Healing From Depression – Wanda Nayduk Counselling and Therapy Services (Part One)
All About Depression- What is it?
Depression, formally called major depression, major depressive disorder or clinical depression, is one of the most common health conditions in the world. It is not simply a weakness that a person can simply “snap out of.” It is a medical illness that effects the mind and body. It impacts an individual’s thoughts and behaviours and results in a number of emotional and physical problems. It can increase in severity to impede a person’s ability to complete their activities of daily living and in extreemes may result in feelings that life just isn’t worth living anymore.
For the most part, Depression is considered a chronic illness that requires long-term treatment, much like diabetes or high blood pressure. Some people may only experience one episode of depression, although the majority of individuals experience repeated episodes of the depressive symptoms throughout their life.
Appropriate diagnosis and treatment is often effective in reducing even severe symptoms of depression resulting in improved mood and the abilitiy to return to full activity level within weeks.
Symptoms of depression include:
•Loss of interest in normal daily activities
•Feeling sad or down
•Crying spells for no apparent reason
•Trouble focusing or concentrating
•Difficulty making decisions
•Unintentional weight gain or loss
•Being easily annoyed
•Feeling fatigued or weak
•Loss of interest in sex
•Thoughts of suicide or suicidal behavior
•Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches
There are a wide range of ways depression expresses itself amongst individuals related such variables as age and gender. For instance a 20 year old female may experience her depression in a significantly different way than a 70 year old man.
The exact causes of depression are not known although it is thought that a variety of biochemical, genetic and environmental factors may cause depression:
- Biochemical. Some evidence suggests that depressed individuals show physical changes in their brain activity. Issues with neurotransmitters and hormonal imbalances can also contribute to the problem.
- Genes. Studies indicate the potential for a hereditary link for depression since it is more common in people when a biological family member also presents with the disorder. Researchers are trying to find genes that may be involved in causing depression.
- Environment. Environmental issues can play a role in depression when people are confronted with situations that are difficult to cope with such as the loss of a loved one, financial problems and high stress.
Although precise statistics aren’t known, depression is considered relatively common, cutting across all racial, ethnic and economic divides — no one is immune from the risk of getting depression.
Although depression symptoms can arise at any age, They typically surface in a person’s 20s. Statistically, twice as many women are diagnosed with depression as men, but this may be due in part because women are more likely to seek treatment for depression.
Although the precise cause of depression isn’t known, researchers have identified certain factors that seem to increase the risk of developing or triggering depression, including:
•Having other biological relatives with depression
•Having family members who have taken their own life
•Stressful life events, such as the death of a loved one
•Having a depressed mood as a youngster
•Illness, such as cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s or HIV/AIDS
•Long-term use of certain medications, such as some drugs used to control high blood pressure, sleeping pills or, occasionally, birth control pills
•Certain personality traits, such as having low self-esteem and being overly dependent, self-critical or pessimistic
•Alcohol, nicotine and drug abuse
•Having recently given birth
•Being in a lower socioeconomic group
When to Seek Medical Advice
Experiencing feelings of sadness or unhappiness with life’s situations is a normal and healthy part of life. However, when these feelings are constant, more intense and linger for weeks, months or even years they exceed having a case of “the blues” and can interfere with relationships, work and daily activities. For some individuals these feelings escalate to the point that they become suicidal. In that regard, when a person can identify with any of the symptoms of depression, they would benefit from medical intervention. When a depressed individual is reluctant to seek medical assistance they still would benefit from confiding in a friend, loved one, faith leader or someone they trust. Recieving treatment for depression is very essential since this disorder does not tend to improve if left untreated and in fact can even worsen.
Helping a loved one with depression symptoms
When depression strikes, the depressed person isn’t the only one affected. Everyone around them-family, friends, coworkers- feels the impact of their depression. When the issue of depression surfaces it is important for the individuals involved to have an open and honest discussion about the concerns.
The following are some tips to helping a loved one cope with depression:
•Get the facts about depression
•Get other people involved supportively
•Ask what the depressed individual needs from you in a direct manner
•Offer help with the practical things like grocery shopping
•Take time for yourself for self care activities to avoid burnout
•know your limits. You are not there to fix them, you can offer support and empathy
•Take suicide threats seriously and don’t hesitate to call emergency services
•Help to find a qualified doctor or mental health provider and make an appointment.
•Don’t ask the depressed person to snap out of it. Recovery takes time.
•Listen and don’t assume to know what they are going through
•Encourage the depressed person to become more active to avoid isolation
•Don’t push too hard. Encourage, don’t demand
•Encourage the depressed person to stick with treatment and self care tasks
•Create a stable environment by reducing stress and following a schedule.
Part Two will be posted next week.
(Exerpts from the Mayo Clinic Website)