Everyone feels sad or blue on occasion, but . . .
... these feelings usually pass within a few of days. However, if these feelings become a normal daily experience and begin to interfere with daily life, and cause you and people who love you to become concerned then you probably have a depressive disorder. Depression is a common but serious illness, and most who experience it need treatment to get better.
Many people with a depressive illness never seek treatment despite the fact that most who seek help get better, even those with severe depression.
What is depression?
Depression is a mental health disorder that can affect the way you eat and sleep, the way you feel about yourself, and the way you think about things. A depressive disorder is more than a passing mood. It is not a sign of personal weakness, and it cannot be willed or wished away.
A depressive disorder involves the body, mood, and thoughts. People who are depressed cannot "snap out of it" and get better. Without treatment, symptoms can last for months or years. Treatments such as antidepressant medications and psychotherapy can reduce and sometimes eliminate the symptoms of depression.
What are the symptoms of depression?
Symptoms vary from person to person but do fall within a range of physical, mental and psychological experiences. The severity, frequency and duration of symptoms will also vary depending on the individual and his or her particular illness.
Typical symptoms include:
Persistent sad, anxious or "empty" feelings
Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
Feelings of guilt, worthlessness and/or helplessness
Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
Fatigue and decreased energy
Difficulty concentrating, remembering details and making decisions
Insomnia, early–morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
Overeating or appetite loss
Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment
What causes depression?
There is no single cause of depression. Rather, it likely results from a combination of genetic, biochemical, environmental, and psychological factors.
Some common contributors to depression are:
Genetics - some depressions run in families.
Grief - loss of a loved one, an important relationship, or a significant job.
Stress - intense pressure for a prolonged period of time (work, school, caring for an ill loved one, etc.)
Low self-esteem - people who are consistently pessimistic, or who are readily overwhelmed by stress, are prone to depression.
Disease - stroke, heart attack, cancer, Parkinson's disease, and hormonal disorders can cause depression.
Subsequent depressive episodes may occur with or without an obvious trigger.
What can I do if I am depressed?
Depression can be treated and you can get better. However, depression causes feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, exhaustion, and thoughts that you will not get better. These thoughts will be your biggest enemy during treatment, so it is important to keep in mind that these negative views are a part of the depression and often do not accurately reflect your actual circumstances.
Here a few steps you can take to become healthy again:
Reduce life stressors. Frequently we do not think we can control our life situation, and to some degree this is probably true, but there are usually some things we can eliminate in our life.
Set realistic goals for yourself and break those down into smaller steps so that you can recognize your successes.
Spend time with others who you can talk with. Depression drives us toward isolation, but studies have shown that social activity helps reduce depressive symptoms.
Become active - go to church, movies, or other social activities.
Exercise - helps your body to cope with the depression.
Get supportive people around you - family, friends, church.
Find a professional therapist - who can help you on the journey to wholeness again.
Larry McElvain, Founder, Discovery Counseling Center
November 2, 2020