Chapter One: Introduction and Symptoms of Depression
Feeling sad occasionally is a normal part of growing up. It is best viewed as an opportunity to build character and learn about life-and us, and does not last forever. However, depression is a very different story. Using the word "depressed" to describe sadness is like using the phrase "moderately unsafe" to describe hurricanes. Depression is persistent sicknesses that can make a person feel exhausted, hopeless and uninterested in doing any of the things they used to enjoy. However, with the right support and decisions, it is possible for a person to cope with and overcome depression. The first step to recovery is to learn everything about it.
Depression doesn't always make a person feel sad. It can also make people feel dead, indifferent, and empty. It also has a tendency to make people feel hostile, furious, and restless-particularly men. Either way, depression can't be "shaken off" any better than cancer can be cured without medical attention or at least some kind of positive change. Regardless of how it makes a person feel, it should be taken very seriously because it can prevent a person from eating, studying, sleeping and having fun easily.
If several of the following signs and symptoms sound familiar to you, then you may be suffering from clinical depression.
- Excessive or small amounts of sleep
- Its difficult to concentrate or do things that used to be easy
- You often times feel hopeless and helpless
- You can't stop yourself from thinking negative thoughts no matter how hard you try
- You have lost your appetite (AKA your desire to eat) or your appetite has grown enormously
- You find yourself feeling more irritable, short-tempered or aggressive than usual
- You are drinking more alcohol than usual or are engaging in other reckless activity
- You find yourself thinking that life is not worth living (if you EVER have this thought, even for a second, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1800-273-8255 immediately. There are trained individuals available there twenty-four hours a day seven days a week. They will help you feel better. If you don't have the energy to pick up the phone, have someone else do it for you).
No two people are exactly alike, so naturally the symptoms and signs of depression will vary from person to person. However, there are some common symptoms. The thing is, these symptoms can also be part of life's normal lows; the more symptoms you experience, the stronger they are, and the longer they've lasted the more likely it is that you are dealing with depression.
- Feelings of powerlessness and despair. These often times come with thoughts like nothing ever will get better and there's nothing you can do to improve your situation.
- Lack of interest in daily activities. If you have suddenly lost all interest in things you used to enjoy, or have lost the ability to feel happy or pleased, then you need to find out why.
- Significant change in appetite. If you have gained or lost more than 5% of your body weight in a month, then yes, you should be worried.
- Changes in sleep patterns. You suddenly find yourself waking up way earlier or later than normal.
- Being easily angered or irritated. If you suddenly find yourself constantly fighting the urge to punch your fist through a wall, or feeling agitated, or feeling like everything and everyone gets on your nerves, then you need to find out why.
- Lack of energy. Feeling fatigued, sluggish, and physically drained to the point that even small tasks are exhausting or take a ridiculous amount of time to complete.
- Hating you. You have intense feelings of worthlessness or guilt and you are constantly criticizing yourself for mistakes or shortcomings.
- Reckless behavior. You often take part in escapist behaviors such as substance abuse, irresponsible driving, or unsafe sports.
- Inability to concentrate. Short attention spans, bad decisions, and forgetfulness are classic symptoms.
- Unexplained aches and pains. An increase in complaints such as having headaches, achy muscles, or stomachaches.
Chapter Two: Depression and Suicide
Another reason that depression is a serious condition is because it can trigger suicide. This is because the feelings of powerlessness and overpowering despair makes the person think death is the only way to escape the pain. If anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts or behavior, take them very seriously. This symptom is not just a sign that the person is thinking of suicide; it's a cry for help. The following behaviors are all warning signs of suicide, and, again, they should be taken very seriously.
- Talk about killing or harming one's self
- Talking about feeling intensely hopeless or being trapped
- An abnormal fascination with death or dying
- Reckless behavior that suggests they have a death wishes, for example speeding through red lights.
- Saying goodbye to people
- Taking care of things, like giving away prized possessions, and tying up loose ends.
- Saying things like "Everybody's lives would be easier if I would just disappear" or "I want out."
- Mood swings from being depressed to acting tranquil and happy
When a person feels extremely depressed or suicidal, their problems seem to be unsolvable and permanent. But with time, it is possible for a depressed person to feel better, especially if they reach out for help. If you feel suicidal, then you need to know there are loads of people out there who want to support you during these hard times, so do yourself a favor and reach out for help, PLEASE! If I didn't care about you, why would I be spending my free time typing this article? Call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or read this article on their website. They have trained professionals available seven days a week twenty-four hours a week.
If you think a friend or family member is considering suicide, gently tell them you are worried about them and care about them and find them professional help promptly. I'm serious-doing this could literally save your friend or family member's life! It would also be helpful to read a different article from the National Suicide Prevention Hotline website.
Chapter Three: The Faces of Depression
Depression is often times incorrectly associated with being weak and overly emotional. This is especially true with men. Depressed men are much less likely to acknowledge feelings of self-hatred or despair. More likely, they complain about feeling exhausted, irritated, trouble sleeping, and being uninterested in hobbies. Other times, depressed men act out aggressively, violently, or angrily, and engage in dangerous behavior such as substance abuse. Even though women are twice as likely to become depressed than men, men are twice as likely to commit suicide.
