Are You Suffering from Depression?
Have you not felt yourself lately? Everyone has “down” days, but persistent sadness, hopelessness, and anxiety can negatively interfere with all areas of life. Depression can range from mild to moderate, to more severe in the way it affects normal everyday living.
Is Depression Normal?
It is part of the human condition to have intense and overwhelming periods of deep sadness and grief following personal devastating and major life crises. Death of a loved one, friend, or a pet, a home destroyed in a fire, a loss of a job or financial means, divorce, betrayal, or a serious sudden or chronic health diagnosis are only a few examples. Sometimes deep sadness and grief persist for a long time, or in some cases, a lifetime. Some of us feel it and show it more than others, and not everyone is the same.
The higher degree of stress in one’s life, the more grief and sadness can linger. If the intensity of grief and sadness lasts more than 6-9 months combined with persistent significant disruptions in everyday activities, not participating in previously enjoyable activities, or isolating from family and friends, it is considered more of a “depressive condition” and is diagnosed as clinical depression.
What Are the Symptoms of Clinical Depression?
Clinical depression can range in level of severity from mild to severe. Signs and symptoms often include persistent feelings of guilt, shame, and hopelessness, a loss of interest in enjoyable activities, changes in sleeping and eating patterns, irritability, difficulty concentrating, problems with motivation, feeling disengaged with others, wanting to be alone, anxiety, and for some people, suicidal thoughts and feelings and/or a plan to harm themselves or others. Extremely severe levels of depression can have psychotic features often confused with other diagnoses. Symptoms of psychosis can include thinking thoughts that are not yours or seeing things that aren’t there. If you find yourself having more down days than not, or having no interest in the things that used to bring you joy, you may be clinically depressed.
Clinical depression is one of the mostcommon mental health disorders.
Clinical depression is more common than you might realize and affects 20% of all people. It is prevalent among all ages, cultures, races, and socioeconomic backgrounds. More than 200 million people suffer from clinical depression. Depression affects men and women equally, although women have an easier time expressing emotions and are more likely to seek out someone to talk to. Men are more likely to have difficulty recognizing emotions, talking about them, and seeking help. Cases of depression in men are underreported.
Women are 70% more likely to be diagnosed withdepression than men, but cases for men underreported.
Symptoms of depression can look different in men and are often not readily recognized. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), many are more likely to show anger, irritability, and aggression rather than sadness. People close to them and even their doctors may not see their anger and aggression of symptoms of depression. Therefore, they may go undiagnosed and not receive the treatment they need.
When Should I Seek Treatment for Depression?
It is time to address depression when it is negatively affecting your life and interfering with daily living activities. It is one thing to experience sadness on a regular basis, but constant feelings of low motivation, apathy, irritability, hopelessness, wanting to be alone, poor sleep, significant changes in weight, being depressed more days than not, loss of pleasure in things you used to love to do and suicidal thoughts indicate more of a significant clinical depression. Those experiencing depressive symptoms at all levels, mild to severe, should seek treatment. Telltale signs of even the mildest of clinical depressions are anhedonia (not enjoying things anymore) and depressed mood more days than not for at least two weeks. When you see someone not being able to get out of bed, complete personal hygiene tasks, or forgetting to eat (and/or having suicidal thoughts), it is indicative of a serious situation and should be addressed in treatment with a professional without delay.
For decades it was considered a stigma to seek out help for mental health. People felt tremendous shame. In modern times, it is known that the highest functioning individuals seek out therapy to talk through emotional issues affecting their well-being.
It is known that the highest-functioning peopleseek out therapy for clinical depression.
Often with depression, a person gets used to having low motivation, anxiety, and isolative behaviors and it is difficult for them to recognize their symptoms. Also, symptoms may not be obvious as everyone experiences depression in different ways. A friend or family member may notice significant changes in a person’s life habits and step in and help. This can feel frightening, hurtful, intrusive, and embarrassing. The historical stigma associated with depression is real and it’s hard to hear from others that they are concerned about your mood; your mental health. If you are unsure how to take their involvement, seek out a professional counselor or psychiatrist. You need someone in the mental health field who can listen to you from an outside perspective, evaluate your symptoms, talk to you honestly, and provide any necessary treatment recommendations. Depression is treatable and millions of smart, productive, and successful people struggle with it. They thrivingly participate in everyday life and activities and you would never know they have it.
If I Have Anxiety Does it Mean I’m Depressed?
Not necessarily. Depression and anxiety symptoms can overlap and look similar. Common symptoms of both include difficulty concentrating, having ruminating thoughts, being more irritable in general, having trouble sleeping at night, not enjoying activities you use to do, changes in weight and eating habits, social anxiety, and isolating from others (avoiding get-togethers with friends and family, at school, work and other social events.
People with depression often struggle with othermental health-related problems, such as anxiety disorders.
All of these symptoms can be indicative of an anxiety disorder alone and/or part of clinical depression. A persistent anxiety disorder usually is defined by constant, intense fear and worry that becomes more extreme despite little or no reason for it. A person could have both an anxiety disorder and depression, and as you can imagine, having an anxiety disorder can lead someone right into depression. A professional evaluation will help you find out what treatment is necessary.
What If I or Someone I Know Has Thought About Suicide?
