Nearly all of us feel a little blue or a little down every now and then. Maybe we've had a bad day at work. Maybe we've had a disagreement with a friend or a loved one. Maybe we just woke up on the wrong side of bed. It happens.
Occasional temporary feelings of sadness are a natural part of life. However if you frequently feel this way, or if the feelings are excessive, you may be suffering from depression.
According to the NIMH (National Institute of Mental Health), approximately 9.5 % of the population or nearly 19 million adults in the U.S suffer from some form of depression.
Depression can be devastating. It can destroy your family life, ruin your friendships and personal relationships and dramatically reduce your ability to think, reason and function. Left untreated, depression can rob you of any glimmer of hope or happiness. It may prevent any chance of you leading a rich, full life. Yet it doesn't have to be this way. Depression is treatable!
Many people suffer needlessly from depression. They go through life battling, oftentimes severe, depression on their own without ever seeking help. Some people suffer for months or even years at a time without seeking help. They are afraid that asking for help or even believe that admitting to their friends or loved ones that they are depressed would somehow make them less of a person. Unfortunately, their biggest obstacle in getting help may be their own attitude towards their affliction.
Some people, particularly men, try to mask or escape from their depression through the abuse of drugs or alcohol. Ironically though, their substance abuse only makes things worse. In fact, with continued use their substance abuse will quickly become a contributing factor in their depression.
Clinical Depression Is Not A Character Flaw
Clinical depression is not a character flaw or a sign of weakness or failure. It's not something that you can just shake off or snap out of either. It's a medical condition and should be treated just like any other medical condition. Unfortunately, some people aren't even aware of the fact that depression is a treatable illness.
The great majority of people who suffer from depression, even severe depression, can be helped. In fact, the vast majority of people who seek treatment for depression often feel better in only a few weeks. Typically, treatment of depression leads to a happier, healthier, more fulfilled life.
If you think that you (or a loved one) may be suffering from depression, don't let the thought of medication discourage you from seeking treatment. Many times depression can be treated without the use of medication. However if your doctor feels that you would benefit from medication, he or she may prescribe an antidepressant. Taking medication for the treatment of depression is really no different than taking medication for high blood pressure, diabetes or indigestion.
There is no shame or stigma associated with seeking professional help for depression. The only shame is in allowing yourself (or a loved one) to suffer needlessly without getting help.
Depression Knows No Social, Racial Or Economic Boundaries
Depression knows no social, racial or economic boundaries. In fact, many famous people from all walks of life have publicly acknowledged their struggles with depression. Not because they are looking for sympathy, but rather because they hope to inspire and encourage others who suffer from depression with their stories of triumph.
There are numerous web sites that list the names of famous people (i.e., sports figures, politicians, musicians, actors, etc.) that have openly acknowledged their experiences with depression. (To find one of these sites, simply do a web search using the keywords "Depression", "Famous" and "People".)
Causes of Depression
In some people, depression is triggered by a combination of factors (i.e., stress, money problems, marital problems, job situation, etc.). In others a single factor, such as the loss of a loved one or a divorce, can trigger depression. Depression tends to run in families. If one or both of your parents suffered from depression (diagnosed or undiagnosed) you are at a higher risk of being afflicted with it as well.
Certain personalities seem to be more vulnerable to depression than others. For example, people with a low self-esteem and people who are very dependent on others seem to be more vulnerable to depression.
Symptoms of Depression
There are a variety of symptoms associated with depression. Not everyone who suffers from depression experiences every symptom. Some people may experience only a few symptoms, while others may experience many. The severity of the symptoms varies with individuals and may also vary over time. In general though, if you experience four or more of any of the symptoms for two weeks or more, you should seek professional help.
If you or someone you know are experiencing severe feelings of depression, or are even remotely considering suicide, you should seek professional help immediately!
- Persistent sad, anxious or empty mood
- Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness or helplessness
- Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities that were once enjoyed, including sex
- Decreased energy, fatigue, being slowed down
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions.
- Insomnia, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
- Loss of appetite and/or weight loss
- Overeating and/or excessive weight gain
- Thoughts of death or suicide; suicide attempts
- Irritability, restlessness or excessive crying
- Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment such as headaches, digestive disorders, and chronic pain.
The specific resources available to you to help fight depression may vary somewhat depending on where you live. If unsure where to go for help, check your local Yellow Pages under "mental health", "health", "social services", "suicide prevention", "crisis intervention service", "hotlines", "hospitals", or "physicians" for phone numbers and address.
In times of crisis, the emergency room physician at your local hospital may be able to provide help for an emotional problem and will be able to tell you where and how to get additional help.
In general though, you can usually get help or referrals from any one or more of the following sources:
- Physicians (i.e., Family Doctors)
- Mental health specialists, such as psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers or mental health counselors
- Employee Assistance Programs (EAP's)
- HMOs (Health Maintenance Organizations)
- Community mental health centers
- Hospital psychiatry departments and outpatient clinics
- University or medical school affiliated programs
- State hospital outpatient agencies
- Local Clergy
- Private clinics and facilities
- Local medical and / or psychiatric societies
When looking for help in overcoming depression, keep in mind that where you get the help from is not nearly as important as just getting it!
Helping Yourself Heal
In addition to seeking professional help, there are certain things that you can do on your own that may help. Some of these things are listed below:
- Set realistic goals for yourself in light of the depression. Don't set yourself up for failure by setting unrealistic or unattainable goals.
- Break large tasks into smaller ones, set some priorities and do what you can as you can. Divide and conquer.
- Try to get out and spend time with other people; it's usually better than being alone.
- Try to confide in someone; it's usually better than keeping it all bottled up inside or being secretive.
- Participate in activities that you enjoy or that may make you feel better.
- Mild exercise, going to the movies or ballgame, participation in social, religious or other activities may help.
- Expect your mood to improve gradually, not immediately. Feeling better takes time.
- If possible, postpone important decisions until the depression is lifted and you're more likely to be objective in making those decisions.
- Resist the urge to abuse drugs or alcohol in an attempt to escape from depression. Substance abuse will only compound your problems and delay your recovery.
- Don't expect to simply "snap out of it". Overcoming depression may take some time. Rather take it one day at a time.
- Let your family and friends help you.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher,
NYTEXT Publishing Co. LLC. ©2003. www.NYTEXT.com
A Better Life Ahead
by Mark J. Schwartz.
A Better Life Ahead addresses such topics as: self-confidence, career changes, adult education, overcoming depression, overcoming substance abuse, letting go of the past, coping with stress, etc. The book includes numerous web sites, phone numbers and addresses that the reader can refer to for additional information.
Info/Order this book.
About the Author
Mark Schwartz is a successful author and software engineer residing in a beautiful rural area of upstate New York. Mark has authored numerous software applications and technical documents for fortune 500 companies from New York to California. Mark was motivated to write "A Better Life Ahead" largely as a result of his brother's suicide. Mark hopes his book will motivate and encourage others to take control and improve their lives before they reach the same point of hopelessness and desperation that his brother did just prior to his demise.