurotransmitters. These include Serotonin, Dopamine, Norepinephrine and Epinephrine. When these naturally occurring chemicals are low in the brain, or are not readily available, then it affects the messaging system. In turn it will cause our mood to be low.
Hormonal imbalances. Hormones affect the chemical messengers. When these hormones are out of balance, it directly affects how available the neurotransmitters are. Most often seen in low testosterone, menopausal changes, peri-menopause, premenstrual syndrome, poly-cystic ovarian syndrome, and postpartum. All of the affected hormones are related to sex drive and feeling good.
Medical conditions. Some medical conditions such as diabetes affect neurotransmitters as well as the central nervous system. Diabetes is an endocrine imbalance, particularly affecting the pancreas. The endocrine system is also part of the hormonal system.
Life stressors. There are several stressors in life that can affect mood and result in what is called situational depression. These include:
- Marriage or divorce
- Birth of a baby
- Changing residences
- Death of a loved one
- Illness of self or a loved one
- Starting or leaving a job
- Starting a new relationship
- Suffering a recent traumatic event
- Being the victim of a crime
All of these factors can cause a temporary form of depression that typically starts within three months of the event and lasts less than six months.
There is one more form of depression called maladaptive grief. This is when a person who is grieving cannot seem to continue with basic activities of daily living, constantly stuck in the grief mode with no relief of symptoms.
Grief typically will last a life time, but there will be an eventually continuation with life after some adjustment to the grieving person’s loss. When this adjustment is not made in a reasonable amount of time (and that is not two weeks, it could be as long as 1 year), then they are said to have maladaptive grief.
But don’t give up hope! All forms of depression is treatable.
Helpful Hints For Depression
If you are suffering from depression you are not alone. Depression is the most common mental health diagnoses made today. Besides medication and therapy, here are a few helpful hints that may help you cope with your symptoms.
When you are fatigued or feeling a total lack of energy, just try to do small things like get out of bed and get dressed. Don’t push yourself to do too much. It will only lead to further feelings of failure, hopelessness and worthlessness.
If the following points aren’t enough for you. Here are 101 easy ways to fight depression.
Give yourself a break. You are suffering from a medical condition. You wouldn’t be hard on yourself for having diabetes, heart disease or any other number of conditions. It simply means that there is a chemical imbalance that can be corrected through diet and medication.
Eat healthy. Many times depression can be linked to nutritional deficiencies. You don’t have to eat large meals, but make six small meals instead that include all the food groups and a wide variety of fruits and vegetables.
Journaling. Get yourself a diary, a notebook or anything where you can record your thoughts. It has been shown that by writing down your thoughts and feelings, you can process them better. Go back and read your journal once a week and take note of where you are at as compared to where you were then.
Give yourself credit. You do have knowledge and skills. Give yourself credit for the things that you do instead of thinking about the things you didn’t do. There is a saying that goes like this: “On particularly rough days when I’m sure I can’t possibly endure, I like to remind myself that my track record for getting through bad days so far is 100% and that’s pretty good.”
Learn some relaxation techniques. There are a wide variety and include deep breathing exercises, meditation, yoga and Tai Chi. These will help to ease the stress which can cause depression symptoms to worsen.
Start an exercise program. That doesn’t mean spend a lot of money that you may not have going to the gym. Just a simple 10 minute walk a day will improve your overall mental health.
Don’t isolate yourself. If you don’t have a lot of friends, look at joining some groups. There is a wide variety they can be found on meetups.com. Find one that interests you and try to attend a least one meeting every two weeks.
Find a depression support group. It often helps to share your symptoms and how you cope with others and hear their stories. If there isn’t one locally, then start one.
Get a pet. Taking care of an animal that loves you often helps with depression. Covered under the American Disability Act (ADA), these animals are considered service animals and will be allowed when pets are not.
Depression is the leading mental health diagnosis today. With over 121 million people worldwide suffering from depression, you are not alone. Early diagnosis and treatment is the key to regaining your life.
Depression is treatable and it is easy to maintain your symptoms. If you or someone you know is suffering from depression, it is always best to seek the guidance of a mental health or a qualified medical professional.