Suicidal thoughts are to be taken very seriously. When someone has had thoughts of suicide, their clinical depression has progressed to a very severe level. You cannot be too quick to intervene or seek help, especially if there is a plan to harm oneself, an easy means to do it, or if a gun is easily accessible. It is not normal or healthy to exist with persistent thoughts of death or harming oneself, even if there is no imminent plan of danger. It is easy to be impulsive when you don’t feel right, can’t think straight and feelings are overwhelming.
Any mention whatsoever of suicide cannot be taken lightly.
One can never accurately gauge whether someone’s depression is at the level of actually acting on suicidal thoughts. Any mention whatsoever of suicide cannot be taken lightly and is one of the most dangerous symptoms of someone in a severe depressive state, especially if they have had a prior suicide attempt.
A person who has attempted suicide should be immediately followed in treatment and evaluated for medication to address the depression. People of all ages, cultures, and socioeconomic backgrounds are at risk for suicide, but research suggests specific age groups being at greater risk. People between the ages of 16-24 and over the age of 60 are commonly more at risk for suicide.
Is Medication Part of Depression Treatment?
For many people, a combination of both talk therapy and medication is an effective treatment option for depression. I believe in providing the most comprehensive range of treatment options for my clients and thus from to time refer them for a medication evaluation from a qualified doctor. Both a general medical doctor and a psychiatrist can prescribe medications to help depression. A psychiatrist is an MD and specializing in the mental health field and has a broad range of knowledge to help you understand depression and what may be your best options. There are various medications given that act on different parts of the brain, some newer, some older. Some take longer to “kick in” thank others. Generally, antidepressants build up in your system over time. A doctor may prescribe an antidepressant alone or in combination with other medications that help the brain regulate anxiety or racing thoughts in a different way. A psychiatrist will take into consideration that people respond in different ways to these medications and it may be necessary to try a couple to find the right one. Many of my clients have reported significant life improvement they may have not otherwise experienced without medication.
What is a Bipolar Depression?
People often experience depression as part of a component of bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder characterized as having periods of extreme shifts in mood. Shifts in mood refer to extreme “lows” and “highs” of activity versus mood shifts experienced in what we call “moodiness.” The “lows” are periods of depressive symptoms and the “highs” are periods of “manic” activities. There is a wide range in the severity of manic behaviors people can have. Manic behaviors can include periods of extra rushes of productivity, impulsive decision making, or in severe cases, erratic behaviors and psychosis. Common examples of manic behaviors include experiencing racing thoughts, talking very quickly over others, staying awake all night and not needing sleep the next day, starting big projects one doesn’t finish, exhibiting a grandiosity that is beyond reality, and having distorted and tangential thinking. In more severe cases there can be extreme recklessness, promiscuity, spending, or seeing and hearing things that aren’t there. People can shift slowly or rapidly from one mood to the other. To be diagnosed as Bipolar, there has to be some evidence of at least one manic episode, past or present. However, one can be diagnosed as Bipolar even if they have never had a depressive episode.
Recognizing depressive symptoms and classifying them as part of a bipolar diagnosis is complex, even for those in the mental health field. Someone may be experiencing a depressive episode, but they may have had past symptoms of “highs” that might have been overlooked as a normal part of their personality. For example, it’s hard to know if a smart and energetic person who suddenly decided to start a company from scratch is making an impulsive decision unless you see them experiencing other manic symptoms. Mental health professionals specifically have to look out and be aware of this to get the client the right treatment they need. Various medications can cause shifts in mood for certain people depending on their body chemistry, and medications need to be monitored closely for this reason.
Note: Classes of medications called “mood stabilizers and in some cases, “anti-psychotics” are usually given for Bipolar Disorder, and may or may not be combined with a straight “antidepressant,” depending on a client’s symptoms. Straight antidepressants are usually not given without a mood stabilizer as they can make manic “highs” worse. An MD may have to tailor and adjust medications for a client’s specific needs.
How Do You Treat Depression?
Treatment for depression can include depression management techniques and more focused psychotherapies, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and psychodynamic insight-oriented therapy. I use a combination of all of these to address your specific needs. I find most people benefit from a structured plan that targets improving negative belief systems and building coping methods to handle difficult situations. I use a combination of more focused therapies to help clients improve emotional tolerance and increase problem-solving abilities. Since emotional stress affects the body physiologically, I always recommend some form of exercise as the first line of defense to help the body release the stress that is contributing to depression. A range of mindfulness techniques, yoga, and stretching can also help the body release extra stress. Meditation and focusing the mind on one point of concentration slow down the heart rate and breathing which helps the body to decrease stress and the brain to better regulate emotions.
I want to help you with the depression that takes the joy out of life.
There are powerful newer modalities that can help with depression. They work deeper into the brain to reprocess negative belief systems and desensitize emotional pain. I have developed a cutting-edge neurological therapy, ANS (Accelerated NeuroShifting), a rapid method for healing emotions that are at a core level of consciousness. The process of ANS scientifically identifies and heals negative belief systems in your unconscious awareness at a faster and deeper level than traditional talk therapy alone. My clients have benefitted tremendously and have had much longer-lasting results. I am excited to share it with you if you have significant emotional pain and have found you need the next step in your healing.