Most people have periods where they feel depressed. It is normal to feel down once in a while especially during difficult life experiences and increase times of stress. However, for many people symptoms of depression take hold and turn into a persistent and difficult mental disorder. This kind of depression is actually very common. In fact, there are 15 million American adults who suffer from Major Depressive Disorder currently, almost 6.7% of the population (1).
How do you know if you suffer from major depression? The National Institute of Mental Health (2) lists the following symptoms to help people identify whether or not they are experiencing depression:
Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism
Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness
Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities
Decreased energy, fatigue, being “slowed down”
Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions
Difficulty sleeping, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
Appetite and/or weight changes
Thoughts of death or suicide, suicide attempts
Persistent physical symptoms
Remember these symptoms can become critical as they persist and get worse over time. For example, depression lasting for a lengthy period of time—two or three weeks with more bad days than good—is a sign of major/clinical depression needing outside help. If you are having persistent thoughts of death/suicide or a suicide attempt you are certainly suffering from depression and should reach out for help immediately.
Depression is much like a parasite. Parasites attack their host by sucking life sustaining nutrients for their own benefit. Over time, the impact of the parasite on the host may get worse over time. Depression attaches itself onto individuals sucking the life sustaining force of hope and light out of life. Major depression impacts a person’s daily walk in life in profound ways. In my work with those who suffer, I often hear it described as being “covered by a wet blanket.” Covered by this blanket, individuals cannot see any hopeful view of the future. This blocked future creates feelings of sadness, guilt, and/or irritability. Others have often described depression as trying to “run in Jello.” When you “run in Jello” you are working hard to get somewhere but are unable to make any progress. This lack of progress despite expending tremendous energy to do so may lead to loss of interest, difficulty concentrating, and fatigue. It is common for those who struggle with depression to also experience feelings of anxiety.
Addicts and alcoholics in recovery are no strangers to depression. Sometime those who develop an addiction are seeking relief from the symptoms through alcohol and drug use. At other times, abusing alcohol and drugs may lead to feelings of depression. The good news is that depression is highly treatable. Don’t be afraid to discuss your current situation with those around you. Reaching out to your healthcare provider, counselor, therapist, and/or friend can be life changing. There are so many who can relate and offer meaningful help if you are willing to do so.
(1)Anxiety and Depression Association of America. www.adaa.org
(2)National Institute of Mental Health. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/depression-what-you-need-to-know-12-2015/index.shtml