Depression: Symptoms, Reasons, Self-Test, Therapy
Depression is a condition which starts by causing mood disorders and changes in your thinking, feeling and your generally functioning. It then proceeds to cause feelings of helplessness, hopelessness and even worthlessness.
This is the point at which you are diagnosed with depression as you lose touch with much of life. You start imagining an impending doom even though there are no threats.
Typically, everyone feels depressed at one point in time but they may not necessarily be diagnosed with depression. If it’s really bad, they may suffer from anxiety. If the anxiety is however left unchecked, it can lead to depression. Though closely related, anxiety and depression have some differences.
The 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) indicates that in 2015, 16.2 million American adults had experienced at least one major depressive episode. Women were also at higher risk (8.5%) of experiencing an episode as compared to men (4.8%).
According to WHO, more than 300 million people globally suffer from depression. It is also the leading cause of disability worldwide.
In some cases, depression can be an extreme result of untreated and worsening stress. In such a case, the stress will lead to anxiety and eventually depression. Still, some people experience depression without going through stress or anxiety.
SYMPTOMS OF DEPRESSION
As with any other condition, depression has symptoms by which it can be detected.
Some of these symptoms are the same as those of anxiety due to the close relation between the two conditions.
These symptoms are:
Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness
This is very characteristic of depression as it signifies that you have come to the end of yourself. You either feel like giving up or you simply give up.
You look at the situations you are in and can only see them from a negative perspective. You are convinced that things are so wrong that they cannot change. More than that, you believe that there is nothing you can do to make things better.
You then give up and start having suicidal thoughts. These may escalate to actual attempts to commit suicide.
If you have had suicidal thoughts or have attempted suicide, you need to know that the situation you are in is not beyond improvement. Things can definitely get better. To stop experiencing these thoughts, get help by calling 1-800-273-8255 or seek help from here.
Loss of interest in daily activities
One of the visibly evident symptoms of depression is the loss of interest in the activities which previously brought you joy. This is referred to as anhedonia.
Every human being has certain likes and desires to enjoy time with friends and family as part of bonding. For you however, this is not the case.
From the hobbies you had to any activity you may be invited to participate in, nothing stirs up your interest. At the same time, you no longer care about any pastimes like swimming, reading or even watching TV.
Related to the loss of interest is the reduced ability to feel pleasure. If you engaged in an activity you previously enjoyed, you may still be unable to derive any pleasure from it. This includes partying, listening to music and even having sex.
To manage this, it is important that you continue with your regular activities. You can reduce the number of activities but don’t stop them altogether. Also, stay open to support from friends, family and online communities.
Changes in appetite and weight
Depression also affects your appetite levels. This can go either way. You may experience increased appetite and go on a binge while eating foods which are unhealthy. On the other hand, your appetite levels may decrease and you start skipping meals.
As a result, you will end up with either an increase or decrease in weight. Since you will be feeling an inability to control this, more feelings of helplessness may develop. Your overall health will also be negatively impacted.
For example, an increase in food intake can lead to bigger health problems. One of the things you may be doing at this point is emotional eating. This can happen almost naturally, as you reach for some food to make yourself feel better.
Since you will most likely not be cooking, you will just reach for some junk food. But did you know that eating junk food can lead to depression? When having depression and eating junk food, not only are you destroying your health but also feeding your depression.
This is a big telltale sign of depression, especially at an advanced stage. You begin hating yourself for something that you may have done which you feel was wrong. Although normal responses to wrongdoing are acknowledging the wrong, apologizing then moving on, this doesn’t work for you.
Instead of following through this process to the end where there is self-forgiveness, you only go as far as acknowledging the wrong you did. Your view of the wrong is magnified and although you may not know it, you blow it out of proportion.
You end up only seeing how wrong you are and how big the wrong is. Being a normal person, you will obviously make other mistakes. And since you never moved on past the previous one, you will end up labeling yourself a failure.
You feel immense guilt and start telling yourself that you make more mistakes than everyone else. You harshly criticize yourself and ignore any forgiveness you have received from the people you wronged. You do not believe that they forgave you because you think that your mistake was too big to be forgiven.
