No, major depression is NOT the “blues.” It is beyond blue. Depression is devastating, deadly.
Depression: The Darkest Shade of “Blues”
Imagine waking every day to dark clouds. The sun remains hidden day in and day out. Even the lighting in your home seems muted, as if snuffed by an unseen hand. Outside, the winds howl, battering your home, shaking the rafters, making it seem as if at any moment you and it could be taken away into oblivion…and despite knowing that somewhere beyond this storm there is safety, you almost welcome your inevitable end.
That is depression and if you are struggling with it right now, you understand the metaphor very well. You already know that everyday routines are an epic struggle. Family, friends and colleagues go about their daily lives, often oblivious to your suffering; and those who do notice, try to help you “snap out of it.” None of it helps. Instead, you just feel increasingly worse.
If this is you, know first that you are not alone. Worldwide, more than 264 million people from all walks of life and every age struggle with depression.
Common Questions About Depression
If you or someone you love is experiencing suicidal thoughts or is self-medicating in an attempt to take away the pain, this is a warning sign that help is needed immediately. Call me at (312) 899-1120 or phone the National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-8255. Either way, get help now.
Other warning signs, or symptoms, which persist longer than two weeks and indicate a need for professional help to overcome depression are:
- Change in appetite
- Persistent sadness
- Inability to concentrate
- Sense of hopelessness
- Disruption in sleep/Insomnia
- Uncontrollable emotions/crying for “no reason”
- Loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed
- Feeling worthless
- Increased irritability
- Trouble concentrating and making decisions
- Physical problems – chronic pain, headaches, etc.
Sadness, like grief, is not lasting. It goes away within a reasonably short time.
Depression is far worse. It is long-term, disrupts our routines and prevents us from really living our lives. It is crippling. It involves a daily struggle with our own thoughts. It is a fight just to get up in the morning…a fight just to do the smallest things like taking a shower or preparing our food.
In the following video, author Andrew Solomon speaks of his own battle with depression and how it differs from grief or sadness.
- Trauma or Abuse: Sudden loss, a traumatic event, long or short term abuse (which is traumatic) including emotional or sexual can all result in a sustained battle with depression.
- Genetics: The role of genetics in depression is not yet fully understood, but researchers know that people with a family history of depressive disorders are at greater risk.
- Illness or disease: Any disease can have an impact both on our mental health and brain chemistry, resulting in depression. Likewise, certain medications can cause people to suffer from depression.
- Substance abuse: Substance abuse often leads to depression and sometimes depression leads to substance abuse. Either way, addiction to drugs or alcohol is often a factor in depressive disorders.
- Conflict: Personal conflicts can easily cause our relationships to suffer leading to isolation and depression.
- Public/Private Transit Workers (16.2%)
- Real Estate Professionals (15.7%)
- Social Services Employees (14.6%)
- Manufacturing Employees (14.3%)
- Personal Services Professionals (14.3%)
- Legal Services Professionals (13.4%)
- Environmental and Waste Administrators (13.4%)
- Organizational Administrators (13.3%)
- Securities Brokers (12.6%)
- Print and Publishing Employees (12.4%)
By way of comparison, the national average for depression is 6.7% of the population in a given year. Clearly, certain professionals are more at risk for depression than others.
In any case, the criteria outlined in the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) will guide the diagnosis.
Regardless of this, most sufferers begin their journey to recovery with a licensed counselor.
- Major Depressive Disorder: Characterized by severe and serious symptoms lasting more than two weeks.
- Persistent Depressive Disorder: Characterized by chronic symptoms, even mild or moderate, which have continued for a period exceeding two years.
- Bi-Polar Disorders: Characterized by mood swings from extreme highs to extreme lows.
- Postpartum Depression: Characterized by the onset of symptoms after the delivery of a child.
- Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder: Characterized by symptoms which appear prior to menstrual cycles.
- Seasonal Affective Disorder: Characterized by symptoms which appear during certain times of the year or around holidays.
- Atypical Depression: Characterized by how certain events can result in a “lifting” of depressive symptoms, tricking someone into thinking they are not in fact suffering from depression.
Regardless of the type of depression you believe is affecting you, seek help now by calling (312) 899-1120.
In some cases, medications including antidepressants, mood stabilizers and antipsychotics may be used in conjunction with psychotherapy.
Exercise can help prevent mild-to-moderate symptoms of depression and certain brain stimulation therapies like ECT (electroconvulsive therapy) and RTMS (repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation) are useful in a specific subset of patients.
As part of a comprehensive treatment plan, numerous alternative approaches including acupuncture, meditation and nutrition may also be used to ease the symptoms of depression.
To be sure, it never hurts to improve our nutritional intake including a balanced regime of vitamins and minerals. This is especially the case if depression occurs in relation to a disease which prevents the body from absorbing certain vitamins or minerals.
To decide whether you should seek therapy, ask yourself the following five questions:
- Am I sad or angry for “no reason” or just not myself?
- Am I using food, alcohol, sex or drugs to cope with my life?
- Am I just unable to “get past” the loss of a job or someone I loved?
- Have I experienced some kind of trauma that will not leave me alone, keeps resurfacing and causes me continued difficulty?
- Do I no longer enjoy life, living or anything I once enjoyed?
If any of these questions describe what you are going through, it may be time to seek help. I would like to help, but you will have to call me. My number is (312) 899-1120.