Feeling Blue: Depression

All of us, from time to time, have said "I'm depressed." It's not realistic to go through life without some times of sadness. Certain events will bring about feelings of disappointment, grief and inadequacy. However, when something doesn't go exactly as planned or the way we expected, are we really depressed? Maybe, but really what most of us may be experiencing are feelings of being let down, defeated or just plain unhappy.

Certain events in life trigger our feelings. People care about things; friends, family, our jobs, our pets. When we lose a loved one, when marriages fail or when we lose our job, it is normal to feel sad and upset. It's the length of time that we experience these feelings, the symptoms and our functioning in day-to-day activities which determines whether we are actually depressed or not.

A situational depression may occur when we experience a stressful event in our lives. At times, this "event" may cause deep sadness. Depending on our immediate resources such as friends, family, activities, coping skills and self esteem we may improve our mood or deepen it. This may cause more severe depression. In our now mobile and technological society, people are often cut off from those resources that allow our expression of sadness. We keep those feelings until they no longer can allow us to keep them in check.

Symptoms of depression can be mild to severe, depending on the person or situation. Most often, depression is characterized by a frequent feeling of sadness, emptiness, pessimism and hopelessness. Also, feelings of guilt and worthlessness occur often. Appetite may either decrease or increase and so do sleeping patterns. There may be difficulty concentrating and also a loss of motivation and/or pleasure in life itself. Physical symptoms may also occur, such as headaches, chronic pain and stomach/intestinal problems.

Depression can run in families. For example, episodes of post partum depression are often seen, not only in one person, but several female members in a family after having a baby. If your mother or sister or aunt experienced severe depression after childbirth, you may be more susceptible to this as well. Some of this may be due to hormonal changes that occur in the body, so it is a good idea to always speak to your doctor if this seems to be a problem.

It is always a good idea to visit your doctor whenever you have symptoms of depression. There are some medical problems, such as diabetes, kidney, neurological, thyroid malfunctions which may cause hormonal or chemical imbalances that can lead to mental disturbances. Let the doctor determine and rule out medical problems as well as seeking behavioral health assistance.

So, what can someone do if they are suffering symptoms of depression? After an initial visit to the doctor, medication may or may not be prescribed. If medication is necessary, be sure to take it routinely and according to directions. This is important since these medications take time to be effective and a certain level is needed in the body before the complete effect is noted.

Professional counseling along with medication or by itself may also be very useful. Expressing concerns, alleviating stress and learning some new coping skills may be helpful now and in the future. Other things that people can do along with counseling may be to stick to a schedule. Not having some sense of order and routine will only serve to enforce the lack of concentration. Focus on one day at a time, break jobs down into smaller ones and feeling good about what you accomplish each day. Keep a journal of activities and feelings for each of the chores and activities. Be more assertive with those around you so that you feel more in charge of your life. Get out of the house. Getting out into the sunlight may help. If you have to be indoors, sit near a window. Eliminate junk food, caffeine, sugar. Eat three balanced meals a day. These are a few coping skills that can be of some use when you need them.

These suggestions can alleviate some of the lack of motivation. Counseling can also help to put things into a different perspective. The important thing about depression is to get an accurate diagnosis. Getting help is essential and should be sought if symptoms persist and you feel unable to function in a normal manner. With treatment, most depression improves. Have reassurance that at another time, things will be better.

Copyright 1994,1995 Lovina Pivin
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