We all feel sad and blue from time to time, but what if this becomes our permanent state of mind. What if hopelessness and frustration become too overwhelming? Is this depression?
When emotions such as hopelessness and despair take hold of you and just won’t go away, then you may have depression. Depression makes it tough to function and enjoy life. Even trying to get through the day can be overwhelming. These feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and worthlessness can be very intense. It can seriously interfere with your ability to work, eat, sleep, and enjoy life. But no matter how hopeless you feel, you can get better. It’s is very important to understand that these feelings of helplessness and hopelessness are symptoms of depression and not the reality.
By understanding the cause of depression and recognizing the different symptoms and types of depression, you can take the first step to feeling better and overcoming the problem.
When we speak about depression we must understand that everyone’s experience will be different. However, there are certain symptoms and very common signs that you shouldn’t ignore.
10 major symptoms of depression
- Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. Thinking that nothing will ever get better and there’s nothing you can do to improve your situation.
- Loss of interest in daily activities. You don’t care anymore about former hobbies, pastimes, social activities. You’ve lost your ability to feel joy and pleasure.
- Appetite or weight changes. Significant weight loss or weight gain.
- Sleep changes. Insomnia is very common, waking in the early hours of the morning or oversleeping.
- Anger or irritability. Feeling agitated, restless, or even violent.
- Loss of energy. Feeling fatigued, sluggish, and physically drained.
- Self-loathing. Strong feelings of worthlessness or guilt. You harshly criticize yourself for perceived faults and mistakes.
- Reckless behavior. You engage in substance abuse, compulsive gambling, reckless driving, or dangerous sports.
- Concentration problems. Trouble focusing, making decisions or remembering things.
- Unexplained aches and pains. An increase in physical complaints such as headaches, back pain, aching muscles, and stomach pain.
Types of depression
Depression comes in many shapes and forms. Knowing what type of depression you have can help you manage your symptoms and get the most effective treatment.
Major depression is much less common than mild or moderate depression and is characterized by severe, relentless symptoms. It can last for six months and it can be a recurring disorder.
Atypical depression is a common subtype of major depression with a specific symptom pattern. It responds better to some therapies and medications than others, so identifying it can be helpful. People with atypical depression experience a temporary mood lift in response to positive events, such as after receiving good news or while out with friends. Other symptoms include weight gain, increased appetite, sleeping excessively, a heavy feeling in the arms and legs, and sensitivity to rejection.
Dysthymia is a type of chronic “low-grade” depression. More days than not, you feel mildly or moderately depressed, although you may have brief periods of normal mood. The symptoms of dysthymia are not as strong as the symptoms of major depression, but they last a long time (at least two years). If you suffer from dysthymia, you may feel like you’ve always been depressed. Or you may think that your continuous low mood is “just the way you are.”
SAD (Seasonal Affective disorder) is usually associated with changes of seasons. The reduced daylight hours of winter lead to this form of depression. SAD affects about 1% to 2% of the population, particularly women and young people.
Major risk factors for depression
Depression can be very complicated. It is not just the result of a chemical imbalance in the brain that can be simply cured with medication. It’s caused by a combination of biological, psychological, and social factors. In other words, your lifestyle choices, relationships, and coping skills matter just as much as genetics. There are certain risk factors that can make you more prone to depression.
- Loneliness and isolation
- Lack of social support
- Recent stressful life experiences
- The family history of depression
- Marital or relationship problems
- Financial problems
- Early childhood trauma or abuse
- Alcohol or drug abuse
- Unemployment or underemployment
- Health problems or chronic pain
Understanding the underlying cause of your depression may help you overcome the problem. For instance, if your bad mood is caused by a bad situation at work. The simple change in the work environment can be the sole solution to your problem. In such cases, the depression is remedied by changing the situation.
How to stabilize your mood
When you’re depressed, it can feel like there’s no light at the end of the tunnel. But there are many things you can do to lift and stabilize your mood. The key is to start with a few small goals and slowly build from there, trying to do a little more each day. Feeling better takes time, but you can get there by making positive choices for yourself.
Isolation fuels depression, so reach out to friends and loved ones. The simple act of talking to someone face-to-face about how you feel can be an enormous help. Regular exercise can be as effective as antidepressant medication in countering the symptoms of depression. Eat a mood-boosting diet. Reduce your intake of foods that can adversely affect your moods, such as caffeine, alcohol, trans fats, sugar and refined carbs. And increase mood-enhancing nutrients such as Omega-3 fatty acids.
If support from family and friends and positive lifestyle changes aren’t enough, it may be time to seek help from a mental health professional. But remember there are many effective treatments for depression!
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