This leads you to think that you are not as good as others. You focus on the good and success of others while only seeing your failures. Eventually, you end up with feelings of worthlessness.
If you have gotten to this point, a good way of dealing with those feelings is to say to yourself that you are worth it. You are important.
You have something to offer to the world. Whether it makes sense or not, tell yourself, repeatedly, that you are important and try your best to believe it.
“Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve.” Napoleon Hill.
Here is a video to help you fight off those feelings of worthlessness.
Speaking creates your reality. If you consistently tell yourself that you are important, you will gradually develop the strength to act accordingly. And this will help you lessen the bad situation.
Feelings of worthlessness make you isolate yourself and think that you are of no value. This opens the way for suicidal thoughts to flourish.
Changes in sleep
When experiencing depression, one of the common symptoms you will have is changes in your sleep patterns. Whereas normally you would have stayed awake during the day then sleep at night, this routine changes. Or the sleep duration changes.
Depression can cause various changes in your sleep. It may be that you will completely lack sleep or sleep but be unable to do so for long enough for your body to recharge. Though insomnia can also be experienced at lower or even normal levels of stress, it becomes worse when depression is the underlying factor.
Another sleep problem is oversleeping. This is just as bad as having little or no sleep. It directs your mind to operate in an unusual pattern. Instead of waking up in the morning and going to work or doing your home chores, you oversleep and by the time you wake up, you’re already tired.
Still, sleep changes can occur in a different manner. You may go to bed in good time and plan to wake up at a certain time. Nevertheless, you will wake up earlier than you expected. You may lose all your sleep at 3:00 am and be unable to get back to sleep. This is known as early-morning wakefulness.
Do not think that as the name suggests, you will be waking up early thus become more productive. You will actually be very unproductive. The first reason is that you never had enough sleep. Secondly, you woke up early as a result of depression, not because you are pursuing the completion of a project.
Anger or irritability
Anger is an emotion that is part of the human body. As such, it must be expressed whenever it arises. As normal as getting angry is, it is quite different if you have depression.
Depression makes you irritable. You become short-tempered and can easily get angry. At the slightest provocation, you can burst out in anger.
This is even in situations where there really is no validity in your over-reaction. To you however, you are not over-reacting but just responding accordingly.
At the same time, irritability makes you prone to violence. With every outburst of anger, you move closer to making violence your normal response to situations which do not please you. This deteriorates without much of your knowing. It is only those around you that may notice the worsening.
Another sign of irritability during depression is restlessness. You simply lack the ability to be patient, whether with people or when in situations beyond your control. You cannot relax or stay calm either while waiting for something or just to allow yourself some rest.
Loss of energy
As someone experiencing depression, you will often find that you do not have enough energy to undertake tasks you used to normally do well. If you were taking twenty minutes to complete a task, the same may now be taking you one hour.
Your easily become exhausted even without doing a lot of physically-intensive work. You feel physically drained and quickly run out of the energy required to perform important duties.
You will also be sluggish in your work. Whether at your place of work or at home, you become unable to carry out tasks with speed. You may know that you have a deadline but still, be unable to bring yourself to work as fast as needed.
Engaging in escapist behaviors
Having recognized your wrongdoings and isolated yourself, you will naturally seek ways of relieving yourself of the thoughts you have. This is because feelings of worthlessness and suicidal thoughts are oppressive in nature.
Your body is made to naturally protect you from harm. So when these thoughts overwhelm your mind, you will look for an outlet to release them so that you can feel good about yourself.
The easiest and quickest route you may take is that of substance abuse. You will likely start by abusing social drugs. Though you may have a temporary relief, you risk addiction and other health problems.
Other escapist behaviors include compulsive gambling. You do not just gamble to get rich but gamble just to take your mind away from the thoughts troubling you.
Gambling can be attractive because it makes you feel good when you win. Unfortunately, the wins are not always guaranteed and by gambling, you just increase your depression levels. With some casinos operating round the clock, you may lose track of time and spend days gambling without going home.
Betting is also a common form of gambling. This gives the impression of convenience with options available for betting through your mobile phone. Betting companies have gone mobile to enable people bet from virtually anywhere.
