Depression often goes unrecognized by the individual experiencing it and those around them. This week Orlando counselor Risa Bos, MA, LMHC shares the symptoms of depression and some tips for preventing depression from taking a stronghold on one’s life.
We are sad as a society. Many of us feel weighed down by the demands of our everyday lives, leaving little time for self-awareness or self-care. Our culture values achievement, material pursuits, unrealistic body image and socio-economic status, and it’s easy to feel relentlessly driven to keep up and to feel valued. Often, we maintain an outward demeanor that belies our emotional reality. “Hi, how are you?” “I’m fine, thanks!” It’s the instinctual, expected response, after all no one really wants to know how you’re truly feeling; that’s not why they asked.
Even those with seemingly everything going for them can suffer from depression. Just last month Chris Cornell, the front man for several iconic rock bands through the decades, took his own life. This was a man who seemed to have everything to live for: an enviable music career, a family whom he loved, the promise of a comfortable future and good overall health. By all accounts, no one knew the depth of despair and hopelessness that apparently led to his suicide at the age of 52. And before that, it was Robin Williams who committed suicide in 2014, shocking the world by what appears to have been the tears of a clown. Nobody would’ve thought someone like Robin Williams could be depressed. What did he have to be depressed about?!
Clinical depression is not necessarily about something happening in a person’s life, or due to what they might have going for them. Depression can happen to anyone and, by its nature of heaviness, it can set a downward spiral in motion. Sometimes it begins in response to a loss or a disappointment, such as being laid off from a job or losing a loved one. This kind of temporary malaise can be called “situational depression”, because it has an identifiable origin and is usually short term. But if energy is not directed to regain a sense of emotional balance, the momentum of sadness can perpetuate and lead to hopelessness and clinical depression.
How do you know if you are, or if someone close to you is suffering from depression? The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for mental health disorders lists among the symptoms of a depressive episode:
- A depressed mood that last for more than two weeks
- Changes in sleep, whether sleeping more or sleeping less
- Changes in appetite and weight
- Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
- Loss of interest in things a person typically enjoys
- Feelings of worthlessness and guilt
Pay attention and give importance to assessing your own mood, and inquiring about the well being of friends and family members who “just don’t feel like themselves.” It’s easy to become overwhelmed when a person is depressed—in fact, that’s pretty much a symptom in itself. So break things down to the most simplified, fundamental needs. In my work as a psychotherapist with clients who suffer from depression, I encourage them to just change one thing. If you are isolating, being sedentary or otherwise inactive, or simply avoiding life as you used to know it, first of all be understanding and tender with yourself. Acknowledge that you have an emotional need that is not being addressed. And then add one thing to what you are doing:
- Begin journaling about your feelings. This has the effect of getting your emotions off of your proverbial chest, and beginning to sort through things.
- Talk to someone about what you’re feeling, whether that person is a friend or family member, or a therapist.
- Begin a simple exercise practice. Get outside and walk, do some gentle yoga, or jump in the pool for a swim. Exercise releases the “good stuff” in your brain, such as dopamine, serotonin and adrenaline. It can also help to improve the quality of your sleep.
- Strive to accept or extend one social invitation every week. Ask a friend to join you for dinner or accompany your sister to her meditation class.
The “catch 22” in depression is that the only thing that makes you feel better is to get out and do something. But the last thing you have the energy for is to get out and do something. Understand that by keeping it simple and just doing one thing, you can set forward momentum in motion and begin to feel more energetic to do two things or three things!
Or change one thing by eliminating something that you’ve been doing:
- Stop allowing yourself to stay in bed half of the day
- Don’t continue judging and berating yourself for feeling down. Understand that most everyone will experience some level of depression during their life, and that this is something you can overcome.
- Eliminate things in your diet that contribute to feeling bad physically. (processed foods, alcohol, excessive sugar)
- Stop feeling like you have to do everything today. Address the overwhelm in your life by prioritizing and doing just those things that must be done now, or by delegating or asking for help in completing your to-do list.
If you need help in identifying underlying issues that might be contributing to a feeling of hopelessness and depression, reach out for help from a one of the skilled Orlando therapists at Life Skills Resource Group. We offer a FREE phone consultation to get you on the path of valuing yourself and finding the self love that allows you to begin to heal the wounds that have kept you feeling hopeless and depressed. The good news is that you don’t have to stay there! Give us a call at 407-355-7378 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.