Feeling down is something we all go through at times in our lives. However, if sadness takes us over and will not go away, it may be depression. Depression makes it difficult to function, to carry on normal activities and it takes away the joy of living. You lose interest in the things you once enjoyed, you have difficulty concentrating, you have loss of energy, and you have feelings of hopelessness and helplessness.
Depression is different from normal sadness in that it takes over every day life, disturbing your work, sleep, appetite, and joy. You feel like you are in a dark tunnel with no end in sight, with feelings of impending doom.
Signs and Symptoms
If you identify that you have several of the following signs and symptoms that have lasted for some time you may have clinical depression.
• Feelings of Helplessness and Hopelessness. A negative outlook that nothing is ever going to get better and you don't see any way out of the situation.
• Loss of Interest in Daily Activities. Marked loss of interest in those activities you once derived pleasure from- hobbies, social activities, sex.
• Significant change in appetite or weight loss or gain. A change of more than five percent of body weight in a month.
• Changes in Sleep Patterns. Having difficulty sleeping especially waking in the early morning or feeling you want to sleep most of the day.
• Irritability. Easily agitated or angered, feeling restless. Everything bother you even to the point of violence.
• Loss of Energy. Feeling fatigue, sluggish unable to perform or complete every day tasks.
• Loss of Self Esteem. Feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt, putting yourself down for your faults or mistakes.
• Diminished Ability to Think or Concentrate. Having difficulty focusing, making decisions, or remembering things.
• Reckless Behavior. You participate in self-destructive behavior for example substance abuse, excessive spending, compulsive gambling, reckless driving, or dangerous activities.
• Recurrent Thoughts of Death. Thinking life is not worth living.
Causes and Risk Factors
• Lack of social support
• Recent stressful life experience
• Family history of depression
• Marital or relationship problems
• Financial problem
• Childhood abuse or trauma
• Substance abuse
• Unemployment or work related stress
• Health issues or chronic pain
Thoughts of Suicide
Not everyone who becomes depressed feels suicidal. The deep feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness can make a person feel there is no way out except suicide to escape the pain. Any thoughts of death or suicide should be taken seriously as a cry for help. If you or someone you know is considering suicide seek professional help immediately or call 911.
Warning Signs of Suicide
• Talking about killing one self or harming one self
• Having strong feelings of hopelessness and seeing no way out
• Having preoccupation with death and dying
• Showing reckless behavior
• Saying goodbye to friends or family
• Getting one's affairs in order- giving away prized possessions.
• Expressing that the world would be better off without him or her
• Seeing a sudden change from deep depression to relative calm and happy mood
Ways to Recovery
There are actions you can take right now to recover from depression. The thought of recovery might seem far off, but taking the first step is important. Reaching out to friends and family for support letting them know what you are going through is a start in your recovery.
In order to counteract depression it is important to make some lifestyle changes. Making changes in your lifestyle will ultimately be what keeps you from falling into depression. Lifestyle changes include:
• Getting enough exercise
• Getting enough sleep
• Eating healthy
• Reducing stress in our life
• Learning relaxation techniques
• Not falling into negative thinking
Being aware of these things will help us get ourselves out of a rut. Not feeding into our own negative thinking is an important skill learned by practice.
Finding What Triggers Depression
It is possible to change habits of negative thought and negative emotions. If we are honest about our self-defeating patterns and are ready to take responsibility for change in our lives, we are ready to identify trigger situations and eliminate them from our life. This goes hand in hand with introducing new healthy habits. The two-step process for overcoming depression in the long-term is:
• Identifying "trigger" habits, situations or people and eliminating them from our lives.
• Creating new, healthy habits such as taking up a sport, hobby or social activity that appeals to us.
Seeking Professional Help
If these lifestyle changes are not enough, seek help from a mental health professional. Therapy gives you the opportunity to explore and work through the root cause of your depression. Find a therapist who makes you feel comfortable and who you feel you can trust. Problems of depression and anxiety respond well to therapy.