Depression is more than a passing sadness and is not a sign of weakness. Whether life has thrown difficult challenges your way or not there is no reason for anyone to suffer in silence.
Life is not easy. The social pressures related to our careers and personal lives are high. Having an empathetic attitude and taking steps to understand the factors that may be contributing to your depression, such as an overly stressful or dead end job, money problems, hormonal shifts, change of the seasons, an unhealthy or abusive relationship dynamic, death of a loved one, chronic health problems or an isolated life style, is essential.
Some people are also simply more biologically susceptible to depression than others, which should not be brushed aside or taken lightly.
Fighting The Stigma Around Depression
Feeling overwhelmed with life or lonely is common but unfortunately there is often lot of shame and stigmatization attached to depression. The idea that one should be able to just “get over it” often prevents people from taking real steps towards getting help. Depression is one of the most undiagnosed mental health disorders in North America effecting 9.5% of the population. Most people, children and adolescents as well as the elderly, will struggle with a form of depression at some point in their lives, lasting months or even years.
Everyone deserves to feel good about themselves and their lives. The good news is that there are many proven & effective methods to treat depression. Depression that is ignored not only causes unnecessary pain and suffering for the afflicted person but for those around them. Lovingly talk to your children, family and friends about depression and help them, non-judgmentally, to seek therapy from a mental health professional or doctor.
How to Detect Depression: Am I depressed?
Depression can sneak up on you and manifest itself slowly over time. Many people believe that it is just who they are. There are many levels of depression. Don’t wait to make sure you are truly depressed or on crisis to seek help.
If you identify with several of the following signs or symptoms you may be depressed and should seek supportive counsel:
- Low self-worth or confidence
- Withdrawn socially
- Over-eating or under-eating
- Sleep problems (oversleeping or unable to sleep)
- Difficulty concentrating
- Decrease in energy to partake in activities (decrease in sex-drive)
- Lack of interest and motivation
- Often feeling hopeless, worthlessness, empty or alone
- Overwhelmed with loneliness, shame, guilt or regret
- Persistent negative thoughts that you can’t shake off
- Unable to see a light at the end of the tunnel
- You can’t imagine that your situation could ever get better
- Easily irritable, reactive, angry or frustrated
- Self medicating by consuming alcohol or drugs
- Engaging in reckless behavior
- Chronic unpleasant physical symptoms (headaches, generalized pain, digestive problems, panic attacks)
- You feel that life is not worth living (seek help immediately)
- Suicide attempts or thoughts (seek help immediately)
Common Causes and Risk Factors in Depression:
- Lack of a support or social network
- Loneliness & isolation
- Recent or current stressful life situations or sudden changes
- Family history of depression
- Death of a loved one
- History of childhood abuse or trauma
- Alcohol or drug abuse
- Marital or relationship problems (divorce, separation or abusive dynamics)
- Unemployment or underemployment
- Health problems or chronic pain
There are many reasons for depression. If you are in a situation or environment that is making you depressed such as a toxic work environment or oppressive relationship, the best solution is to remove yourself from the situation.
How Depression Manifests:
It is often difficult for men to openly talk about their emotions and communicate their feelings of sadness or loss. Men often see depression or feelings of hopelessness as a sign of failure or weakness. Therefore men dealing with depression often exhibit external signs such as anger, frustration, excessive working, substance abuse or risk taking behavior. This makes it harder for others to detect. Women suffer from depression in larger capacities than men, however depressed men (especially men over the age of 85) are four times more likely to commit suicide than women.
Women are twice as more likely to suffer from depression than men. Monthly hormonal shifts, the birth of a child and social pressure or expectations are common causes of depression in women. Women typically have a harder time asserting their needs and expressing anger or frustration. Women respond differently to stress and are more likely to blame themselves and internalize their negative feelings or experiences. Men are more likely to blame others. Although women are generally more open to communicate about their feelings of failure, sadness, guilt or lack of confidence to friends rumination and over processing of negative thoughts surrounding depression often perpetuates self-blame and feelings of hopelessness. Distraction from problems, actually helps to reframe someone’s mind frame and prevent depression.
Children & Adolescents
The experience of depression in adolescents or childhood is often brushed aside as normal “growing pains”, however prolonged depression can be detrimental to a young persons development of a healthy self-concept, positive outlook and motivation to succeed in life.
Growing older often means a loss of physical mobility, independence, the passing of loved ones, a shrinking of ones social life and general activity. However depression should not be thought as a normal part of aging. Older people often complain about physical problems rather than emotional so depression remains undetected.
Important Facts about Suicide
One of the hardest things about depression is that the symptoms of depression are very isolating, decrease ones ability to imagine a solution or take action on their own behalf.
People afflicted with suicidal thoughts are often the people who do not talk openly about their depression or suddenly stop talking about it. The best way to keep track of a loved one’s depression is to try to let them know that they can talk honestly and openly about it. If you are worried that someone close to you may commit suicide call 911 or Montreal’s suicide hotline 514-723-4000 for outside the Montreal area call 1- 866-APPELLE(277-3553)
For families and loved ones of a depressed person
Dealing with a depressed loved one can be very difficult. Family counseling, couples counseling or a support group in combination with individual therapy helps educate people about the illness, encouraging the development of coping skills and methods of effective and supportive communication.
Self Help Strategies:
- Get physical activity & exercise everyday (physical activity, even as simple as going for a walk, increases the body’s natural endorphins helping stabilize ones mood, decrease anxiety, improve appetite, sleep habits and self-esteem)
- Slowly and gently expand your world. Learn a new skill or hobby, find a creative outlet, join a social club or volunteer at a community organization
- Developing the habit of self love, assertive communication and the practice of relaxation
- Cultivate positive and supportive relationships & avoid toxic relationships
- Learn communications skills and talk to your loved ones about your issues
- Finding a support group. Hearing others stories and struggles is extremely important in recovery
- Psychotherapy. It helps people feel safe and supported to recognize their belief systems, problem solve, learning stress reducing tactics as well as process traumatic experiences
- Encourage the development of empathy and kindness (helping others increases self-esteem)
- Eat Healthy (Dietary changes, and taking vitamins & herbal supplements such as B-complex, fish oil and St. Johns Wort are helpful tools to help in increasing brain functioning and stabilize your moods)
- You have an inherent goodness inside of you. Nobody can take that from you.
- Humor is extremely underrated
- Another way of being is possible. People often identify closely with negative thoughts or feelings because it is all they know and is safe.
- Give yourself a chance. Your thoughts and feelings do not define who you are.
- Even though it may seem dark- there is hope. Everyone is deserving of goodness and love.
- You are not alone and have nothing to be ashamed of. Many people are in your same situation- talk to them.
- Expand your vision. Develop empathy for others and truly listen to what they have to say. Sometimes the best cure is to look outside yourself and help another person and share a moment with them.
- Relapse is less likely when you remain conscious of the warning signs and symptoms of your depression.
The Montreal Therapy Centre can point you to psychotherapist, counsellor or psychologist who are specifically trained in treating depression. We are familiar with the struggles of living with depression, as well as the challenges of supporting a loved one with depression.