DEPRESSION: An Honest Look at Symptoms & Treatment

Hey, all! I apologize for the delay in this series. We’ve had sickness, and houseguests, and you name it! But my burden for increasing awareness and understanding of depression and mental illness weighs on my heart (in a good way).

So today, let’s dive into how to recognize if you or a loved one is experiencing a mental illness, such as depression.

Are you just “under the weather”? Tired? Baby blues? Or is it something more? Discerning if your symptoms are actually caused by a mental illness or something else can be more difficult than you’d think sometimes. But it is best to be aware of the common “calling cards” of these disorders so you can pinpoint what’s happening more easily.

Each mental illness has unique makeup, and therefore, different symptoms, but there are some common things that tend to show up:

  • worry or fear that is excessive
  • Feeling overly sad or “low”
  • Problems concentrating and learning or just general confusion
  • Mood changes that seem extreme, even “highs” that feel somewhat euphoric
  • Irritability or anger that lasts or is intense
  • Shutting down and avoiding friends or any social situation
  • Having a hard time relating to others or even understanding their feelings
  • Tiredness, low energy, changes in sleep patterns
  • Increased hunger or a lack of appetite
  • Noticeable changes in libido
  • Reality doesn’t quite always seem right – delusions or hallucinations
  • Lack of insight – doesn’t notice the change in own feelings, behavior, personality
  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Headaches, stomach aches, other “aches and pains” that persist without a cause
  • Thoughts of harming self
  • No longer able to perform daily activities or manage daily problems or stress
  • Fear of weight gain that is overly intense or uncharacteristic concern with appearance

There are also marked symptoms to look for in children as their behavior is usually more telling. For the most part, children do not know how to verbalize what they are feeling and thinking:

  • Notable changes in academic or school performance
  • Fighting or defiant behavior, or excessive worry/anxiety
  • Hyperactivity
  • Increase in bad dreams
  • Increased aggressiveness
  • Temper tantrums – more numerous than before

If you think you have more of these than you should or you have a couple to a greater degree than is normal, REACH OUT! A trusted friend or supportive spouse is a great start. One of the things about depression and mental illness is that it alters your cognitive filter…you know, that thing that helps you identify thoughts as crazy or not crazy. A good, reliable friend can help be that filter for you in a non-judgmental way. Hear me – YOU are not crazy…you just need a little help.

Your primary care physician (regular doctor) is a good next step. He or she can help with a diagnosis and get you the right kind of help. Being aware of the signs and symptoms above can aid you in this conversation. The diagnosis is the necessary first step as only then can your provider develop a plan for you…tailored to you.

There is NO “one-size-fits-all” treatment for mental illness. But there are, again, common approaches. These include medication, talk therapy (counseling), and possibly life style changes.

The NAMI (National Alliance of Mental Illness) HelpLine can assist in finding services and supports in your area as well: 1-800-950-NAMI (6264) or info@nami.org

You can also text NAMI to 741-741 to interact with a crisis specialist.

If you, or someone you care about, needs immediate help…do not delay. Call 911 or the Suicide Prevention Line: 1-800-273-8255

Join me next Wednesday. I’ll be sharing about things I’ve learned in my years living with chronic depression that have helped me along my recovery and kept me stable. Call them tips if you’d like…these are things that helped me and tend to be helpful to others. Maybe a couple will spark for you or your loved one. Again, mental illness is NOT a “one-size-fits-all” kind of thing.

Thanks for joining me 🙂

Has Depression Become An Epidemic?

I spent some time at a Women’s Retreat this past weekend and was struck by the number of women I ran across who had struggled with, at some point, a depressive disorder. And I thought about our country. The number of depression-related suicides we’ve seen in the last several years, and the sheer amount of those suffering whether in silence or opening up and sharing their struggle.

Has depression become an epidemic?

Well, first, I thought it might be helpful to seek out Webster and find out what “epidemic” actually means.

epidemic – a widespread occurrence of an infectious disease in a community at a particular time

Yes, usually “epidemic” refers to infectious diseases, but further looking determined that it doesn’t always have to. If a disease or disorder excedes 7.7% of the population, it is considered “epidemic”. But the definition does speak to a sudden upsurgence of instances in a certain area.

Does this fit depression/mood disorders? Is it confined to the U.S.? Has there been rapid growth in the recent years or is there just better testing? More awareness? Less stigma so more willingness to report?

Here are some of the facts:

A study done by Harvard Medical School found that approximately 27.4% of United States adults experience a mood disorder (depression, bipolar depression, or seasonal affective disorder) at some point in their lives. As far as how affected they are, 45% experience “serious impairment”, 40% experience “moderate impairment”, and 15% experience “mild impairment”.

And it’s striking younger and younger, too. A study found that those 18-29 years of age are more likely to experience depression than those over 60. And college students reporting a period of depression in the previous year (those that reported, depression is frequently an under-reported number) were 33% of the women in the student body and 27% of the males. That’s a big number!

The suicide rate for adults has increased 25% since 1999. That’s absolutely crazy!

The World Health Organization (WHO) projects that the level of disability and life lost due to depression will exceed that seen in war, accidents, cancer, stroke, and heart disease by 2030. WHO already sites depression as the #1 cause of illness and disability worldwide.

Worldwide.

This is not just epidemic. It’s pandemic!

And just what does “pandemic” mean, you ask?

pandemic – prevalent over a whole country or the world

This is a major issue. Worldwide. And definitely within our country, our states, our communities. Our neighborhoods. Even, dare I say, our spheres of influence – our friends, families, and the people we interact with.

So many lives, hurting, suffering – again, some in silence. And with a problem so big and so wide reaching, the hardest thing about depression (from someone who deals with chronic depression) is how isolating it can be. How alone you feel.

This is a big deal.

Join me next week. I’ll share more about the symptoms of depression, treatments, and some tips (for the one experiencing depression and for the one who sees a loved one struggling in depression).

REFERENCES:

www.nimh.nih.gov

Psychology Today. Why We Can’t Stop the Depression Epidemic. by Jonathan Rottenberg, Ph.D

https://www.webmd.com/