People tend to feel depressed or anxious, especially, when they lost a loved one, got fired from a job, when they go through a divorce and other serious life challenges. Issues like these can make a person to feel sad, lonely, nervous, anxious, or scared. These feelings are normal reactions for someone going through a stressful phase. However, when this state persists and results in behaviour that is out of the ordinary, it tends towards a state of depression.
Depression is a mental condition in which a person feels unmotivated, unloved, discouraged, sad, disinterested or hopeless in life generally. Depression is having a feeling of looming danger, or feeling lifeless, apathetic or lifeless. Some men may experience a state of restlessness and anger.
These feelings are called ‘the blues’ when it last for a short period of time. But when they last for weeks, and also interfere with daily activities, for instance, going to work, school, relating with people, caring and spending time family and friends, then it may likely be a serious depressive phase. This major depression is an illness that affects the way a person behaves, functions, thinks, and feels. When one is in this mood, they may feel that life like dying. Depression is not an illness that one can simply snap out of. It may require a long term treatment.
If you identify with the signs and symptoms of depression below and they are constant, you may be suffering from it. However, depression differs from one person to another but these are common signs and symptoms. Please note that these signs can be part of life’s normal lows. But when they are more and stronger and they last longer, it is likely you are dealing with depression.
- You feel helpless and hopeless: the feeling that nothing will get better and you cannot do anything to improve your situation
- You no longer enjoy the company of your friends and family. You have lost interest in activities and other things you used to enjoy. You don’t care about your hobbies, social activities, even sex. You no longer feel pleasure or joy.
- You are tired all the time.
- There is a change in your sleep and your appetite: you either lose weight or gain weight significantly. You suffer from insomnia, especially when you wake up in the early hours of the morning or you over sleep.
- You have lost focus. Easy tasks are now difficult for you. You feel fatigued, physically drained or sluggish. Your body may feel heavy too. You have trouble remembering things, making good decisions and recollecting things.
- You let negative thoughts control you. You can’t seem to control them. You also harbor feelings of guilt and worthlessness. You criticize yourself for your mistakes and faults in a very harsh way.
- You tend to be more aggressive, irritable and short tempered unlike before.
- You engage in reckless behavior and abuse drugs, for instance, consuming alcohol in excess. Gambling, dangerous sports and reckless driving.
- You get ill physically. You experience frequent headaches, muscles ache and stomach pain.
The major risk factor for suicide is depression. Deep despair and hopelessness goes along with depression. Depression makes suicide feel like it is the only way to escape the pain. Look out for these signs in someone wanting to commit suicide;
- When they talk about killing or hurting themselves.
- When they expressed being trapped or of hopelessness.
- When they have an unusual interest in dying or death.
- When they act as if they have a death wish (e.g speeding through red lights in traffic).
- When they call or visit people to say goodbye.
- When they get their affairs in order and tying up loose ends.
- When they say things like ‘you are better off without me’ or ‘don’t miss me much’; basically words that demean their existence.
- When they suddenly switch from being depressed to being unusually happy and calm.
Types of Depression
As depression comes in different forms, knowing the type that you have can help you to manage your symptoms and also receive the most effective treatment.
Major depression: this is much less common than mild or moderate. This type of depression is defined by determined, intense symptoms. When left untreated, it will last for about 6 months. This type of depression can be a recurring disorder.
Atypical depression: this type of depression has a specific symptom pattern. These symptoms include increased appetite for food, excessive sleep, weight gain, sensitive to rejection, feeling heavy in the arms and legs. People with this type of depression experience a mood lift, though temporary, when they receive good news or when they go out with their friends. This type of depression responds well to some medications and therapies, unlike others.
Dysthymia: this is a recurrent, mild depression. It is a type of ‘low grade’ depression. You feel mildly depressed some days but you may have short periods of normal mood. Symptoms of this kind of depression are not that strong but they can last a long time, say, at least two years. You may feel like you have always been depressed or you may think that your constant low mood is just the way you are.
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD): the reduced daylight hours of winter, for some people, lead to SAD. It affects more of young people and women. SAD begins in winter or fall and remains until spring. When you are experiencing SAD, you will feel like a different person in winter, than you were during summer. You will feel tensed, sad, hopeless, or stressed, and you will have no interest in your friends and the activities that you love.
Causes of depression and risk factors
Depression is caused by a combination of social, psychological and biological factors. Your lifestyle, relationships and coping skills matters where depression is concerned. Some of the risk factors that make you susceptible to depression are:
- Underemployment or unemployment
- Financial stress
- Early childhood abuse
- Drug and alcohol abuse
- Chronic pain and health issues
- History of family depression
- Relationship problems
- Stressful life experiences
- Not having social support
- Isolation and loneliness
When you understand the reason why you are depressed, you will overcome the challenge faster. For instance, if you are depressed because of an unsatisfied job, the best treatment is to find a better job not an antidepressant medicine. If you relocated to a new area and you feel lonely and sad, go out and make new friends to boost your mood. It is better than going see a therapist. In cases like these, depression is cured when you change the situation.
Depression recovery tips
There are various things you can do to lift and stabilize your mood. Start with a few little goals and build slowly form there. Try to do a little more each day. You feeling better may take time but can get there when you positive decisions and choices for yourself.
Reach out to people
When you are isolated, you are fueling depression. Reach out to people, friends and loved ones, even if you love being alone. Talking to someone face to face helps a lot. They don’t have to fix you; they just have to be a good listener, attentively and without being distracted or judging you.
Getting out of bed can seem to be a huge task, not to talk of exercising. Regular exercise can be very effective like an antidepressant treating symptoms of depression. Dance, take a walk, do some soft exercises. Gradually start small and build up from there.
Boost your mood with diet
Reduce intake of food that can affect your mood, such as, alcohol, caffeine, sugar, refined carbs and trans fats. Eat fatty acids, Omega-3 instead. They are nutrients that enhance moods.
Engage in activities
Care for a pet, pick up a hobby you enjoyed before or get a new one, volunteer, spend time with nature. As time goes on, you will begin to feel better when you engage in things.
Seek a professional help
You can see help from a mental health professional if you feel the support from family and friends are not enough. Therapy can help you understand your depression and inspire you to take the necessary action to prevent reoccurrence. If you are suicidal or violent, medication will have to be included. Medication will help relieve symptoms but it is not a cure and cannot be used for a long time. Medications come with side effects too.
Depression varies according to gender and age and symptom varies between men and women, young people and older adults. When you feel suicidal or depressed and your challenge do not seem to be temporary, but instead, overwhelming and permanent, just get help. With time you will feel better. There are many people out there who would love to support you during this hard phase. Please reach out!