What is depression?
Experiencing feelings of loss and sadness is a normal part of the ups and downs of life. However, when pessimism becomes the only lens through which we see ourselves and the world, and life loses it’s joy and meaning, depression may be setting in. Depression is often the result of repeated losses, failures and/or disappointments that create a pervasive, unrelenting sense of powerlessness, worthlessness, helplessness and hopelessness. Living in the black hole of depression can make it difficult or impossible to work, function, be in relationship or even just get out of bed.
The two cardinal signs of depression, otherwise known as a Major Depressive Episode (MDE), are low mood and/or loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities, for at least a two week period, accompanied by:
* decreased energy
* sleep disturbance
* guilt or shame
* difficulty concentrating
* changes in appetite and/or weight
* loss of libido
* suicidal ideation
Because depression is isolating in it’s intense emotional pain, along with it’s power to distort thinking so it becomes harder to see possible solutions to problems, it is a major risk factor for suicide. No matter how intense and pervasive the feeling of hopeless, there is possibility, alternatives and help to get better. 24 hour help seven days a week is available through:
Mobile Mental Health Crisis and Emergency Services
Risk factors for depression:
* lack of a social support network
* family history of depression
* relationships strain/problems
* trauma or abuse history
* alcohol or drug abuse
* chronic pain or disease
* female (rates of depression are twice as high in women as they are in men)
Depression is otherwise known mood disorder and may manifest as different types:
Major Depressive Disorder (MDD): a period of depression that lasts six months and ranges from mild to severe in it’s intensity.
Persistent Depressive Disorder (dysthymia): a period of low grade chronic depression that lasts for at least two years.
Postpartum Depression: the hormonal changes of having a baby can trigger depression. It is a longer lasting, more severe depression than the more typical “baby blues.”
Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PDD)/Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS): mood swings, irritability, physical symptoms (bloating, breast tenderness, joint/muscle pain) and sleep, energy, appetite and concentration changes that peak in the final week before the onset of menses, improve with the onset of menses, and resolve in the week post menses.
Bipolar Disorder (Manic Depression): cyclic mood changes that alternate from depression to manic episodes (characterized by impulsivity, hyperactivity, rapid speech and little to no sleep). Usually the switch from one mood extreme to the other is gradual, with each manic or depressive episode lasting a few weeks at least.
It is important to investigate whether certain hormonal imbalances may be contributing to depression, in particular under functioning thyroid , and low or unbalanced estrogen in women, or low testosterone in men.
In certain cases, especially severe depression and bipolar disorder, medications may be needed.
Along with a good diet and exercise, therapy is an integral part of treatment success. Though asking for help may feel weak, it is a sign of courage! Together we’ll look at identifying the root of your depression, helping you understand your feelings, what your triggers are for depression and the skills you need to stay well and prevent depression from coming back.