What is Depression?
Depression is a mood problem noted by pervasive sadness, disappointment, and hopelessness. A depressed person usually has difficulty finding pleasure in life, has feelings of intense loneliness, and has limited energy to engage in life activities. Most people have periods when they feel discouraged about their circumstances; this is sometimes referred to as the “blahs” or the “blues.” However, true depression goes deeper by lasting longer and impacting one’s whole existence.
What are the Symptoms of Depression?
Depression can impact a person’s life in many different ways depending on the person’s coping style, personality, and previous level of functioning. The following are some common symptoms of depression:
- Frequent crying
- Loss of energy
- Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness
- Profound feelings of guilt or shame
- Loss of enjoyment from things that were once pleasurable
- Difficulty concentrating
- Difficulty making decisions
- Increased need for sleep
- Insomnia or excessive sleep
- Unexplained aches and pains
- Stomachache and digestive problems
- Decreased sex drive
- Sexual problems
- A change in appetite causing weight loss or gain
- Substance use to “dull the pain”
- Withdrawal from friends and family
- Thoughts of death or suicide
What are the Causes of Depression?
Depression can be prompted by a variety of factors. Some episodes of depression are situation-induced. For example, the end of a romantic relationship, the death of a friend, or the disappointment of failed efforts to get into graduate school can all initiate an episode of depression. In addition to situational factors, there are other stressors that prompt depression. Chemical imbalances, personality factors, drug and alcohol use, and physical illness can influence the onset of depression.
How is Depression Treated?
All forms of depression are serious if they affect your ability to function. Depression does not indicate that you are a weak or flawed person, and there is no shame is seeking treatment. Suggestions for coping with depression include exercising (regular cardiovascular exercise has been shown to change your body chemistry and improve your mood!), developing a healthy eating and sleeping routine, developing a support system, increasing participation in pleasurable activities, and seeking professional help. A combination of psychotherapy (counseling) and medication (anti-depressants) has been found to be the most effective treatment of clinical depression. Consulting with a counselor or a medical doctor will help you to explore the possible treatments and allow you to make an informed decision about your own care.