Have you recently suffered the loss of a loved one through death, divorce or break up? Or, maybe you recently experienced a change in health status, loss of employment or housing. Any of these circumstances can lead one to respond with sadness, disappointment or anger. These are normal reactions to life’s complexities. Unfortunately, such circumstances can also trigger more intense, frequent feelings of hopelessness, helplessness and worthlessness; which can result in a diagnosis of depression.
What is the difference between sadness and depression?
Distinguishing between a tough spell of sadness and clinical depression is not always easy. Sadness is a transient event that passes as a person comes to terms with his or her problems. Depression is an illness; it is not just an extension of sadness. Depression is not a condition that people can “snap out of” of get over.” People suffering from depression have a consistent low mood or loss of interest in activities once enjoyed. Certain types of Depression such as Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) can require inpatient hospitalizations.
What are the causes of Depression?
Research indicates there is no single cause. Biology (certain medications can increase risk); Genetics, environmental factors, social factors and traumatic events can increase an individual’s chance of being diagnosed with Depression.
What are the symptoms?
Individuals must experience the following symptoms on most days for a period of at least 2 weeks to be diagnosed with depression:
Sleep problems-Hypersomnia (too much sleep), insomnia, (inability to fall asleep) and/or waking up in the middle of the night.
Appetite issues-overeating or loss of appetite
Significant weight gain or weight loss
Fatigue or loss of energy
Persistent aches, pains, headaches, cramps or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment
Negative thinking, pessimism
Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
Recurring thoughts of death or suicide
Although individuals suffering from depression may experience similar symptoms; depression affects each individual differently. There is no particular approach that works for everyone. The best way to treat depression is to become informed about the treatment options and then tailor them to meet your unique needs.
Lifestyle changes can be a powerful tool in managing depression. These changes may be all one needs to treat depression or it can work in a combination with other forms of treatment. These changes can include:
- Exercise: Regular exercise can be as effective in treating depression as medication. Research has shown that it has a similar effect as antidepressants; triggering the growth of new brain cells. It also boosts serotonin and endorphin levels.
- Nutrition: Eating small, well-balanced meals throughout the day helps to increase our energy and minimize mood swings. Studies have shown that that people who followed a diet rich in fruits vegetables and fish were less likely to report being depressed. While people who followed a diet that was high in processed meat, chocolates, sweet desserts, fried foods, refined cereals and high dairy products were more likely to report symptoms of depression.
- Sleep: Research has shown that people with insomnia have a higher risk of developing depression. If you are having a hard time going to bed at night; try a bedtime schedule by going to bed at the same time every night, get up and do something relaxing if you cannot stay asleep, shut off the TV, practice good sleep hygiene (use your bedroom or the room you sleep in primarily for sleeping and avoid distractions such as TV, electronics, light), limit caffeine and alcohol (especially later in the day).
- Medication: Although some forms of depression may require medication; medication only relieves some of the symptoms of moderate and severe depression, it does not cure the underlying problem and may not be a long-term solution. If you are considering antidepressants for depression, be informed. Research the side effects and ask your prescribing doctor questions. If you choose medication as a treatment option, it is more effective in combination with other lifestyle changes and counseling.
- Social support: Battling depression can leave one feeling all alone and cause individuals to isolate. People are meant to be social beings and having the support of caring friends, family and/or professionals can assist one in making the shift from a place of hopelessness to feeling more hopeful.
- Individual or group therapy: In individual therapy, building a strong relationship with a caring, empathetic, non-judgmental and competent professional can be helpful in getting to the core of the problem and developing positive coping strategies. In group therapy; listening to peers going through similar struggles can be validating and help build self-esteem.
- Relaxation Techniques: Relaxation techniques such as yoga, deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation or meditation can relieve symptoms of depression, reduce stress and boost feelings of well-being.
Depression effects people from all walks of life, no one is exempt! The good news is depression is a manageable and treatable condition. In battling depression, it is imperative to manage the illness, do not allow the illness to manage you. You do not have to battle this alone; there is plenty of help out there!
If you or someone you know believe you may be suffering from depression, contact a mental health professional for a consultation or schedule an appointment with your doctor.
If you are in Allegheny County or surrounding areas; contact us for a free 15 minute phone consultation at (412)414-7782 or (412) 607-4805 for a free 15 minute consultation
HandinHand Counseling Services, LLC
801 N. Negley Ave Suite #5
Pgh, PA 15206