It is estimated that the average thirty year old today is ten times more likely to be depressed than their parents, and twenty times more likely to be depressed than their grandparents. And most of them won’t reach out for assistance because they believe depression is a personal weakness. Welllll listen up…IT IS NOT! Although the causes of depression can vary from genetics to a medical illness, it most certainly is NOT caused by personal weakness or even choice for that matter. Most of those suffering from depression would be the first to tell you that “this depression is a bitch!.” Time after time, I have heard my depressed clients wish that they had a switch to “just turn it off,” or a pill to “just make it go away;” But it’s just not that simple.
First and foremost, let’s be clear about what depression is. So many times have I heard people use the term depression and sadness interchangeably, but depression is so much more than just sadness. According to The American Psychiatric Association, “depression (major depressive disorder) is a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act. Some common symptoms of depression include: feelings of hopelessness/helplessness, worthlessness, losing interest in things once enjoyable, changes in sleep and appetite habits and patterns, mood changes, such as increased irritability and anxiety, difficulty concentrating, thoughts of death, or maybe even physical changes such as headaches. Fortunately, it is also treatable. Depression causes feelings of sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed. It can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems and can decrease a person’s ability to function at work and home.” Imagine this, every time you wake up, there’s a dark cloud over your head. It seems as it, only you have this gloomy cloud following you around. Despite how many times you try to outrun it, or even stick it out, it’s still there! Everything that you do, that nagging cloud is still there. Albeit a loose analogy, many describe depression as such…just this dark cloud. So what do you do? Below are just a few suggestions in managing depression, please note that this is not an all-inclusive list, and it is best to seek professional help, in order to successfully manage and cope with symptoms of depression:
• Build a Support Network: A lot of times this task seems so difficult as it requires one to fight urge of just wanting to withdraw and isolate from others. Please keep in mind that building a healthy, strong support network is one of the most important things that you can do to help yourself. Talk with people you can trust, such as friends, family, coworkers. Find a support group and/or a Therapist in your local area, or even online.
• Learn to Tackle Negative/Unhealthy Thoughts and Emotions: With depression, many times, comes unhealthy thought patterns that perpetuate the depressive cycle. It is important to address these thought patterns, and learn to challenge and reframe them. An effective therapy modality that is helpful in tackling distorted thought patterns, is Cognitive Behavior Therapy, or CBT. CBT is a common treatment modality that works to change common patterns of negative thinking that can contribute to depression.
• Develop Healthy Habits: Living with depression becomes a challenge, and those once healthy habits, tend to become a thing of the past. It is important to be mindful, and intentional about creating and/or re-implementing healthy habits. These can habits include, improving sleep hygiene, bettering eating habits, journaling, and/or engaging in physical exercise, to name a few. All of these changes have been linked to improving one’s mood. On the flip side of developing healthy habits, it is important to remove all unhealthy coping skills, such as substance and/or alcohol use, as these become counterproductive as they in turn can increase feelings of depression.
• Create a Routine: Trying to commit decreased motivation and energy can be tough, so start small, by jus creating a routine and sticking with that routine with minimal disruptions. Try scheduling an activity that you have to do once a day, make try to make it something that you enjoy doing. The purpose of creating structure is to aid in creating balance in ones life.
• Seek Professional Help: If you’ve tried to navigate your depression on your own, and haven’t felt any relief, now may be the time to seek help. Whether you seek help from a psychiatrist or medical doctor, for medication interventions, or from a professional counselor, it is important that you seek help before it is too late. If symptoms worsen and you begin to feel that your life is no longer “worth it”, and start to have thoughts of suicide, seek immediate assistance by calling 911, presenting to your nearest emergency room, and/ or calling the National Suicide Hotline at: 1-800-273-8255, which provides free, confidential,24/7 support for those in crisis.
As preciously mentioned, this is not an all-inclusive list of the symptoms of depression, nor a full list on how to cope. It is best to seek professional help to aid you or your loved one in coping with depression. Remember that Depression is treatable, and is not something that anyone should have to struggle with alone. DON’T WAIT, GET HELP TODAY!