We have all probably experienced times in our lives when we have felt sad. Sadness is really inescapable if we are out there living life - sad things happen! But major depression is not just being sad. So, how do you know if you are just sad, or are experiencing a major depressive episode?
What are the symptoms of depression?
If you are experiencing several of the following symptoms on most days, you may be experiencing a major depressive episode:
- feeling sad, empty, hopeless
- a marked decrease in interest or pleasure in daily activities
- significant weight loss without dieting, or weight gain; decrease or increase in appetite
- sleep disturbances (sleeping too much or not enough, waking often throughout the night, etc)
- fatigue - tired all the time
- feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt
- lack of focus and/or concentration
- thoughts of self-harm
What causes depression?
Major depression can be brought on by a specific situation or event, or nothing at all. It is a chemical imbalance in the brain that often requires medication to restore it to a balanced state. Here are just a few of the possible causes of depression:
- current life stressors, such as relationship issues, job loss, life transitions
- unresolved grief or loss
- childhood trauma (such as abuse, abandonment, neglect)
- learned beliefs and/or behaviors that reinforce depressive symptoms
If there are issues in your life that may either be the cause of, or are exacerbating, your depression, I can help you explore these issues and provide important tools to help you equip yourself to make positive changes as you are ready.
How common is depression?
The National Institute of Mental Health reports that in 2017 "an estimated 17.3 million adults in the United States had at least one major depressive episode. This number represented 7.1% of all U.S. adults." If you are experiencing depression, you are certainly NOT alone, and it is nothing to be embarrassed about or ashamed of.
Is there anything I can do to begin helping myself?
Yes, there are some things you can do on your own to begin addressing your depression.
- Include emotionally healthy, positive people in your support system. Your support system can include your spouse or significant other, friends, co-workers, or spiritual leaders - and of course, your Counselor.
- Educate yourself about depression and its possible causes.
- Incorporate more physical activity into your routine several days a week. This helps to release good chemicals in the brain that help with mood.
- Try adding prayer, meditation, and/or relaxation techniques into your week
- Practice more self-care - those things that you enjoy and 'refill your tank.'
Don't "suffer in silence." Help is only a phone call away. Take that positive first step for yourself and reach out for the help that is available for you.