Depression is a widespread mental health illness, which can affect people at any age in life. Depression is a medical disorder, and people who suffer from it know for a fact that they cannot just snap out of it, just because they want to.
It significantly affects how you feel, think and behave, and it can even lead to several major depressive disorders, as well as physical health problems.
If it is not managed, depression can lead to serious – and sometimes long-term – consequences, that can affect every aspect of life.
Symptoms of Depression
Depression can affect many facets of life and can complicate serious health conditions such as heart disease or cancer. In combating depression, it is vital to know about the symptoms associated with it. This will aid you to identify its presence and help you understand why it occurs; likewise, it will help you ascertain the necessary steps to take that can better aid you as to how to manage it effectively.
Many people suffering from depression have severe symptoms that cause apparent problems in day-to-day activities, such as school, work, interpersonal relationships, or social activities. Some patients may ordinarily feel helpless, miserable and unhappy, without really knowing why. While the symptoms of depression can vary with the type of depression one has, the following are some of the common symptoms:
- Feelings of emptiness, sadness, tearfulness, or hopelessness;
- Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches;
- Angry outbursts, frustration or irritability, even over small matters;
- Loss of interest or pleasure in most or all normal activities, such as sex, hobbies or sports;
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixating on past failures or self-blame;
- Sleep disturbances, including sleeping too much or insomnia;
- Tiredness and/or lack of energy, where even small tasks take extra effort;
- Slowed thinking, speaking or body movements;
- Reduced appetite and weight loss, or increased cravings for food and weight gain;
- Agitation, anxiety, or restlessness;
- Trouble thinking and concentrating;
- Trouble remembering things; and
- Frequent or recurrent thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts or suicide.
If you have been experiencing any of the above symptoms for two weeks or more, you may be suffering from depression. If such is the case, it is important to seek professional medical assistance. Your physician will conduct any tests required, in order to rule out other serious medical conditions that may cause similar symptoms.
If the diagnosis is depression, it is vital to follow a management program personally devised for you to get better. It is essential to take the advice of an experienced professional on board, so that you can begin your journey to a healthier and calmer life, free from the feelings of emptiness, helplessness and worthlessness associated with depression.
The Many Potential Causes of Depression
When we talk about depression, it is important to consider any contributing causes to depression. Most people, if you ask them what creates depression, tend to say that external factors cause one to feel depressed. In fact, the reasons why some people grow depressed isn’t always known. However, studies suspect that there are a variety of factors that may cause depression, and these are not always preventable, including:
Genetics and Biology
At this present time, researchers have not yet discovered the specific genes responsible for causing depression; but for a long time, experts have known that depression runs in some families. In fact, many patients suffering from depression can name another family member who also battles with the same mental health condition.
Early studies show that a person who has a relative with depression, whether a parent or sibling, has a greater chance of developing major depression, when compared with someone with no history of depression in the family. Research studies from all over the world have likewise found that when one identical twin is depressed, the other twin will also experience depression 76% of the time.
However, having a depressed family member or depression genes does not automatically translate to another member developing the same mental health condition. It is only likely that a genetic tendency or susceptibility to becoming depressed is carried from generation to generation.
It’s often said that depression is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain, but this statement does not begin to capture how complex this mental health illness is.
The chemicals in our brain are responsible for the dynamic system which is answerable for your perceptions, mood, and how you behave in life. These neurotransmitters help different areas of the brain communicate with each other. When there is a shortage of certain neurotransmitters in the brain, the symptoms associated with depression may come into play.
In the U.S, around 15 million people experience depression each year, while it has been documented worldwide that women suffer from major depression about twice as often as men. Sadly, nearly two-thirds do not get the support and help they need.
One of the most triggering factors is the way in which women are affected by the hormonal changes they experience during and after their reproductive years. Women are especially susceptible to depressive disorders during times when their hormones are in flux, such as around the time of their puberty, menstrual period, pregnancy, childbirth, and perimenopause; a woman’s depression risk declines after she goes through menopause.
