If any of these statements represent how you are feeling, you may be dealing with depression. Depression is not something you can just ’snap out of.’ It is caused by an imbalance of brain chemicals as well as other factors. Genetics, trauma, stress, physical conditions, as well as psychological disorders can contribute to depression.
The symptoms that help a professional counselor or doctor identify depression include:
- constant feelings of sadness, irritability, or tension
- decreased interest or pleasure in usual activities or hobbies
- loss of energy, feeling tired despite lack of activity
- a change in appetite, with significant weight loss or weight gain
- a change in sleeping patterns, such as difficulty sleeping, early morning awakening, or sleeping too much
- restlessness or feeling slowed down
- decreased ability to make decisions or concentrate
- feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, or guilt
- thoughts of suicide or death
Who Gets Depression?
Although depression can make you feel alone, 16% of Americans will have it during their lifetime. While depression can affect anyone, its effect may vary depending on your age and gender.
Women are almost twice as likely to become depressed as men. The higher risk may be due partly to hormonal changes brought on by puberty, menstruation, menopause, and pregnancy.
Men: Although their risk for depression is lower, men are more likely to go undiagnosed and less likely to seek help. They may show the typical symptoms of depression, but are more likely to be angry and hostile or to mask their condition with alcohol or drug abuse. Suicide is an especially serious risk for men with depression, who are four times more likely than women to kill themselves.
Elderly: Older people may lose loved ones and have to adjust to living alone. They may become physically ill and unable to be as active as they once were. These changes can all contribute to depression. Loved ones may attribute the signs of depression to the normal results of aging, and many older people are reluctant to talk about their symptoms. As a result, older people may not receive treatment for their depression.
Depressive disorders make one feel exhausted, worthless, helpless, and hopeless. Such negative thoughts and feelings make some people feel like giving up. It is important to realize that these negative views are part of the depression and typically do not accurately reflect the actual circumstances. Negative thinking fades as treatment begins to take effect.
In the meantime:
- Set realistic goals in light of the depression and assume a reasonable amount of responsibility.
- Break large tasks into small ones, set some priorities, and do what you can as you can.
- Try to be with other people and to confide in someone; it is usually better than being alone and secretive.
- Participate in activities that may make you feel better.
- Mild exercise, going to a movie, a ballgame, or participating in religious, social, or other activities may help.
- Expect your mood to improve gradually, not immediately. Feeling better takes time.
- It is advisable to postpone important decisions until the depression has lifted. Before deciding to make a significant transition—change jobs, get married or divorced—discuss it with others who know you well and have a more objective view of your situation.
- People rarely “snap out of” a depression. But they can feel a little better day-by-day.
- Remember, positive thinking will replace the negative thinking that is part of the depression and will disappear as your depression responds to treatment.
- Let your family and friends help you.
Becky Brown/National Institute of Mental Health, Depression.com
This article was used with permission from New Life Ministries