By Deborah Brosseau
Depression is a common mood disorder, but let’s not mistake its prevalence with being no big deal. Depression can be a big deal. We’re seeing a lot more talk about how it affects lives, thanks to some brave celebrities who deal with depression. And, unfortunately, we’re also seeing a lot more talk about how it claims lives when high profile suicides occur.
According to the World Health Organization, more than 264 million people worldwide experience some grade of depression. That is a staggering number. In addition to the tremendous weight the sufferers carries, depression impacts society on every level imaginable: familial, social, economic, health, education, public safety, and so on. Because mental illness in general can be stigmatized, many people do not seek support. But we all deserve it, so if depression is a challenge for you, then this blog post is for you.
You might be wondering if what you’re experiencing counts as depression. It’s always advisable to seek a professional medical opinion as opposed to self-diagnosing, of course. But there are some common symptoms that can be attributed to depression. Those include:
1. Persistent sadness, hopelessness, helplessness
2. Anxiousness, irritability
3. Decreased interest, enjoyment
4. Reduced energy, fatigue
5. Lack of concentration, memory, focus
6. Decreased sense of self-worth
7. Increased sense of guilt, shame
8. Loss of appetite or overeating
9. Thoughts of death or suicide, suicide attempts
Depression can occur from many different things, such as our biology, from situations (loss, pregnancy, seasonal change), from childhood trauma, or from substance abuse.
There are options for treatment of depression, and some are used in combination. We’d like to highlight these five strategies that are often employed to relieve the burden of depression.
The kind of professional support you’ll get is entirely dependent upon the type and longevity of your depression – everybody is different. Psychotherapy (talk therapy) is one of the most effective ways of treating depressive disorder. Under that umbrella, you might find cognitive behavioral therapy which helps to change negative thinking patterns, interpersonal therapy which focuses on relationships, and psychodynamic therapy which works to resolve past experiences. Often clinicians practice multiple modalities (and there are more than noted here), so talk with your provider about which possibilities are best suited to your situation.
When administered thoughtfully and appropriately and monitored intently, medication might be an option for some people experiencing depression. There are many different types of antidepressants from SSRIs to MAOIs, and anti-anxiety or mood stabilizing medication can be considered as well. In any case, it is necessary to be prescribed by a professional who shares all usage directions, expectations, and side effects.
Social support, whether it’s from taking a walk with a neighbor or attending a support group, can counteract some of the more insidious symptoms of depression: the shame, loneliness, hopelessness. It helps to know we’re not the only ones. It helps to know people care. It helps to be reminded that we care about other people. Speaking of, volunteering is a great way to create social connection and foster a sense of impact in your community. Committing to some kind of activity with another person or group also means accountability, and forming the good habit of connection is a powerful self-care technique.
Diet & Exercise
If our issues are in our tissues, then we’ve got some serious ability to keep our issues in healthy order. What we put into our bodies and how we use our bodies can impact our mood and biology for the better. Eating clean, healthy food is a good general guideline. Avoiding processed products, sugar, alcohol, and fatty meats can help. Foods believed to positively impact mood include blueberries, almonds, salmon, oats, dark chocolate (yay!) and coffee. Exercise is encouraged for people dealing with depression as it increases those feel-good endorphins. Just getting out for a walk is good work, and the more aerobic the better.
Mindfulness isn’t just a meditation or yoga practice; mindfulness is really doing anything with your full attention for as long as you can. And it has been show in studies to help prevent recurrences of depression. Mindfulness is not so much a distraction from negative thoughts as it encourages us to get all of our senses working together to fully engage in whatever activity we’re doing, be it a quiet bath or something active like making dinner.