Depressive Symptoms: Are They Affecting You
What Can You Do About It
Sad feelings are one of the feelings that is normal in life. Yet, the sad feeling can become so overwhelming that they continue. Prepaps they continue for a few days. Sometimes they may continue for weeks or months.
She was having a hard time. Getting out of bed in the morning was difficult but doable after the alarm went off several times. Besides, there was this lack of interest in life. Her eating had decreased; she had actually lost five pounds. She was beginning to wonder if she was depressed.
There are different ways to look at how feelings of being down or actual depression may affect you. Knowing what is the issue or diagnosis is important. It helps with understanding, so you can learn what you can do to make positive changes in your life.
What is clinical depression
Sad feelings may or may not fall into the following definitions. It may just be short-lived feelings of sadness.
According to the American Psychiatric Association:
Depression (major depressive disorder) is a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act. Fortunately, it is also treatable. Depression causes feelings of sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed. It can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems and can decrease a person’s ability to function at work and at home.
Depression symptoms can vary from mild to severe and can include:
- Feeling sad or having a depressed mood
- Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed
- Changes in appetite — weight loss or gain unrelated to dieting
- Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
- Loss of energy or increased fatigue
- Increase in purposeless physical activity (e.g., hand-wringing or pacing) or slowed movements and speech (actions observable by others)
- Feeling worthless or guilty
- Difficulty thinking, concentrating or making decisions
- Thoughts of death or suicide
- Symptoms must last at least two weeks for a diagnosis of depression.
What about dysthymic disorder
Clinical depression may not be what you are facing. Consider Dysthymic Disorder, another form of depression. It is long-lasting over a two-year period and is not the result of Major Depressive Disorder.
Symptoms of persistent depressive disorder can cause significant impairment and may include:
- Loss of interest in daily activities
- Sadness, emptiness or feeling down
- Tiredness and lack of energy
- Low self-esteem, self-criticism or feeling incapable
- Trouble concentrating and trouble making decisions
- Irritability or excessive anger
- Decreased activity, effectiveness and productivity
- Avoidance of social activities
- Feelings of guilt and worries over the past
- Poor appetite or overeating
- Sleep problems
What about bipolar
Then, there is bipolar a psychological condition that also includes depression. It also has times of euphoria
According to the American Psychiatric Association:
Symptoms of Bipolar I Disorder
Bipolar I disorder can cause dramatic mood swings. During a manic episode, people with bipolar I disorder may feel high and on top of the world, or uncomfortably irritable and “revved up.“ During a depressive episode they may feel sad and hopeless. There are often periods of normal moods in between these episodes. Bipolar I disorder is diagnosed when a person has a manic episode.
Bipolar II disorder involves a person having at least one major depressive episode and at least one hypomanic episode (see above). People return to usual function between episodes. People with bipolar II often first seek treatment because of depressive symptoms, which can be severe.
People with bipolar II often have other co-occurring mental illnesses such as an anxiety disorder or substance use disorder.
Depression and other issues
Depression can also be a result of thyroid issues. It is always good to rule this out by seeing your health care provider and having it assessed.
Depression may be covered up by an alcohol issue. Because alcohol is an upper and a downer, you may not realize you have depression or anxiety.
It may be that a pornography issue is linked to depression. The pornography actually may be a sexual addiction. This is one of seven profiles of a sex addict and depression is part of it.
Depression and boundaries
Consider boundaries, physical boundaries are all around you. They include the walls in a building, the door with a lock, and physical laws like gravity.
Then there are the boundaries of your body. The skin is the boundary of your body, your bones give you structure, and your muscles allow you to move.
There are your emotional boundaries that are harder to understand or see. Your emotional reaction is different than the next person to you. Even different than your parents, siblings, or other relatives.
You need to understand your emotional reactions and your responses to boundaries. This is key to dealing with depression.
Broken boundaries and depression
When boundaries are broken, the normal result is some variation of anger. It might be a slight irritation. It might be full-blown anger. And in serve cases, it can lead to assault.
How you deal with anger is the issue. When you are not able to deal with the broken to say boundary. When you are not able to speak up and say what you need or find a way to calm yourself down, there is an issue. Sometimes you may not be able to say what you want to say like on the job. Then, you need to find a safe way to diffuse the anger.
What is depression
Depression is when you do not deal with your anger response. If you stuff the anger, it will become depression. It may be just some type of down feelings for a while or depression or possible clinical depression.
Another way to look at depression
Depression is also a lack of wanting to engage. This can be seen through the Window of Tolerance.
When a person is within their window of tolerance, it is generally the case that the brain is functioning well and can effectively process stimuli. That person is likely to be able to reflect, think rationally, and make decisions calmly without feeling either overwhelmed or withdrawn.
During times of extreme stress, people often experience periods of either hyper- or hypo-arousal.
- Hyper-arousal, otherwise known as the fight/flight response, is often characterized by hypervigilance, feelings of anxiety and/or panic, and racing thoughts.
- Hypo-arousal, or a freeze response, may cause feelings of emotional numbness, emptiness, or paralysis.
Depression is a type of hypo-arousal. Being able to deal with the issues in life, helps you. It keeps you from stuffing what has happened. And this keeps you from going outside the window of tolerance.
Dealing with a minor irritation
This is where you ask yourself, “Is this something that I need to be concerned about?” “Do I need to do something about it?” “Or can I just let it go and do nothing about it?” In reality, if you have a strong emotional reaction to it then you need to do something about it.
