Who amongst us has not - from time to time - allowed the worries of losing our job, or worries concerning gun violence, wars, natural disasters, illnesses and of course personal relationships to negatively affect our mood at home and at work?
The accumulation of life's pressures along with the media's insatiable "appetite" for high ratings in the form of projecting bad news 24/7 has placed tens of millions of American's psyche in a lonely and dimly lit room. When "feeling blue" begins to slowly take over our life and commences to devour our inner peace, it's a sure bet that the road to depression isn't far away.
Once mental depression sets in, people, routines and events that once brought us happiness, loses its magical ability to flip our "happy switches", consequently leaving us to dwell continually in a "room" devoid of happy thoughts and happy memories.
When you’re depressed life may sometimes feel hopeless, but rest assure with professional counseling, medication, love and support from family and friends you can get better. Let’s begin by recognizing the “dark clouds of depression” and understanding just how depression works against us and against those who unconditionally love us.
What is depression?
Depression can be defined as a psychiatric condition accentuated by an unnatural prolonged sadness; compounded by emotional withdrawal. Some people describe depression as “living in a dark cave” or having a feeling of impending doom. Interestingly, some depressed people don't feel sadness; instead they feel lifeless, unfilled, and apathetic.
Depression steals our happiness; it interferes with our ability to work, eat, study, sleep, and it robs us of our own self-respect. Feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and worthlessness are often intense and unrelenting.
Depression varies from person to person and shouldn’t be confused with legitimate feelings of disappointment.
The symptoms of depression
• Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. A bleak outlook—nothing will ever get better and there’s nothing you can do to improve your situation.
• Loss of 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. Dealing with bouts of insomnia; waking up in the early hours of the morning without being able to go back to sleep; or habitual oversleeping. (Also known as hypersomnia).
• Irritability or restlessness. Feeling agitated, restless, or on edge. Your tolerance level is low; 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.
• 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.
Depression and Suicide
Individuals who are clinically depressed are major candidates for suicide. The misery and hopelessness that is associated with depression can create the illusion in the mind of the afflicted, that suicide is the only option of escaping their pain. Talk of death or suicide are serious symptoms of depression, so take any suicidal talk or behavior seriously; it's not just a warning sign that the person is thinking about suicide, it's actually a cry for help.
Warning signs of suicide include:
• Talking about killing or harming one’s self
• Expressing strong feelings of hopelessness or being trapped
• An unusual preoccupation with death or dying
• Acting recklessly, as if they have a death wish (e.g. speeding through red lights)
• Calling or visiting people to say goodbye
• Getting affairs in order (giving away prized possessions, tying up loose ends)
• Saying things like “Everyone would be better off without me” or “I want out.”
• A sudden switch from being extremely depressed to acting calm and happy.
Causes and risk factors for depression
• Lack of social support
• Recent stressful life experiences
• Family history of depression
• Marital or relationship problems
• Financial strain
• Early childhood trauma or abuse
• Alcohol or drug abuse
• Unemployment or underemployment
• Health problems or chronic pain
The solution to battling depression begins with taking small steps and asking for help. Creating a strong support system can expedite your recovery. Remember seclusion fuels depression, so reach out and talk to others, even when you feel like being alone. Inform your family and friends of what you’re going through and trust them to help and guide you as you traverse through this difficult period in your life.
Making healthy changes in one's life can definitely help the ill effects of depression. Try incorporating an exercise regimen, along with getting plenty of sleep and rest. It’s also important to cultivate personal relationships with people who put you at ease. Eat healthy foods and drink plenty of water, there's a reason why mom and grandma made you eat your fruits and vegetables. An important factor of getting better is leaving the negativity of work at work. It's imperative to leave the stress at work and not allow it to creep into your personal life.
Additionally, seek professional help when needed. People must exorcise the belief / myth that seeking psychiatric help is a sign of weakness. For those of spiritual faith, it's important to stay in prayer and seek counseling from your minister, priest, rabbi or imam.
In the end it's important to know that depression is a state of mind that is very treatable if the symptoms are identified early. The point is, you're not alone when dealing with depression; learn to enjoy life and remember that there are tons of people who love you and are pulling for you. A good friend / confidant is only a phone call away.
As always Louisianans, the New Orleans Examiner is interested in what you think. Is depression more common of a malady than people realize? Inquiring minds want to know. Sound off.
USA National Suicide Hotlines
Toll-Free / 24 hours / 7 days a week
1-800-SUICIDE / 1-800-784-2433
1-800-273-TALK / 1-800-273-8255