Believe it or not, but depression is not just about feeling sad and looking sad. For all we know, we could be depressed and not know it!
Oh yes, it’s not a remote possibility. Studies have shown that depression could take hold of a person gradually without noticing that desolate thoughts and emotions are actually dominating one’s outlook and one’s life little by little. Most people deduce that persistent loneliness, prolonged down moods and being forlorn all or most of the time are the only manifestations of depression. Truth is, depression symptoms may come in very varied forms such as oversleeping or sleeplessness, abstraction, indifference, aloofness and even inability to enjoy what are conceived as pleasurable normal activities. Even compulsive shopping and extreme workaholic behavior could manifest as depression, too!
When it calls for so much effort and willpower to make yourself do the things you used to enjoy doing, like your work, hobbies, sports you engaged in or even being with your friends; there is definitely something amiss there. Feeling so down in the dumps for lengthy periods, and yet there are no immediate and obvious reasons (like loss of a loved one) for feeling so dispirited for so long; yes, you could be depressed. You see, depression is a lot more than just sadness.
Loneliness attack from time to come is relatively normal. Life, after all, is full of challenges, and there are times when we feel quite hopeless and dispirited. But prolonged despair and feelings of emptiness could very well lead to the big D – Death. So it is best to know about depression and how to bounce back from it. Likewise, people close to you would benefit from your broad understanding of it.
Simply put, here are signs and symptoms which could help you discern if you, or one of the people close to you, might be suffering from clinical depression, which refers to the more severe form of depression known as “major depression” or “major depressive disorder (MDD).”
- insomnia OR oversleeping
- poor concentration and poor memory OR finding difficulty with tasks that were previously conceived as easy
- feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, guilt or regret
- extreme pessimism; your thoughts keep dwelling on negativity
- lost appetite for food OR compulsive eating
- very short-temper, agitation and irritability
- hostility OR unusual aggressiveness
- feelings of excessive fatigue
- more consumption of alcohol
- reckless behavior and brashness
- withdrawal from social life and activities
- gloom and joylessness
- compulsive shopping
- thoughts of worthlessness in your life and pending doom
These signs are included in the diagnostic criteria in the book called “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders“, where a set of guidelines are contained for the diagnosis of various mental disorders.
Severe cases exhibit additional symptoms of psychosis: delusions or hallucinations which are usually abhorrent ; and thoughts of suicide.
What causes depression
Studies have shown that depression is caused by an interplay of genetic factors and real life triggers and life crises such as death of a loved one, a relationship break-up, loss of job or prolonged unemployment, poverty, childhood trauma, guilt, regret and social detachment. It has also been proven that genetic factors have shown some people to be more vulnerable than others owing to individual brain chemistry. Chronic stress, which arise from stressful life situations as previously enumerated, place people at a higher risk for depressive behavior.
Likewise, it is also worth knowing that medical factors pertaining to illness such as cancer, hypothyroidism and hepatitis, as well as chronic pain, can also lead to depression. Some medications and nutritional inadequacies are also transgressors. Medical evaluation, thus, becomes truly necessary for patients who are suspected of depressive disorders.
Gender-wise, women were found to be more prone to experience depression; due to immense hormonal shifts which are associated with menstruation, menopause, pregnancy and child birth.
What to do when you have the symptoms
If symptoms persists for more than two weeks, and has begun to interfere with your usual daily activities, experts at the American Psychological Association advise seeking treatment for depression right away. It is important to consult your physician first, so any physical causes could be checked. He will be the one to recommend a mental health professional if there is sufficient need.
Actually, the best treatment for symptoms depend on individual stories. Hence, precise description of symptoms and history matters greatly. Treatment usually involves psychotherapy or antidepressants; however, combination of both has been found to be most effective. Antidepressants readjust the balance in brain chemicals; otherwise known as neurotransmitters. Psychotherapy, on the other hand, is focused on increasing a person’s sense of well-being; by employing various approaches designed to amend one’s mental health and outlook in life.
The most relevant and necessary tasks which you can do for yourself, though, is to take care of yourself by getting sufficient sleep, avoiding drugs and alcohol, and boosting your mood by engaging in a proper exercise regime and keeping your environment clean and with an ambiance of order. Don’t make the mistake of sitting back and letting depression disappear by its own. When depression is mild or moderate, it is easier to bounce back. Don’t procrastinate and cause havoc on your health. Untreated depression has been known to recur, and becomes more severe with each recurrence; thereby making it more difficult to treat.
Is it possible to avoid depression?
Yes, generally speaking, it is possible; because to a large extent, we should be the master of our own minds. We shouldn’t become helpless victims to depression; and that is possible if we are going to incorporate health habits into our system and work towards being reasonably happy. Happiness, after all, is the opposite of depression!
To achieve that, let us learn the various ways to avoid becoming depressed.
(Coming soon: How to Avoid Becoming Depressed)