No one feels happy and energetic all the time, despite what we may be inundated with by the media. There is a tremendous amount of content online that revolves around “feeling your best” and “having more energy” and “how to lead a happy life”. Sure, we all want these things. That desire is very normal considering no one ever wants to feel bad. But, the fact is, everyone experiences ups and downs because that’s how life works. Work can be stressful and tragedy can strike. There are times where we are emotionally drained and feel like we’re in a pretty dark place. This, too, is normal within reason. It’s not unusual to be sad after the death of a loved one or to just feel blue sometimes after long periods of stress.
However, many people suffer with these persistent feelings of sadness, melancholy, anger, and exhaustion on a continual basis even without the presence of external triggers. These can be symptoms of depression, particularly major depressive disorder. Depression is one of the most common mental health issues in the United States, affecting 6.7 percent of the adult population. That’s about 15 million people. It’s also the leading cause of disability for Americans between the ages of 15 and 44. It can strike at any age, though it most often manifests in the early 30s.
There are other kinds of depression too, though major depressive disorder is what many people think of when talking about depression. But, how do you know if it’s depression and not just feeling sad? Here are the facts.
Differentiating depression symptoms
Depression can have a variety of symptoms, though many people think it just means excessive sadness. Everyone gets sad when given reason to. Depression, especially major depression, lasts much longer and doesn’t seem to get better on its own. This is why seeking treatment is so important. Here is how you can tell if what you’re feeling is actually depression instead of feeing temporarily blue.
Depressions often manifests as a persistent sadness or emptiness. You may appear sad to others as well. You probably have lost interest in activities that you used to enjoy. Many people with depression suffer significant weight loss or weight gain depending on how they cope with their feelings. Some people stop eating, others stress eat to feel better. You could develop insomnia or find yourself sleeping an excessive amount. Restlessness and irritation are common. A feeling of fatigue and an inability to concentrate due to wandering thoughts or exhaustion can occur. You may feel worthless and guilty over things you aren’t even responsible for. In some instances, you may have regular thoughts of suicide. If you are feeling suicidal, you should seek help immediately. All of these symptoms tend to occur daily and persist for months at a time.
Not all depression is the same
Major depressive disorder is the main type of depression that often gets focused on because of how long lasting and debilitating it is. However, it isn’t the only kind of depression that can befall someone. You can have depression without necessarily having major depressive disorder.
For example, postpartum depression which can strike women following childbirth may have many of the same symptoms as major depression, but is a different classification. Many of the emotions are centered around the wellbeing of the baby, the ability to care for it, and difficulty bonding. Then there is Persistent Depressive Disorder, which is characterized by long lasting feelings of depression that aren’t as severe as the symptoms of Major Depressive Disorder, but tends to occur over a more consistent period of time.
Treatment options for depression
Treatment isn’t generally one size fits all when it comes to depression. It’s often a multi-faceted effort that combines psychotherapy, medication management, and lifestyle changes. Therapy can help uncover the root cause of these feelings as well as provide coping strategies. Lifestyle changes are very important as well. Healthy sleep habits, a good diet, and regular exercise are all proven to help reduce symptoms of mental health issues and improve thought processes. Taken together, this treatment plan should help you get onto the road to recovery.
Depression can be as debilitating and life altering as any major physical illness. It robs you of energy and life’s simple joys, to say nothing of how it can affect your career and relationships. It may feel like a hopeless situation at times, but know that many people have successfully been treated for depression and have been able to go back to living a full, healthy life. If you believe that you are suffering with depression, book an appointment online to set up a consultation. Dr. Thompson will help evaluate what you’re feeling and come up with a treatment plan just for you. Don’t let depression continue to alter your life.