image by Marsmett Tallahasse from Flickr
Life is full of ups and downs and occasionally feeling despair or having the blues is perfectly normal. Joys and sorrows come hand in hand. Just as you feel elated with every triumph and success that you achieve, you feel sorrow when you experience difficulties, drawbacks, or disappointments. Sadness and feeling down are a part of life, but depression that goes beyond occasional or transient low mood can be draining, de-spiriting and debilitating.
What is Depression?
Depression is a pervasive state of negative outlook and aversion to joy that affects thoughts, behavior, emotions and overall sense of well-being. People going through depression typically lose interest in activities that were once pleasurable, and experience extreme changes to their appetite, sleep, and concentration.
Depression varies from person to person and becomes problematic when symptoms are prolonged and severe.
Signs and Symptoms of Clinical Depression
The frequency, severity and duration of depressive symptoms can vary but generally include.:
Feeling helpless and hopeless
Feeling like life will not improve and that you cannot do anything to change your situation
Lack of interest in activities
Abandonment of leisurely pursuits and social activities and a loss of inclination to feel joy or pleasure.
Appetite or weight irregularity
Either weight loss or weight gain can occur, and appetite can either increase or decrease
Either insomnia– lack of sleep, or hypersomnia—excess of sleep
Anger or irritability
Feelings of agitation typically arise due to low frustration tolerance and a short temper
Loss of energy
Fatigue, sluggishness, and feeling drained and exhausted even in response to simple tasks
Feelings of insecurity or guilt, worthlessness, self-criticism and self doubt are often present, and can at times intensify to thoughts of death and suicide
Substance abuse, compulsive gambling, are common forms of self-soothing during periods of depression
Trouble focusing, making decisions, and remembering things
If these symptoms are a dominant part of your experience, then you may be suffering from depression.
Causes of Depression
Depression can be reactive or situationally triggered by a significant change of circumstance. Major life events like childbirth, menopause, loss of a loved one and natural disasters may precipitate depression. Other stressful situations like family conflict, financial difficulty, work stress and relationship trouble may also lead to depression. In such cases, the depression will likely improve when the external trigger is resolved.
Depression can also be caused by genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors or a combination of these.
Depression can run in families making some people more genetically prone to its onset. Excessive or deficient neural activity in various parts of the brain involved in mood, thinking, sleep, appetite are typical triggers. And it may also be a temperamental or personality style that predisposes people to think and act in ways that bring about or reinforce negative thoughts and feelings that are associated with depression.
Dealing with Depression
Depression that interferes with your life should be properly managed. It is best to seek professional advice from a specialist to figure out which course of treatment suits your personality, circumstances and experience.
The most common treatments for depression are pharmacological and psychological. Anti-depressant medication under a doctor’s supervision, can provide relief from the intensity of symptoms such that then facilitates the ability to harness other personal resources for self-management. Psychological treatment involves counseling and psychotherapy which is an extremely valuable process for unwinding the depressive spriral. By speaking openly about difficult feelings you relieve the heaviness and burden of emotional negativity; you start to feel good about the fact you are doing something positive and slowly you re-energise the adaptive and constructive mind to think more openly about strategies for change.
For further reading on ways to deal with depression, please consider the following…
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