The problem with these escapist behaviors is that you do not feel like you have anything to lose. You can easily put in all your life savings on the bet hoping to win big. You either fail to realize or you disregard the fact that betting firms and bookies are businesses. As such, they ensure they make profit.
You lack concentration
For you to be productive and effective in what you’re doing, it is important to concentrate. This is however a problem when suffering from depression. Despite knowing the importance and even making efforts, you are not able to concentrate.
This makes you produce mediocre work. As a result, you set yourself up for feelings of failure. If in employment, your colleagues or boss will definitely complain about the quality of your work. If in business, customers will express dissatisfaction with what you do.
This creates some pressure on you to perform better. Your stress levels increase but you are still unable to work things out. Comparison against others will be inevitable, especially when the complaints continue.
You may be given compulsory leave at work or forced to shut down your business since you are no longer making any profit.
Making decisions is also a big challenge for victims of depression. This is closely tied to the inability to focus. You may have a small issue to deal with but are unable to focus on the real problem.
If the problem arose some time back, then you may have challenges remembering the details of the situation. This is because memory loss is also one of the problems that accompany depression.
Not understanding the situation, you fear making the wrong decision and end up making no decision at all.
The below video explains how depression leads to indecisiveness and how you can handle the situation.
Unexplained aches and pains
Depression does not only affect your mind but also your body. In any case, doesn’t your mind control the whole of your body? A problem in your mind can cause many other problems all over your body.
Depression leads to sudden and unexplained body aches, the most common being headaches. You may easily dismiss this to be a symptom of stress but soon realize that it’s not going away. The headache may also not be treatable using regular over-the-counter medication.
Back pains are also common as well as muscle pains.
You may also experience stomach pains. If you are a woman, you may mistake these to be menstrual cramps, especially if it happens around the time of your menstrual period. These pains are however quite consistent and may be on and off.
CAUSES OF DEPRESSION
Depression, like any other condition, has its causes. Rarely will it have only one cause. In most cases, it will be a combination of factors that have worked together to give birth to it.
At the same time, these causes can be easily addressed if the symptoms discussed above are identified and addressed early. This will stop the initially-small problem from degenerating and getting out of hand.
Depression can be caused by:
Life has its ups and downs and everyone goes through them. But people respond to the challenges in life differently. Some are able to cope better than others, thus come out of challenging times better or unscathed.
Others unfortunately come out wounded while still, others get stuck in those bad times. This can happen especially psychologically when the event is no more but you are still ruminating about it. You are unable to move on from the effects of what happened. This is how many people get into depression.
Something may have happened, shaking you at a personal level. For example, the death of a loved one causes grief. If the grief does not end, it may lead to depression. Or you may have escaped death by a whisker. The memory of such an event haunts you and makes you fearful that it may happen again.
Bereavement-related depression can make you feel that there is no need to live if the dead person is no longer alive. You may become preoccupied with thoughts of what you had planned to achieve together.
If it was your only child, you may have invested a lot of emotions into your relationship with him. You held all his dreams and ambitions dearly and he was a part of your life. His death seems to take away a part of you leading to a sense of emptiness and hopelessness.
All the same, bereavement-related depression can be managed, especially if recognized early. Counseling services can be sought while family and friends give support.
Another life-related cause of depression is the lack of jobs. You may have great academic qualifications, have sought employment in many companies and gone for numerous interviews. While thinking that you passed the interview, you may be told that you didn’t.
Or you simply don’t hear from the interviewers.
You may conclude that you will not make much out of yourself due to joblessness. You may get discouraged and believe that you cannot own a home or start a family because you don’t have an income.
There are things you can do to alleviate depression as a result of unsuccessful job searches. For example, you can do volunteer work. This helps you sharpen your skills while networking with people. You never know where your job opportunity will come from.
The source of depression in some cases can be traced to childhood experiences. Children are very sensitive and can pick up negative aspects of life quite easily. This is because their minds are developing at a fast rate.
For example, your parents’ divorce could have affected you. Though you never understood everything about it, you suddenly realized you no longer had both of your parents. In case there was shared custody, having to wait till the weekend to see your other parent may have had devastating effects on you.