What you do about it will depend on what happened…your reaction. So, take your time and think about what you need to do about it.
In the moment, do you need to take a deep breath from your diaphragm? This will help calm your body down.
Do you need to say something in a respectful way…do you need to set a boundary?
If you can not say something about it…what can you do to calm yourself? Do you need to exercise, do a relaxing hobby or something else
Lifestyle changes to treat depression
Changes in your life may be a way to deal with depression.
Regular exercise can be as effective at treating depression as medication. Not only does exercise boost serotonin, endorphins, and other feel-good brain chemicals, it triggers the growth of new brain cells and connections, just like antidepressants do. Best of all, you don’t have to train for a marathon in order to reap the benefits. Even a half-hour daily walk can make a big difference. For maximum results, aim for 30 to 60 minutes of aerobic activity on most days.
Strong social networks reduce isolation, a key risk factor for depression. Keep in regular contact with friends and family, or consider joining a class or group. Volunteering is a wonderful way to get social support and help others while also helping yourself.
Eating well is important for both your physical and mental health. Eating small, well-balanced meals throughout the day will help you keep your energy up and minimize mood swings. While you may be drawn to sugary foods for the quick boost they provide, complex carbohydrates are a better choice. They’ll get you going without the all-too-soon sugar crash.
Sleep has a strong effect on mood. When you don’t get enough sleep, your depression symptoms will be worse. Sleep deprivation exacerbates irritability, moodiness, sadness, and fatigue. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep each night. Very few people do well on less than seven hours a night. Aim for somewhere between seven to nine hours each night.
Make changes in your life to help manage and reduce stress. Too much stress exacerbates depression and puts you at risk for future depression. Take the aspects of your life that stress you out, such as work overload or unsupportive relationships, and find ways to minimize their impact.
Therapy and “the big picture” in depression treatment
One of the hallmarks of depression is feeling overwhelmed and having trouble focusing. Therapy helps you step back and see what might be contributing to your depression and how you can make changes. Here are some of the “big picture” themes that therapy can help with:
Understanding the patterns of your relationships, building better relationships, and improving current relationships will help reduce isolation and build social support, important in preventing depression.
If you are stressed and overwhelmed, and feel like you just can’t say no, you are more at risk for depression. Setting healthy boundaries in relationships and at work can help relieve stress, and therapy can help you identify and validate the boundaries that are right for you.
Talking with a trusted therapist can provide good feedback on more positive ways to handle life’s challenges and problems.
It takes time to find the right treatment. It might take some trial and error to find the treatment and support that works best for you. For example, if you decide to pursue therapy it may take a few attempts to find a therapist that you really click with. Or you may try an antidepressant, only to find that you don’t need it if you take a daily half hour walk. Be open to change and a little experimentation.
Don’t rely on medications alone. Although medication can relieve the symptoms of depression, it is not usually suitable for long-term use. Other treatments, including exercise and therapy, can be just as effective as medication, often even more so, but don’t come with unwanted side effects. If you do decide to try medication, remember that medication works best when you make healthy lifestyle changes as well.
Depression and medication
Sometimes when nothing else worked, medication may be the answer. It could take many attempts to find the right drug for you. You might want to have drugs as part of healthy boundaries and lifestyle changes.
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Doctors often start by prescribing an SSRI. These medications generally cause fewer bothersome side effects and are less likely to cause problems at higher therapeutic doses than other types of antidepressants are. SSRIs include fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Paxil, Pexeva), sertraline (Zoloft), citalopram (Celexa) and escitalopram (Lexapro).
- Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs).Examples of SNRI medications include duloxetine (Cymbalta), venlafaxine (Effexor XR), desvenlafaxine (Pristiq, Khedezla) and levomilnacipran (Fetzima).
- Atypical antidepressants. These medications don’t fit neatly into any of the other antidepressant categories. They include trazodone, mirtazapine (Remeron), vortioxetine (Trintellix), vilazodone (Viibryd) and bupropion (Wellbutrin, Aplenzin, Forfivo XL). Bupropion is one of the few antidepressants not frequently associated with sexual side effects.
- Tricyclic antidepressants. Tricyclic antidepressants — such as imipramine (Tofranil), nortriptyline (Pamelor), amitriptyline, doxepin and desipramine (Norpramin) — tend to cause more side effects than newer antidepressants. So tricyclic antidepressants generally aren’t prescribed unless you’ve tried other antidepressants first without improvement.
- Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs). MAOIs — such as tranylcypromine (Parnate), phenelzine (Nardil) and isocarboxazid (Marplan) — may be prescribed, often when other medications haven’t worked, because they can have serious side effects. Using an MAOI requires a strict diet because of dangerous (or even deadly) interactions with foods — such as certain cheeses, pickles and wines — and some medications, including birth control pills, decongestants and certain herbal supplements. Selegiline (Emsam), an MAOI that you stick on your skin as a patch, may cause fewer side effects than other MAOIs. These medications can’t be combined with SSRIs.
- Other medications. Your doctor may recommend combining two antidepressants, or other medications may be added to an antidepressant to enhance antidepressant effects.
Whatever you decide to do…take care of yourself…you are worth it! Your mental health is very important! You want to get to a place that you are ok within yourself…so that you feel good about yourself.
Now that you know more about depressive symptoms, you can decide what is best for you.
You can learn more about the author Audrey Tait.
You can learn more about depression in the book Reflective Meditations Trilogy: Understanding My Trauma, Healing My Trauma, and Letting Go—Forgiveness.