Depression is one of the most common experiences for which people access therapy, but it is also an illness that causes a lot of confusion for many people.
Here are the common symptoms of depression:
- Disturbed sleep
- Changes to appetite
- Lack of energy or motivation
- Irritability and intolerance
- Feelings of guilt
- Difficulty concentrating and reduced memory
- Lack of enjoyment of previously enjoyable activities
What is the difference between “depression” and just feeling “down?
What we call “clinical depression” or that type of depression that needs to be treated medically in conjunction with other forms of treatment such as therapy, is characterized as such based on a couple of factors:
Intensity and Duration
Intensity refers to the severity of the symptoms, the more severe or intense, the more serious the depressive state – are symptoms intense enough to interfere with “normal” every day functioning?
Duration refers to how long the symptoms have been present – diagnosis of clinical depression means that symptoms have been evident for at least two weeks.
If you think that you might be suffering from clinical depression, it is important to see your family doctor to discuss your symptoms with her and to rule out any other possible medical issues.
Once medical reasons have been ruled out, working with a therapist in conjunction with your doctor would be helpful.
If you think that you might be suffering from mild depression or just feeling down, there are things you can do to try and help yourself to feel better.
- Try to identify the triggers for your current feelings – are your feelings a reaction to a loss or change in your life, are you having financial worries or work issues?
- Once you have identified the trigger problems, you can then begin to work out strategies to deal with these problems. Action helps to defeat depression, which can paralyze us into inactivity. If you are having difficulty thinking of strategies, talk to a trusted friend, a family member or a professional counselor for ideas.
- Try to maintain routine activities and any activities that you have previously found to be pleasurable – when we are feeling down, we have a tendency to want to withdraw and hide – sometimes when we push ourselves to participate in things that we have previously enjoyed, we can find the distraction to be helpful in providing some relief from our problems, and making available to us a return to clearer thinking.
- Talk to people about how you are feeling, and try to surround yourself with positive people.
- Identify negative thinking patterns and work at changing them. Our feelings are very much connected to our thoughts – if you pay attention, you will find that when you are feeling badly, you are also thinking a lot of negative thoughts. Try and catch yourself in these negative thoughts and challenge them with more reasonable and positive ones. Again, if you are having trouble changing your thinking, this is when a therapist can be very helpful to you.
- Keep moving. It has been proven in many studies that physical exercise can alleviate symptoms of depression, even if it is as simple as a brisk walk every day.
- Make sure your physical needs are being attended to – eat healthy foods and try stick to a regular sleep routine.
It may not be easy, but you can overcome these difficult feelings by putting some energy into your own wellness, and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
By: Lynda Stockwell M.S.W., R.S.W.