Depression is characterized by an unhappy or despondent mood that can lead to loss of interest in activities or impairment of daily life. There are many possible causes, such as biological, psychological, or environmental reasons. Anyone who experiences severe lows, prolonged sadness, emptiness, or is considering self-harm is urgently encouraged to seek professional help. In many cases, these types of depressions are more difficult to overcome on one’s own – yet are highly treatable by medical professionals. In mild cases, feeling low may subside with changes to one’s lifestyle, including making healthy choices such as avoiding drugs and alcohol, eating well, getting adequate sleep, and practicing self-care. However, if these changes do not make a difference, professional medical help must be sought.
In the past, depression was somewhat of a taboo mental health topic. However, the good news is that with increasing education and understanding, people are now aware that depression is nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, more than 3 million U.S. cases occur per year, so it is very common. And it can have many different causes. Some depressions follow a traumatic life event, such as a divorce, the loss of a loved one or beloved pet, illnesses, or cases of abuse. Sometimes there is a family history associated with depression. Other times it may be linked to things like alcohol or drug addiction, aging, illness, or life stress. Or there may be underlying causes that are more difficult to recognize.
There are many symptoms of depression, such as changes in sleep, appetite, energy levels, and behaviors that may include restlessness, mood swings, excessive crying, isolation, or more. In extreme cases, thoughts of suicide may be present. Serious or persistent symptoms must never be ignored. Helplines, or crisis hotlines, are available 24 hours for immediate emergency telephone counseling. All calls are toll-free and are confidential. Callers may be asked to hold on the line or press a number to be connected to the proper crises center network. What’s important to know is that direct help is available via the phone and text. People experiencing depression must understand that they are not alone and that it can feel good to talk through problems with a qualified counselor.
Currently, the coronavirus has spiked an increase in cases of depression, largely thought to be attributed to isolation, associated strains, and health concerns. Frequently, colder dreary months can exacerbate feelings of depression. In fact, the third Monday in January is known as Blue Monday. Per CBS Philly news, this is recognized as “the saddest day of the year,” when holiday cheer winds down, credit card bills come in, and winter blues essentially kick in. In addition, the seasonal affective disorder can peak and increase depression in people as related to the lack of adequate sunlight.
In cases of temporary melancholy, connecting with family and friends, doing things that are enjoyable, and exercising and sleeping, and eating better may help. However, for significant depressions, it is vital to know that help and hope can be found to overcome depression through treatment(s), as it is essentially a medical condition. There are varying types of treatment plans available, involving appropriate therapies and/or medications depending upon the type and level of depression. People being treated for depression should regularly follow up with appropriate medical professionals to monitor progress.
As we grow more knowledgeable, we find that clinical depression is not a feeling that a person can simply “snap out of.” Nor is it a choice to be depressed, which is why it is ineffective simply to tell someone with depression to “cheer up.” However, it is beneficial for family and friends to offer support to someone in need – in a non-judgmental way – and provide resources for assistance. It is also crucial for people who feel depressed to reach out for support, as proper medical diagnosis and treatments can promote wellbeing, healing, and inner peace.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) and 988 beginning July 16, 2022
Text line: (text HELLO to 741741)
Emergencies: Dial 911
Veterans Crisis Line: Dial 1-800-8255 and Press 1 or message 838255 to connect with a caring VA responder.
This article is purely informational and is not intended as a medical resource nor a replacement for medical advice.