Whether you are curious about symptoms you’re experiencing, or concerned for someone else, understanding depression and the role it can play in one’s life is helpful in knowing how to manage depression or depressive symptoms.
Here are some common questions about depression that might be helpful to your understanding.
What is depression?
Depression is a medical term that defines a mental health condition with symptoms beyond just a sad or depressed mood, which is common for most of us to feel from time to time.
It is also referred to as Clinical Depression, Major Depression, Major Depressive Disorder and in some cases could be part of a Mood or Bipolar Disorder.
A depressive disorder is a sustained depressed mood and can be feelings of sadness, anger, irritability, unhappiness, or misery, and sense of worthlessness or guilt.
It affects the way you feel, think, and act.
Depression symptoms be mild where someone can generally function somewhat normally to severe where one struggles to engage in life activities, isolates more and has increased thoughts of suicide.
A person with experienceing a depressive episode may feel better after a few weeks or months, whereas someone suffering with crhonic depression may experience longer episodes throughout their life.
Both acute and chronic depression can vary in their intensity: mild, moderate and severe depression.
Although the exact cause is unknown and varies from person to person, often depression is linked to genetics, biochemistry, grief, and personalities with low tolerance for stress.
It can feel unbearable at times and for some, sufferring may occur over a longer period.
Depression varies from mild to severe and can last a couple months or may be more chronic.
You don’t have to go through the pain of depression alone, and there is help available to you.
What are signs of depression?
Both teens and adults can suffer from depression. Generally, age doesn’t matter.
Though people who identify as women are more likely to get help, people who identify as men experience depression as well.
Symptoms of depression can show up in a variety of ways, but some common signs include:
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Feelings of sadness or emptiness
- Fluctuating appetite
- Erratic sleep schedule
- Difficulty thinking or focusing
- Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
- Depleted energy
- Difficulty thinking or concentrating or indecisiveness
- Talking about the future pessimistically
- Risk-taking behaviors (running away, cutting or other self-injury, aggressiveness toward self or others)
- Refusing to go to school, increased isolation
- Reoccurring thoughts of suicide
What makes depression worse?
Even though there are ways to make depression better, these common factors may worsen symptoms:
- Disappointment at work, home (relationships), or school
- Divorce, breaking up with a significant other, or failing a test.
- Sedative drugs
- Drug or alcohol abuse
- Ongoing stress
- Childhood events like abuse and neglect
- Social isolation
- Deficiencies in nutrition
- Sleeping problems
What improves depression?
Even though depression may not ever go away completely, there are healthy habits that you can develop now to ease the pain.
You don’t have to live a life of dread, misery, or suffering. It may not feel like you have choices, but there are options available to you.
Some are easier to start now and others, like a meditation practice, take time and patience to build up to. Regardless, you can help depression in a variety of ways:
- Exercise regularly (walks, stretching, hiking, biking)
- Eat nourishing foods (vegetables, fruits, and nutrient-dense)
- Schedule your sleep
- Meditate regularly for short or long periods (1 to 2 minutes a day still helps)
- Avoid alcohol, marijuana, and recreational drugs
- Take prescribed medications as prescribed
- Spend time with family and friends
- Seek mental health therapy
- Seek depression support groups through the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), The Depression & Bipolar Support Alliance or search for groups in the Psychology Today listserve.
Look outside yourself. Considering mentoring or volunteering with an organization you value.
What does depression do to your body?
Depression can feel incredibly heavy in your body. It may seem like you are carrying around extra weight even if it the scale hasn’t changed at all. You may experience these feelings in your body:
- Weight pressing down on your shoulders
- Tenderness across your shoulder blades
- Impacted immune system (getting sick more frequently)
- Heavy heart
- Lower back pain
Does depression go away if you ignore it?
Depression may lessen over time, and more often varies in intensity, however, ignoring depression can make it worse and prolong your suffering.
Over time, depression left untreated, can lead to more problems in realtionships, health, work, and can decrease your motivation to make change.
Depression can take over your thoughts and lead you to believe you are a burdon to others or that there is no way out.
It depleats you of your ability to cope, if you do not intervene.
It can lead to thoughts of suicide that become unmanageable or invasive making it harder to concentrate and increase hopelessness.
With the weight depression holds on some, it can take a great amount of effort to help yourself, and this is when reaching out to others for support may be the extra boost you need to get through.
It may feel difficult to keep going and asking for help can be tainted with shame.
This is when seeking professional help and exploring effective treatment options can be a very helpful next step. When it feels heavy to move forward, balance the weight with others by reaching out for help.
What can I do to get help with my depression?
You do not need to have a major depressive disorder diagnosis to seek help.
If you are feeling sad, experiencing burnout, stress, anxiety or feel your overall mental health is struggling seeking help with a mental health professional or other healer can be a crucial part of your healing and recovery.
Some important questions to ask a potential therapist to find a good match:
How long have you been practicing therapy?
What kind of therapy do you practice and is it a helpful approach to what I am experiencing?
Do you have special training in, or particular experience with depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, trauma, substance abuse, etc.?
Do you feel comfortable working with my particular struggles?
What are the costs associated with therapy and what is your approach to treatment frequency based on what I am experiencing?
What is your availability like and are you meeting in person or over video (telehealth/online therapy)?
(If you struggle with thoughts of suicide) Are you comfortable working with people who think about suicide? What is your approach to working with someone with thoughts of suicide?
Having symptoms of depression doesn’t necessarily mean you have a clinical diagnosis of depression either.
If you are concerned about symptoms, you may be experiencing and curious about additional help like medication and therapy, speak with your medical doctor about your concerns. T
hey can help rule out any possible medical conditions that may also look or feel like depression. There is professional therapy available to you, and you are worth the effort.
Even with some types of depression that are seasonal or cyclical, you can help yourself by paying attention to your own signs and trying things that are known to be helpful like rest, taking a walk, taking a shower, eating a healthy meal, reaching out to a friend for distraction or support.
No matter what, depression can feel draining and depleting of a self that you knew or want to know. It can feel heavy and sad. You don’t need to undergo big challenges to feel depression.
Learning about your depression is a journey and sometimes, you may need an objective person to speak with regularly who can provide you with insights and a space for reflection and support.
There are communities who love and care about you and ones that are waiting, willing and able to support you.
If you are having thoughts of suicide and feel you need more immediate support, there are options available to you right now nationally through the National Hotline 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text GOT5 to 741741 or local to Colorado 1-844-493-TALK (8255) or text TALK to 38255.
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Written by: Randi Thackeray, MA
Clinically Reviewed and Edited by: Julie Reichenberger, MA, LPC, ACS, ACC
Denver Metro Counseling is a group of Denver therapists who provide teen therapy in Denver, young adult therapy, adult therapy, family therapy and other counseling and therapy in Denver and throughout Colorado.
We specialize in relationships, codependency, communication and boundaries and provide supportive therapy for people struggling with life transitions, trauma, anxiety, depression, substance abuse, ADHD, negative body image, and more.
Our clinicians are trained and comfortable working with people who struggle with thoughts of suicide and work collaboratively with our clients and their loved ones to maintain safety through a trauma-informed approach.
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