The reason that women are twice as likely to become depressed is partially due to hormones, especially those that come with premenstrual syndrome (PMS), premenstrual dysphonic disorder (PMDD), postpartum depression, and premenopausal depression. In addition, women are more likely to feel pronounced feelings of guilt, sleep way too much, eat too much, and gain weight. They are also more susceptible to suffering from seasonal affective disorder.
As depressed teenagers and adolescents, they often times appear irritated rather than sad. A depressed teenager may be unfriendly, cranky, or short-tempered. Baffling aches and pains are also common symptoms of depression in this age group.
The problem with depression in older adults is that they tend to complain more about the physical rather than the emotional signs of depression, so it is often times just brushed off as a normal part of aging. However, depression is NOT a normal part of aging even if it caused by normal parts of live such as health problems or loss of freedom. Depression in older adults comes with poor health, a high mortality rate, and a bigger chance they'll commit suicide.
Depression can also be triggered by the hormonal changes that come with having a baby. This is called Postpartum Depression, and unlike the fleeting forms of "baby blues" it lasts longer. This kind of depression is most likely to develop shortly after delivery, but it can develop within six months of delivery.
Chapter Five: Types of Depression
There are many types of depression, and each come with their own independent indications, causes, and effects. Knowing what kind of depression you have is helpful in managing the symptoms and getting the most out of treatment.
Major Depression: Major Depression is associated with literally being unable to have fun and pleasure. The symptoms persistent, and usually lasts for about is months untreated. However, it's possible to experience this kind of depression more than once every lifetime, so it is important to get help.
Dysthymia: People with dysthymia often times feel slightly to moderately depressed in between brief periods of normal mood. This kind of depression is not as strong as major depression, but it lasts much longer untreated-two years, at least. This type of depression makes it hard to live life to the fullest or to think about good memories. Sometimes people also experience major depression on top of dysthymia. This condition is known as "double depression." People who have dysthymia oftentimes feel like they have always been depressed or that your low mood is just a part of which you are. This isn't true-dysthymia can bet treated even if you have had it for years without getting treatment.
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD): Have you ever noticed that a lot of books portray rainy days with gloominess? There is a reason for this. People who get depressed because of the lack of sunlight they have access to suffer from seasonal affective disorder. This particular disorder is more common in northern regions and in younger people.
Bipolar Disorder: Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder in which the patient suffers from mood changes from manic episodes to depressive episodes. Manic episode symptoms include rapid speech, little sleep, the tendency to leap before you think, and hyper activity. Generally, the mood swings are gradual. Despite the fact that this disorder does include depression, the treatment for bipolar disorder is very different from the treatment used for depression.
Chapter Four: What causes depression?
Finding out what caused you to become depressed is kind of complicated, because a chemical imbalance in the brain is not the only cause. Other things that can cause depression are a bunch of biological psychological and social factors. However, there are specific things that make you more susceptible to depression than other things, as listed below:
- Feeling lonely
- Not having friends and family to support you
- Stressful events you have recently experienced
- Family history with depression
- Problems with your relationships or marriage.
- Financial problems
- Being abused or traumatized in early childhood.
- Abusing drugs or alcohol.
- Underemployment or not having a job at all
- Poor health or chronic pain
The treatment you should get is partially determined by what caused you to become depressed in the first place; thus, knowing what caused you to become depressed can be helpful in determining the treatment you should get. For example, if you had a huge fight with your best friend, the best cure for that is to make up with her, not to take an antidepressant. Another example of this is when you are new to a neighborhood and feel lonely. IN this case, making new friends and finding hobbies would cheer you up better than therapy.
Chapter Five: The journey to a better life
Treatment plans vary from person to person, so be sure to take some time to explore your different options. Usually, the best way to get a better life involves a combination of support from friends, emotional skills building, and professional help.
Step one: Ask for help.
This step probably seems overwhelmingly impossible, but don't panic. Feeling like there is nothing you or anyone else can do to make you feel better is a symptom of depression, not your actual situation. You can change, and no, you aren't weak. This step is essential in the healing process, because having a strong support system is a huge help, unlike isolation, which only makes depression worse. So start talking, buddy! And don't let the fear of being rejected stop you. After all, if you don't try, then you will get an automatic no.
Step Two: Make healthy lifestyle changes.
These changes ideally include getting supportive friendships, regularly getting sleep and exercise, eating right, managing stress, practicing relaxation techniques, and contradicting bad thoughts.
Step Three: Build emotional skills
Basically, this just means learning to recognize your emotions and express them in healthy ways.
Step four: When all else fails, seek professional help.
If the above steps don't cure the depression, seek professional help. Treatment plans often times include some form of therapy. Therapy can give you ways to treat your depression and keep it from coming back. Some types of therapy can also teach you how to combat bad thoughts and compensate for your depression. It can also help you understand why you have depression, and what you can do to prevent it from coming back.