September 1, 2014
Depression Doesn’t Have To Be Scary
Rayshell Clapper for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Depression is a scary condition. It leaves some sufferers feeling helpless and hopeless. In others depression leads to an emptiness that prevents them from enjoying life. Some experience depression in more physical ways by feeling listless, fatigued, pained and incapable of moving. And then there are the times where depression causes death. The reactions, signs and symptoms to depression are varied, but the scariness is very real. That is why it is critical that we should all understand depression.
Medline Plus explains that “depression is a serious medical illness that involves the brain…If you are one of the more than 20 million people in the United States who have depression, the feelings do not go away. They persist and interfere with your everyday life.”
The Mayo Clinic further explains that depression causes persistent feelings of loss of interest and sadness and is a mood disorder. A good operational definition is that depression is a medical illness and mood disorder causing feelings of sadness and loss of interest - symptoms that do not go away.
The National Institute of Mental Health, a division of the National Institutes of Health, defines several forms of depressive disorders: major depression, persistent depressive disorder, psychotic depression, postpartum depression, seasonal affective disorder, and bipolar disorder.
Major depression consists of severe symptoms that interfere with or outright prevent a person’s work, relationships and activities. These can include sleeping, studying, eating and generally enjoying life. Some people only experience one episode of major depression in their lifetimes while others may have several.
Persistent depressive disorder involves having a depressed mood for at least two years. Major depression may happen alongside persistent depressive disorder.
Psychotic depression occurs when a person experiences depression as well as a psychosis.
Postpartum depression happens to some women after giving birth and comes from the hormonal and physical changes due to birth coupled with the responsibility of caring for the new child.
Seasonal affective disorder, also known as SAD, happens during the winter months. For those who suffer from SAD, the lessened natural sunlight contributes to a depression caused during the cold of winter, when all the trees and life are dead or dormant.
Bipolar disorder is a mental illness and form of depression that deals with mania and depression.
What causes depression? The mostly likely causes are a combination of factors including psychological, genetic, environmental and biological. Since depressive disorders are brain and mood illnesses, it makes sense that many factors contribute to and cause them. Though some types of depression run in families (and therefore are genetic or biological), some come as a result of other factors (environmental or psychological). It is important for each individual to know his or her family history of depression but to also consider the environmental factors including trauma, loss of a loved one, a difficult relationship or seriously stressful situations.
The Mayo Clinic, Medline Plus, and National Institute of Mental Health combined identify the symptoms of depression as the following:
• Persistent sad, anxious or "empty" feelings
• Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
• Feelings of guilt, worthlessness or helplessness
• Irritability, restlessness
• Angry outbursts
• Anxiety or agitation
• Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
• Fatigue and decreased energy
• Sleep disturbances
• Difficulty concentrating, remembering details and making decisions
• Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness or excessive sleeping
• Overeating or appetite loss
• Change in weight
• Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
• Aches or pains, headaches, cramps or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment.
Any combination of these signs and symptoms can occur in one who suffers from a depressive disorder. Obviously, any single one of these could be unbearable, but more often than not those who suffer from a depressive disorder deal with several of these. This makes it far more understandable why depression is so scary. Plus, depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the US. About seven percent of adults experience major depression, which does not even touch the other forms of depression. Women are 70 percent more likely to experience depression than men. And about four percent of teenagers suffer from a debilitating depressive disorder. Depression is serious. This data demands that we all have a better understanding of this illness.
Can depression be treated? In short, yes. There are many ways to treat depression including through medication in the form of antidepressants. Psychotherapy, otherwise called talk therapy, is another method for treating depression. When medication and/or talk therapy do not work, people may want to seek out electroconvulsive therapy or other brain stimulation therapies.
Depression does not just affect the person suffering; it also affects the people around him or her. Anyone who is concerned they might be or knows they are depressed should definitely talk to their doctor. Additionally, the National Institute of Mental Health provides some advice for helping those with depression including our loved ones and ourselves:
Helping our loved ones
• Get them diagnosed, which may require going with them for their appointment.
• Offer emotional support, understanding, patience and encouragement.
• Talk to him or her and listen carefully.
• Never dismiss feelings, but point out realities and offer hope.
• Never ignore comments about suicide and report them to your loved one's therapist or doctor.
• Invite your loved one out for walks, outings and other activities. Keep trying if he or she declines, but don't push him or her to take on too much too soon.
• Provide assistance in getting to the doctor's appointments.
• Remind your loved one that with time and treatment the depression will lift.
• Do not wait too long to get evaluated or treated. There is research showing the longer one waits, the greater the impairment can be down the road. Try to see a professional as soon as possible.
• Try to be active and exercise. Go to a movie, a ballgame or another event or activity that you once enjoyed.
• Set realistic goals for yourself.
• Break up large tasks into small ones, set some priorities and do what you can as you can.
• Try to spend time with other people and confide in a trusted friend or relative. Try not to isolate yourself and let others help you.
• Expect your mood to improve gradually, not immediately. Do not expect to suddenly "snap out of" your depression. Often during treatment for depression, sleep and appetite will begin to improve before your depressed mood lifts.
• Postpone important decisions, such as getting married or divorced or changing jobs, until you feel better. Discuss decisions with others who know you well and have a more objective view of your situation.
• Remember that positive thinking will replace negative thoughts as your depression responds to treatment.
• Continue to educate yourself about depression.
Depression is scary, but with the right understanding, treatment and information, people can get the help they need to live with and hopefully overcome their depressive disorder.