Hormone changes can also result during the weeks or months after delivery of a baby, which is commonly known as post-natal depression, and may also occur in relation to thyroid problems, menopause and/or a number of other conditions. It is thought that fluctuations in female hormones, such as progesterone and estrogen, prompt changes in brain chemistry that can lead to depression. In addition, women who have previously suffered from depression, or if they have a relative who has been depressed, have an increased chance of hormonally-triggered depression.
Stressful Life Events
Excessive stress in life can lead to depression. In fact, several studies support that chronic stress leads to an increased level of cortisol and reduced serotonin in the brain, which has been associated with depression. Similarly, people who were subject to severe emotional abuse during childhood may be at risk of developing depression when confronted with current life stressors. The risk of depression is likely to increase significantly in the six months after experiencing markedly threatening life events. Research carried out until this present time also suggests that acute overwhelming life events can lead to the recurrence of episodes of major depression.
Things You Can Do to Help You Manage Depression
Depression saps the life out of you. It drains your energy, drive and hope, making it hard for you to take the necessary steps that will make you feel better again. Unlike some other conditions, battling depression isn’t easy and it cannot be resolved by simply sleeping it off.
Build a Support Network and Stay Connected
One of the most essential things you can do to help yourself with depression – aside from seeking professional help – is building a strong social support group. Having a strong support system plays a vital part in overcoming depression.
When you are depressed, you have a great tendency to withdraw or isolate yourself from other people, making it tough for you to connect even with your close family members and friends. It can also be very difficult to maintain a healthy point of view in life when one is battling depression all alone.
Knowing that you can count on your loved ones can have a significant impact when it comes to recovering from depression. Never think that reaching out is a sign of weakness or that it is a burden to others. People are inherently compassionate, so do not hesitate to reach out and stay connected, as you need all the help and support you can get.
Do Things That Make You Feel Good
When you are feeling down, it can be hard for you to get excited to do the things you normally like to do. More often than not, it can also feel impossible to find happiness if you are depressed.
Nevertheless, in order to overcome depression, you have to try giving a shot the things that relax and energize you. Each day, do (at least) one thing you used to enjoy doing prior to struggling with depression. For example, pick up an old hobby you used to enjoy, such as reading, crafting or playing video games. Simply going out with friends to a café is another great idea. It is true that when you are depressed, you can’t force yourself to experience pleasure. But in order to overcome this mental condition, it can be very helpful to try doing the things that you used to enjoy, even though you mightn’t feel instant gratification unlike before.
Lastly, weed out the stressors in your life as best you can, such as especially difficult relationships, money problems, or prolonged work stress, and try to focus more on the things that bring you joy and happiness.
Prioritise Sleep, Healthy Eating and Exercise
When depressed, getting the right amount of sleep each night is especially beneficial. Depression commonly involves sleep problems, whether it be insomnia or sleeping too much. Sleep has a huge effect on our physical emotional and mental health, thus, always try to stick to a sleep schedule and aim for approximately eight hours of sleep per night.
Maintaining a balanced diet as well as regular exercise are also key for recovering from depression. Believe it or not, but what you eat has a large effect on the way you feel. Do not skip meals and limit your intake of foods/drinks that can adversely affect your brain and mood, such as alcohol, fatty foods, and foods with high levels of chemical preservatives.
Exercise also has a direct impact on your energy levels and helps to stimulate hormones, such as endorphins, that elevate your mood and help you to feel good about yourself. Make an achievable goal plan and try to stick with it in order to increase your level of activity, as appropriate.
Relaxation is great for relieving symptoms of depression and alleviating stress. In fact, daily relaxation practice can boost feelings of joy and well-being. You might like to try incorporating yoga, deep breathing exercises, meditation or progressive muscle relaxation into your daily schedule. You might be surprised at how much better you feel once you have done a successful relaxation technique.
Sadness is something we all experience. It is a normal and healthy reaction to difficult times in life and usually passes with a little time. However, when this feeling of sadness is intense and hangs about for a long period of time, what you are feeling might no longer be normal, and you may be suffering from depression.
If you or someone you know is battling with depression, it is imperative that you seek professional help as soon as possible. Do not hesitate to get in touch with our sensible and caring team at Brain Wellness Spa, for assistance to overcome this common mental health condition.