What Is Depression?
The term depression has become so ubiquitous today that many people use it to simply mean that they are feeling sad. And while sadness is a big part of depression, feeling occasionally sad about actually sad events in your life is not the same thing as experiencing depression, which is a very real chemical imbalance in the brain that makes it impossible for the individual to experience emotion in the same way as someone with a healthy chemical balance. Depression is both an emotional and physical issue, which affects every aspect of the sufferer’s life.
What Is Depression?
There are many different kinds of depression, but all have the same general diagnosis: a depressive mood that lasts for more than two weeks. Of course, there are a wide variety of other symptoms that come along with depression, often depending on the type of disorder that a person is experiencing. Major depression, chronic depression, bipolar depression, seasonal affective disorder and postpartum depression are all types of this disorder that a person might experience at some time in their life.
Not every person experiences depression in the same way, but most people will have a least a few of the most common symptoms, including:
Having a depressed mood
This is obviously one of the biggest symptoms of depression. If someone is experiencing depression, they will feel sadness. This sadness might be tied to something specific, but it can also come out of nowhere and have no specific trigger. Sadness that lasts for a long period of time, especially if it has no impetus, is a sign of depression.
A loss of interesting in beloved hobbies or activities
If you no longer take joy in the things that once brought you joy, or if you just do not feel up to participating in the things that you use to love to do, this might be a sign that your tastes are changing, but it also might be a sign of depression, especially if you do not feel like doing anything, rather than just wanting to do something else.
Weight gain or loss
Depression is as much a physical illness as it is a mental one, and it can cause a person to gain or lose weight, even if they have not adjusted their eating habits. Because depression can also trigger overeating or comfort eating in some people, it can further contribute to weight gain. In other people, it might prevent them from eating or stifle their appetite, so they lose even more weight than the illness directly caused them to lose.
Problems with sleep
Some people will find that they want to do nothing but sleep. Others will find that it is impossible to get to sleep, no matter how hard they try. Both sleeping too much and not getting enough sleep are symptoms of depression and can make it impossible to function in your everyday life.
No energy or fatigued
No matter how much you sleep, you might still feel as though you have no energy. You could get more than eight hours every night and still feel fatigued. You are tired, unmotivated, and generally unable to do the things that you need to do or want to do. Feeling fatigued and like you have no energy is an often overlooked symptom of depression, especially if the fatigue has been present for some time.
Not everyone who is depressed experiences this symptom, but it is often tied to depression. This feeling of worthlessness often makes the individual withdraw from their friends and family and begin to retreat from their life altogether. They do not feel that they are worthy of being around the people they have built relationships with. They might even start to feel that they do not deserve the success that they have received and might start to sabotage themselves.
Difficulty thinking and making decisions
Those who suffer from depression often have difficulty concentrating on a single thought or task and have a more difficult time making a decision than the average person. This can seriously affect their ability to perform at work or even to make simple decisions in their everyday life.
While many people who are depressed do not ever seriously consider suicide, many will think of it and some will even take steps towards it. This is one of the most dangerous symptoms of depression and, if noticed, should be brought to a mental health professional immediately.
One in every six people will suffer from depression at some point in their lives. For many people, it strikes without notice and can quickly become devastating. Depression is one of the most serious and prevalent mental illnesses, so much so that it is becoming an epidemic. The good news is, however, that there are treatments for this illness that can alleviate the symptoms of depression and help the sufferer progress towards a more normal mental state. Therapy is one way to treat depression. Recent studies show that therapy is as effective (if not more effective) than taking medication for depression. Mindfulness can also help curb the feelings associated with depression.
How Is Depression Different from Sadness?
Being sad because a loved one has died is different from depression. While the sadness that comes from the end of a relationship or job can be difficult, depression is actually set opposed to the grieving process. The grieving process is normal and healthy. Depression is neither normal, nor healthy. Depression causes you to withdraw from your life, lose interest in the things that you used to love, and to find feeling happiness difficult. While a serious, traumatic life event can bring on depression for some people, it is important to distinguish between what is depression and what is part of the normal grieving process.
If you are experiencing depression and would like to start feeling better, contact my practice, Cope Better Therapy, to process your thoughts and emotions in a safe and confidential environment.