Understanding Depression

Feeling down from time to time is a normal part of life. But when emptiness and despair take hold and won’t go away, it may be depression. More than just the temporary “blues,” the lows of depression make it tough to function and enjoy life like you once did. Hobbies and friends don’t interest you like they used to; you’re exhausted all the time; and just getting through the day can be overwhelming. When you’re depressed, things may feel hopeless, but with help and support you can get better. But first, you need to understand depression. Learning about depression–including its signs, symptoms, causes and treatment–is the first step to overcoming the problem.

What is Depression?

We all go through ups and downs in our mood. Sadness is a normal reaction to life’s struggles, setbacks, and disappointments. Many people use the word “depression” to explain these kinds of feelings, but depression is much more than just sadness.

Some people describe depression as “living in a black hole” or having a feeling of impending doom. However, some depressed people don’t feel sad at all–they may feel lifeless, empty, and apathetic, or men in particular may even feel angry, aggressive and restless.

Whatever the symptoms, depression is different from normal sadness in that it engulfs your day-to-day life, interfering with your ability to work, study, eat, sleep and have fun. The feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and worthlessness are intense and unrelenting with little, if any, relief.

Signs and Symptoms of Depression

Depression varies from person to person, but there are some common signs and symptoms. It is important to remember that these symptoms can be part of life’s normal lows. But the more symptoms you have, the stronger they are, and the longer they’ve lasted–the more likely it is that you are dealing with depression. When these symptoms are overwhelming and disabling, that is when it is time to seek help.

Treatment for Depression

For mild to moderate depression, talking with a therapist may be the best option. However, for severe depression or for certain people, that may not be enough. For example, for teens, a combination of medication and talking with a therapist may be the most effective approach to treating major depression and reducing the chances of it coming back.

If you know someone who is depressed, it affects you too. The most important thing you can do is help your friend or relative get a diagnosis and treatment. You may need to make an appointment and go with him or her to see the therapist. Encourage your loved one to stay in treatment, and offer emotional support, patience and encouragement.

If you have depression, you may feel exhausted, helpless, and hopeless. It may be extremely difficult to take any action to help yourself. But as you begin to recognize your depression and begin treatment, you will start to feel better.

Are You Depressed?

If you identify with several of the following, you may be suffering from clinical depression:

  • Feelings of Helplessness and Loneliness A bleak outlook–nothing will ever get better and there is nothing you can do to improve your situation.
  • Loss if Interest In Daily Activities No interest in former hobbies, pastimes, social activities, or sex. You’ve lost your ability to feel joy and pleasure.
  • Appetite or Weight Changes Significant weight loss or weight gain–a change of more than 5% of body weight in a month.
  • Sleep Changes Either insomnia, especially waking in the early hours of the morning, or oversleeping (also known as hypersomnia).
  • Anger or Irritability Feeling agitated, restless or even violent. Your tolerance level is low, your temper short, and everything and everyone gets on your nerves.
  • Loss of Energy Feeling fatigued, sluggish, and physically drained. Your whole body may feel heavy, and even small tasks are exhausting or take longer to complete.
  • Self Loathing Strong feelings of worthlessness or guilt. You harshly criticize yourself for perceived faults and mistakes.
  • Reckless Behavior You engage in escapist behavior such as substance abuse, compulsive gambling, reckless driving or dangerous sports.
  • Concentration Problems Trouble focusing, making decisions, or remembering things.
  • Unexplained Aches and Pains An increase in physical complaints such as headaches, back pain, aching muscles and stomach pain.