Depression is a complex and debilitating illness that more than 15 million American adults suffer with every day. It negatively affects every area of your life – sometimes happening so slowly that you don’t recognize the signs of depression until long after it’s gone too far.
For decades, doctors have been trying to unravel the mysteries surrounding a stigmatized and too often misunderstood disease that affects the lives of so many.
Countless studies suggest depression is linked to a miscommunication in the brain – damaged nerve cells and neurotransmitters (serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine) that short out areas of the brain responsible for regulating mood.
When you or someone you love suffers from depression, you want it to stop by any means necessary. I’m a firm believer in the effectiveness of holistic therapies for depression but I also see too many lives ruined from this insidious disease.
Common Signs of Depression
Sadness, fatigue, and feelings of hopelessness can be constant and overwhelming.
A depressed person may not recognize that their emotional state is declining. If they do, it might not occur to them that depression is the explanation.
In such cases, a loved one, a friend, a neighbor, or a co-worker speaking up and asking questions may be their only indication of a problem.
Depression takes a toll on the person experiencing it as well as the people around them. It can affect job performance, relationships, and overall health. Left untreated, depression can worsen into physical and behavioral issues that lead to further problems.
- Substance abuse or other risk-taking behaviors
- Social phobias or other forms of anxiety disorders
- Conflicts with people in your life
- Isolation and further withdrawal
- Self-harm, suicidal thoughts, or attempted suicide.
Depressives of all types become stuck on a vicious loop of self-doubt and criticism.
- “No one wants to be around me anyway.”
- “I must have done something to deserve it.”
- “The world would be better off without me.”
Though these thoughts are untrue, a person in a depressed frame of mind will not only consider them, they will justify the negativity with more negativity.
- “I’m a failure.”
- “I’m not good enough.”
- “It’s pointless, things will never change.”
Depending on the specific form of depression, symptoms can be all over the place and make it difficult for someone to recognize issues in themselves. Depression signs can manifest in ways that make it a study of contradictions.
- Too much sleep…not enough sleep.
- Increased appetite…decreased appetite.
- Mental slowing down…rapid thoughts.
- Disinterest in pleasurable activities…risk-taking behavior.
- Crying spells…angry or confrontational outbursts.
Ups and downs, highs and lows, sometimes without rhyme or reason. Sadness is the most common emotion associated with depression but it is anger that is statistically the root cause.
Most people – especially women – are taught to suppress anger. The result can be a building sense of powerlessness and frustration that brings other negative emotions to the forefront.
In conjunction with treatment and/or drug therapies, here are some tips to improve your chances of beating depression:
- Know the facts about depression. Your doctor or mental health therapist will give you vital information to aid in your treatment. However, talking to other people with depression will show you that you are not alone. Check out the excellent information at the National Institute of Mental Health for research studies, outreach programs in your area, and the latest news about depression and depression treatments.
- Avoid complete isolation. See a show, join a class, or take in a sporting event. Getting outside and among others (even strangers) can be helpful. If you’re unable to get out, call a friend or sign up for groups who visit with those who are homebound.
- Delay life-changing choices until you are in a better place to make those decisions. Considering marriage, divorce, moving, or changing jobs when you are at a low point in your life may be a reaction to temporary stress or feelings you can’t control at the time. As your emotional balance improves, you will be able to make the choices best for you – not depression.
- Take one day at a time. Smaller, realistic goals are best to achieve recovery and move on with your life. “Today, I will go for a walk if my feelings of sadness seem stronger.” Learning to evaluate your emotional condition will aid you in preventative measures.
- Give yourself a break. Recovery takes time and if you’re consistent in your treatment, good to yourself, and believe that you will get better…your chances of leaving depression behind are much higher.
- Give positive thought a chance. It might sound a little cliché but positive thinking is indeed powerful. If you feel overwhelmed by negative thoughts, stop and think of three positive things in your life. During times of extreme stress, recalling your children, your pets, or happy memories can help get you through a particularly bad depressive episode.
- Surround yourself with positive, non-judgmental people. Just as negative thinking is contagious…so is positive thinking. If there are family or friends in your life who are unable or unwilling to help you in your recovery, limit your time with them until you are emotionally stronger.
Your recovery and quality of life must be top priority.
It is critical that you do not ignore signs of depression. Statistically, it doesn’t go away on its own. In fact, avoiding the way you feel is far more likely to make those feelings more powerful.
If you’re concerned you may be suffering from depression, seek treatment as soon as possible. The sooner you seek help, the greater your chances for a faster recovery with less risk of relapse.
You do not have to fight depression on your own. Give yourself every available tool to defeat it. Whatever it takes – therapy, meditation, pharmaceuticals, exercise – you deserve to be free.
You are not alone. Depression does not have to win.