What is depression?
The most common mental disorder in the world, one in five Americans will experience depression in their lifetime. Depression should not be defined as just being very sad, because it is so much more than that. Think of sadness that is overwhelming and won’t go away for weeks. When you feel the emotion of sadness, it typically passes after an hour or so. The feeling may reemerge in waves, but you can still eat, sleep, work and live you life. Depression is a heavy sadness that doesn’t come in waves, it is like a flood staining your whole house.
Depressed people start to withdraw from people around them, they start to feel like a burden and lose the joy in their lives. There is a multitude of reasons why a person becomes depressed; a person’s genes and environment can be contributing factors. Furthermore, depression can be caused by imbalances in your body, when it’s thrown out of balance due to hormones or chemical imbalances for example.
However, when a person becomes depressed, it is usually due to a combination of factors. These factors include but are not limited to: a person’s brain chemistry, history of depression in their family, medications, and personal experiences throughout their lives.
Depression can be accompanied by anxiety as well (known as co-occurring disorders). While anxiety typically has people worried about the future, depression has people dwelling on the past a lot. Depression affects 16 million Americans and can interfere with life goals, sense of purpose, and finding meaning in life.
What are the symptoms?
Everyone feels sad at some point in their lives, especially after a traumatic event, but when that feeling persists for 2+ weeks it is likely a depressive episode is occurring. Some people have depressive episodes repeatedly throughout their life. These episodes can be triggered by trauma, grief/loss, seasons of the weather, life stressors, and more.
- loss of interest in activities
- fatigue and lack of energy
- changes in appetite
- thoughts of death/suicide
- Feeling worthless
- Feeling hopeless about the future
People may experience:
- Mood: anxiety, apathy, general discontent, guilt, hopelessness, loss of interest, loss of interest or pleasure in activities, mood swings, or sadness
- Sleep: early awakening, excess sleepiness, insomnia, or restless sleep
- Whole body: excessive hunger, fatigue, loss of appetite, or restlessness
- Behavioral: agitation, excessive crying, irritability, or social isolation
- Cognitive: lack of concentration, slowness in activity, or thoughts of suicide
- Weight: weight gain or weight loss
- Also common: poor appetite or repeatedly going over thoughts
Symptoms vary greatly, so you may not feel all of the symptoms listed above but still meet criteria for a depressive disorder. Recognizing these symptoms in yourself or in a loved one is the first step to overcoming depression.
Treating depression is not as easy as just popping a happy pill and saying good-bye. Treating your depression often means evaluating your life in a “whole” way and making changes to the parts of your life that perpetuating the depression. Having a talk therapist to support you on this journey can be extremely helpful as they can give you an outside perspective and can guide you as you evaluate:
- Day to day behaviors
- Career satisfaction
- Life purpose and meaning
- Relationship functioning
- Cognitive health
- Behaviors and attitudes
- Physical health
- Spiritual connectedness
Often, counseling for depression leads to uncovering unexpected root causes such as relationship issues or conflicts that can be contributing. Meditation and visualization are also useful to break the hold depression can have on people. Severe depression may necessitate medication; however, most therapist caution against using just medication as a cure-all. Medication does not solve the cause of depression; it only treats the symptom of being depressed.
Evolution Wellness, a clinic in Wilmington, NC, specializes in counseling for depression, such as postpartum depression. Our professional counselors for depression are trained to listen with empathy and expertise and offer guidance to facilitate your personal growth.