Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between just feeling down or “blue” and being clinically depressed. What makes it even harder is that many of us minimize our feelings of sadness and depression by comparing ourselves to others. We might think to ourselves or hear from others: “Life isn’t that bad. Look at what others have to deal with in their lives. Everything should be great, I/you should be happy.”
Depression isn’t just one bad day or one bad week and it isn’t necessarily day after day of feeling down. Sometimes depression seems to come and go, but when we are depressed we seem to always end up back at the same place: “I hate my life. I hate myself. Nothing seems to excite me anymore. Nothing really seems interesting or fun. I don’t really want to be around anyone. Everything seems to take so much effort…”
There are also different kinds of depression. Some people experience depression as overwhelming sadness and fatigue. Getting out of bed or just taking a shower can be monumental tasks. Loss of motivation and loss of interest in life and living are hallmarks of depression. These are the stereotypic symptoms of depression we have seen and heard about in movies and media.
However, some people experience symptoms that are more agitated or anxious. They are easily annoyed and irritated by others and have difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep. Then there are those who have been mildly or moderately depressed for so long that they don’t even remember what it feels like to not be depressed. These individuals often wear a mask for work, family, and friends that hides just how miserable they are feeling much of the time.
Depression isn’t just a mood or a feeling. It can actually change the way we think and our perspective on life (negativity, self-loathing, difficulty concentrating). Depression can also affect us physically with fatigue, chronic pain, headaches, digestive issues, and changes in sleep patterns. Depression affects our relationships, work, productivity, self-care, and creativity.
Depression is a physiological illness and can be life threatening. Our brain chemistry is different when we are depressed. To say the very least, we are not at our best physically, emotionally, mentally, or, even spiritually, when clinically depressed. When moderately to severely depressed it is vitally important to seek professional help. Please do not beat yourself up because the old “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” isn’t working. It’s not your fault. If you are feeling suicidal please seek assistance as soon as possible. Depression is treatable and your life is valuable even if you aren’t feeling that way in this moment.
If you are uncertain if you are suffering from depression it may be helpful to take Goldberg’s Depression Scale. This short questionnaire can help identify your symptoms and also give you useful information to share with your doctor or therapist.
The most effective treatment for mild to moderate depression is psychotherapy. Medication can be an important part of treatment for moderate to severe depression, but it is most effective when used in combination with psychotherapy that addresses coping skills and management of symptoms of depression. Please feel free to contact me if you have questions or concerns about your psychological health.
Dr. Lora Eiswerth-Cox