Over the past weekend, I learned that a friend had ended his life. Unfortunately, this is not the first time that I have lost significant people in my life in that way. This was a man who on the exterior had it all. Highly regarded and very successful in his field. In a business most of us dream of. A long wonderful marriage, a child that he adored, countless friends and family that loved him. None of us knew the depths of his depression that would lead to his end.
My intention in writing this post is to remind us all to recognize this condition in ourselves and those around us. Get help or ask for help.
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. The lows of depression make it tough to function and enjoy life like you once did. Just getting through the day can be overwhelming. No matter how hopeless you feel, 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.
Rates of depression in women are twice as high as they are in men. This is due in part to hormonal factors, particularly when it comes to premenstrual syndrome (PMS), premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), postpartum depression, and perimenopausal depression. As for signs and symptoms, women are more likely than men to experience pronounced feelings of guilt, sleep excessively, overeat, and gain weight. Women are also more likely to suffer from seasonal affective disorder.
Depression varies from person to person, but there are some common signs and symptoms. It’s 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’re dealing with depression. When these symptoms are overwhelming and disabling, that’s when it’s time to seek help. See below for some common signs and symptoms of depression.
Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness: A bleak outlook has you feeling like nothing will ever get better and there’s nothing you can do to improve your situation.
Loss of interest in daily activities: You have no interest in former hobbies, pastimes, social activities, or sex. You’ve lost your ability to feel joy and pleasure.
Appetite or weight changes: You experience 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) could be significant signs of depression.
Anger or irritability: You may feel 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 are common signs. Your whole body may feel heavy, and even small tasks are exhausting or take longer to complete.
Self-loathing: You have 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: You may have 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 can be signs of depression.
Understanding the underlying cause of your depression may help you overcome the problem. For example, if you are depressed because of a dead end job, the best treatment might be finding a more satisfying career, not taking an antidepressant. If you are new to an area and feeling lonely and sad, finding new friends at work or through a hobby will probably give you more of a mood boost than going to therapy. In such cases, the depression is remedied by changing the situation.
Just as the symptoms and causes of depression are different in different people, so are the ways to feel better. What works for one person might not work for another, and no one treatment is appropriate in all cases. If you recognize the signs of depression in yourself or a loved one, take some time to explore the many treatment options. In most cases, the best approach involves a combination of social support, lifestyle changes, emotional skill building, and professional help.
If even the thought of tackling your depression seems overwhelming, don’t panic. Feeling helpless and hopeless is a symptom of depression, not the reality of your situation. It does not mean that you’re weak or you can’t change! The key to depression recovery is to start small and ask for help. Having a strong support system in place will speed your recovery. Isolation fuels depression, so reach out to others, even when you feel like being alone. Let your family and friends know what you’re going through and how they can support you.
Lifestyle changes are not always easy to make, but they can have a big impact on depression. Lifestyle changes that can be very effective include cultivating supportive relationships, getting regular exercise and sleep, eating healthfully to naturally boost mood, managing stress, practicing relaxation techniques, and challenging negative thought patterns. If support from family and friends, positive lifestyle changes, and emotional skills building aren’t enough, seek help from a mental health professional. There are many effective treatments for depression, including therapy, medication, and alternative treatments. Learning about your options will help you decide what measures are most likely to work best for your particular situation and needs.