You may also have gone through neglect or abuse as a child. Any form of abuse always makes it difficult to move on with life unless properly dealt with. If there was abuse in your home, it may have taken a long time to stop. If the abuse stopped but there was no counseling, then you never got healed.
Wounds from abuse—physical, psychological or emotional—take time to heal. When you face anything similar to the abuse, the memories come back and apart from the haunting, fear also comes upon you with the possibility of crippling you beyond any action. You may want to isolate yourself in an effort to keep yourself safe from the perceived danger.
Another cause of depression related to your childhood is the failure to keep up with your peers. This may have come in the form of your inability to read as well as your friends or matching up to their skills in sports.
You may have been gifted differently thus unable to express yourself in the same ways as your peers. If this was not made known to you as a child, then you may have concluded that you were not good enough. Yet, it is only that you are unique.
This opens the way for depression by downgrading your sense of self-worth, thus affecting your self-esteem. As it may have happened, you most likely tried engaging in popular sports later on but never made an impact. You may even have suffered humiliation and decided never to try any sport.
Such experiences can seem to have gone away until triggered later in life by a similar situation. This is a sure trigger for depression.
Depression is believed to be caused by both genetic and environmental factors. Of these two, genes is the cause in up to 40% of the cases with the environment being the culprit in the remaining 60%. More than that, you have up to three times more likelihood of experiencing depression if either your parents or siblings have the condition.
This means that almost half of those with depression could have had it as a result of a genetic link.
Looking at the symptoms of depression discussed above, you will easily manifest anger and irritability if one or both of your parents are irritable. Some pains and aches like chronic headaches and migraines can be hereditary. This adds more weight to the gene factor as a cause of depression.
Physical health problems
Your physical health can also contribute to your chances of developing depression. This is mainly because of the stress involved in managing some health conditions. It may simply be overwhelming for you to keep up with all the dosages and requirements for managing those conditions.
This can especially be the case if you rarely get sick. When you suddenly become unwell, you have trouble keeping up with the lifestyle change.
It may be a disease that takes a long time to treat or a condition that you have after being involved in an accident. For example, you may have to use a wheelchair after a road crash that left you paralyzed from the waist downwards.
Apart from the treatments involved and probably several surgeries, this can have a massive dent on your moods and ability to enjoy life as you once did. You will not be able to participate in many social activities or go out as often as preferred.
Your privacy will also be interfered with because you need assistance in changing clothes and even bathing. Such occurrences can have a lasting impact on your mental health and lead to depression.
Hypoglycemia can also lead to depression. The low blood sugar levels act as a trigger for depressive episodes. If you are already predisposed to depression e.g. through genetic links, this becomes an even bigger risk factor.
Other mental health problems
Mental health problems have a direct link to depression. This is largely due to the stress that comes with coping with them.
For example, if you have anxiety, you will most likely experience depression. Or episodes of it.
The line between anxiety and depression can be very blurred, especially if you are either mildly depressed or experiencing high levels of anxiety. For example, extreme anxiety can make you nervous, causing you to think that you’re about to make a mistake.
Seeking to do a perfect job, you become stressed and prone to having a panic attack. You become fearful that you are not in control. If this situation recurs many times and you don’t develop coping skills, you will end up depressed.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can also cause depression. 70% of all Americans have experienced a traumatic event in their lives. From these, up to 20% develop PTSD.
Examples of traumatic events include being violently attacked, involved in a car crash, kidnapped, raped or sexually abused, witnessed extreme violence or any other situation which causes you to fear for your life.
If you have had such experiences, then your likelihood of developing depression is high. A quick way of reducing these chances is by getting away from the environment in which the traumatic event happened.
There are other disorders which could lead to depression. Some of them cause depression due to high levels of stress generated. Others however, especially those that are mood disorders, lead to depression as a result of worsening or untreated conditions.
One such disorder is Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder (DMDD). This is mainly experienced by children and adolescents and the main characteristic is irritability. This irritability is persistent and outbursts of anger are common. Their tempers flare quickly and their reactions are usually more severe compared to how their peers would react if in the same situation.
Another disorder is the Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD), which is a severe extension of the Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS). The symptoms include extreme sadness, irritability, extreme mood shifts and feelings of hopelessness. These symptoms normally resolve once menstruation starts.
