Many people think depression is an emotion, often confusing it with just being unhappy. However, depression is a clinical condition and is the leading cause of disability among U.S. individuals aged 15 to 44 years. Depression is fairly common, affecting more than 15 million adults in the United States.
Depression is when you feel sadness, hopelessness, and helplessness and just can’t snap out of it. It may be hard to socialize, meet the demands of school and work, and may even lead to thoughts of self-harm. With depression, the activities you once found enjoyable are no longer bringing any pleasure and the feeling of slipping into a dark place looms over you every day for weeks at a time.
Some people have reported to me that when they are feeling depleted from depression, they just can’t seem to get the laundry done, and the ever-looming pile keeps growing and growing. And yet, they will look at it, and just walk by it due to feelings of overwhelm and being totally unmotivated to take care of it. Other clients have reported to me that they just stopped caring about daily grooming. Finding it hard to shower, brush their teeth and put any make-up on. Weight gain and weight loss can both happen during a depression episode.
The persistent feeling of sadness or loss of interest that characterizes depression can lead to a range of behavioral and physical symptoms. These may include changes in sleep, appetite, energy level, concentration, daily behavior, or self-esteem.
Recognizing an on-going pattern is very important as it can become a very dangerous game for some if the confusion about depression continues unchecked. If you feel that you shy away from what you love or what usually gives you energy then it’s time to examine deeper as to why you are feeling that way. Many people can reach out to find some relief by talking to a supportive family member or friend, but when your own support system is not enough, it is probably time to see a professional counselor. The good news is that treatments are available. But many people who have depression do not seek treatment.
The medical community does not fully understand the causes of depression. There are many possible causes, and sometimes, various factors combine to trigger symptoms.
Factors that are likely to play a role include:
- Genetic Features
- Changes In The Brain’s Neurotransmitter Levels
- Changes In Hormonal Levels
- Environmental Factors
- Psychological And Social Factors
- Adverse Childhood Experiences
- Lack Of A Positive Support System
Types Of Depression
There are several forms of depression. Below are some of the most common types.
A person with major depression experiences a constant state of sadness. They may lose interest in activities that they used to enjoy.
Treatment usually involves medication and psychotherapy.
Persistent Depressive Disorder
Also known as dysthymia, persistent depressive disorder causes symptoms that last for at least 2 years.
A person with this disorder may have episodes of major depression as well as milder symptoms.
After giving birth, many women experience what some people call the “baby blues.” When hormone levels readjust after childbirth, changes in mood can result.
Postpartum depression, or postnatal depression, is more severe.
There is no single cause for this type of depression, and it can persist for months or years. Anyone who experiences ongoing depression after delivery should seek medical attention.
Major Depressive Disorder With Seasonal Pattern
Previously called seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, this type of depression is related to the reduction in daylight during the fall and winter.
It lifts during the rest of the year and in response to light therapy.
People who live in countries with long or severe winters seem to be affected more by this condition.
For mild-moderate forms of depression, psychotherapy is usually the first-line treatment. When the symptoms are more severe or chronic, some people respond better to a combination of psychotherapy and medications.
CBT and DBT psychotherapy are two types of psychotherapy successful in treating depression. It is a way to challenge the negative recurring thoughts that bring you down and to reintroduce affirmations and self-care behaviors. It can also uncover old unresolved trauma issues, even as far back as childhood, that may be contributing to the depression cycles in adulthood.
CBT is the best-proven form of psychotherapy. It sometimes works as well as antidepressant drugs for some types of depression. Some research suggests that people who get CBT may be half as likely as those on medication alone to have depression again within a year.
Medication works well to treat depression. If you also get CBT, your treatment might work even better and the benefits might last longer. Most people who get CBT for depression or anxiety continue to keep using the skills they learned in therapy a year later.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy is a very structured form of therapy based on a synthesis of self-acceptance and change. It incorporates techniques geared toward validation and tolerance, as well as techniques that will improve certain behaviors.
A 2002 study published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry found that 71 percent of study participants who received Dialectical Behavior Therapy for depression reported to be free of their depression symptoms by the end of the study.
Researchers taught the participants new skills to help manage their negative emotions and life problems, especially in times of crisis. These skills can be especially useful when dealing with the negative emotions you typically experience when depressed.