PMDD can make you believe that you cannot control yourself or your body. This causes feelings of helplessness. On the other hand, some symptoms like irritability can damage your relationships. This can leave you feeling hopeless and believe that you will never build any friendships or even a family.
Cyclothymia (cyclothymic disorder) is a mood disorder characterized by emotional ups and downs. It is classified as a type of bipolar disorder whose mood shifts are less severe than those of Bipolar I and II disorders. The highs (hypomanic symptoms) can include feelings of euphoria and an increased drive to achieve goals.
The lows (depressive episodes) include feelings of hopelessness, sudden weight loss or gain, fatigue, restlessness and suicidal thoughts.
It is easy to determine whether you have depression or not. Having been a subject of much research and study, the symptoms have been used to help people diagnose themselves. This also helps you know what exactly you are dealing with, helping you better explain your condition to your doctor.
To confirm whether your symptoms indicate depression, you can take this simple online test. It is short and will quickly give you the results and tell you where you stand on the scale of depression.
There is an alternative test here which is a bit more detailed. After taking the test, you will be provided with a snapshot report with a summary evaluation. You can optionally purchase the full results for $ 4.95.
Have you taken the test and ascertained that you have depression?
Fear not. No matter the level of depression you are at, it is not the end of life. Depression is treatable and so it is advisable that you immediately seek professional medical help. You will be able to start a treatment program and get more out of life. Watch the below video for some encouragement.
As you talk to your doctor about your condition, he will diagnose you and tell you which treatment is best for your specific case.
The different types of therapy can be divided into three categories. These are medical, psychological and alternative therapy. These are discussed below.
Drugs used to treat depression are called antidepressants and many different types are available. You however should discuss with your doctor the possible side effects to ensure using the best option. Common antidepressants include:
- Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) – these are usually the first medication prescribed by doctors as they have fewer major side effects when compared to others.
- Serotonin-norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs) – these have various uses apart from being used for depression. They are also taken for anxiety, obsessive compulsory disorder, menopausal symptoms etc.
- Tricyclic antidepressants – these are powerful and normally very effective in tackling depression. The only downside of using them is that they cause severe side effects. They can only be prescribed after SSRIs have been confirmed to provide no relief.
- Other medications – your doctor may prescribe other medication to help make the antidepressants more effective. Such medication may include mood stabilizers and antipsychotics.
This involves talking with a mental health professional and is often referred to as “talking therapy”. In most cases, psychotherapy will be recommended as treatment to be taken alongside medication. This is because it helps you remain well after recovery from depression.
There are various psychotherapy options from which your psychotherapist will choose the best for you. Some of them are:
- Cognitive behavior therapy – this option is centered on helping you change your outlook of life. Since depression typically makes you think negatively, CBT helps you develop a habit of positive thinking.
- Interpersonal psychotherapy – this treatment is based on the assumption that depression and interpersonal challenges are related. This is because most of the depression cases can be traced to aspects of your social life at work or in relationships. Therefore, once you are able to recognize the connection between your relationships and your vulnerabilities, e.g. weaknesses due to your personality, then you’re better able to cope with life challenges.
- Positive psychology – this will focus on the conditions that lead to an optimal functioning and a happy life. This will mainly be through engaging in activities which help you improve your well-being. One of the biggest things you learn from this is letting go of anger and resentment.
Self-help and alternative therapy
At times, you may not be able to seek medical attention immediately. The good news is that it is possible to still start therapy on your own.
Some of the therapy options available are exercising, taking foods rich in omega-3, taking St. John’s Wort and other depression-relieving supplements.
It is important to note that any kind of medication taken should be done after consultations with your doctor about the side effects. Alternatively, do a thorough research online but note that seeing a doctor remains the best option since he can carry out tests to determine what your body may or may not react to.
Ensure you know how the medication you’re taking will interact with your body in case you’re taking other medication. Also note that you should not abruptly stop taking the medication.
Depression can affect your life negatively if not dealt with. The most comforting thing to know is that it is treatable.
Do not be discouraged or allow yourself to go on a downward spiral. Talk to your doctor.
Also reach out for support from your family and friends.
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