25 Things You Can Do To Fight Depression
- Exercise – This has been my sharpest sword. Try to get at least 20 minutes of exercise everyday, even if it’s just a quick walk.
- Eating Well – Depression can lead to overeating or under-eating. Eating better makes your body feel better. Consider eating less sugar and processed foods and eating plenty of protein, fruits and vegetables.
- Find a Counselor – Find someone to talk to about the way you are feeling and who can help you navigate the hardest parts of your story. Having a confidential person who is on the outside of your life looking in can often see things friends and family cannot.
- Journal – Writing down how you are feeling can bring relief and provide a feeling of “control” that depression can often take from us. You may find it helpful to write a Gratitude Journal: jotting down five things or people you are thankful for each day to keep my mind focused on the good.
- 7-8 Hours of Sleep – Another symptom of depression is over-sleeping or under-sleeping. If you’re struggling to fall asleep, try moving all of the screens and distractions out of your room. Give yourself an hour to wind down in the quiet with soft music, a journal or a book. Set an alarm and get up at 8 hours.
- Stick to a Schedule — – If you’re struggling, make a few appointments throughout the day and stick to them. Could be a workout time at the gym, going to something at church or a park, even just alone time at a coffee shop. Make a plan to get out of the house and around other people.
- Don’t Over-Schedule – Make sure you are not hyper-busy and over-extended. Make sure you have time to relax and recharge.
- Go for a Walk or Hike – Not only will the exercise improve your mood, being in nature has shown to ease stress.
- Medication – There are many medications out there that have been proven to really help. Talk to your doctor and consider giving it a try.
- Avoid Drugs and Alcohol – When at your lowest state, alcohol often seems like a quick-fix and a crutch to numb the depths of your sadness. However, chemicals not only numb the low, they numb the good feelings as well. And can lead to addictions and major health problems.
- Set New Goals –Goals give life focus and direction. They help remind people what they are working towards and provide satisfaction when they accomplish them. Set small goals to get instant successes. These will build over time.
- Get a Massage – Touch therapies have been shown to ease the symptoms of depression by lowering stress and increasing the feel-good oxytocin.
- Meditate and Pray – Daily time in meditation encourages a relaxation response that is very beneficial to your mental health. As prayer can be a great way to ground yourself and connect to your spiritual senses.
- Watch Something Funny – Medical research has shown that laughing actually provides relief and gets your mind off your struggles.
- Get Around People – In the worst moments sometimes it helps to just get around people. Either strangers at a store or loved ones.
- Challenge Negative Thoughts –When a negative thought starts swarming, such as, nobody cares about me, immediately challenge that thought and write down a counterargument. Don’t let those thoughts take hold.
- List Your Accomplishments – When you are having negative thoughts and life may feel like it isn’t going anywhere and that you haven’t really done much. Writing a list of those things that you have accomplished, no matter how small, helps to get us unstuck.
- Try Something New – New experiences can provide a quick jolt of fun and happiness, a reminder that life is meant to be lived to the fullest. Make time to take that class you’ve always wanted to take. Go visit a new park or ice cream shop.
- Take More Pictures –Do one thing every single day that makes your life better or makes the world a better place and photographs it. Then anytime you are really struggling, you can look at the photo album and see that life is in fact worth living.
- Write Your Life Story – There are some really cool studies out there that show writing your life story is one of the most therapeutic things you can do because it allows you to document what you have lived through and shape it using your own narrative. You definitely don’t have to share it with anyone either.
- Forgive Someone –Release yourself from those angry feelings that may be part of what is weighing you down like a sack of rocks and move on. Just because you forgive doesn’t mean that you approve of what they did.
- Listen to Upbeat and Positive Music – We have known for thousands of years that music can change our moods. Create a playlist to use when you are having a negative moment or day.
- Make a Bucket List (and check something off) – Similar to setting goals. Print off a list of the things you’ve always wanted to do and hang it up somewhere you will look at it regularly.
- Do Something You Don’t Feel Like Doing –By getting unstuck from a pattern of neglecting things you are empowering yourself to see that you can handle things, perhaps one at a time.
- Never Give Up – If you’re having suicidal thoughts, please ask for help. Talk to someone you love. Call the suicide prevention hotline at 1-800–273-TALK (8255).