Let's Take a Look at: Depression
What does Depression Look Like?
If your immediate response is to think “a person who is really sad,” then you may be surprised to find out depression is much more than that. Although extreme sadness is a symptom of depression, there are lots of things that may be happening when someone is depressed.
According to the American Psychiatric Association (2013), depression can also include:
Feelings of helplessness or hopelessness.
Feelings of guilt or worthlessness.
Anger and irritability.
Changes in sleep patterns (sleeping too much or too little).
Changes in appetite.
Physical symptoms like chronic pain, headaches or stomach aches.
Loss of interest in activities.
Withdrawal from friends and family.
Thoughts of death or suicide.
Who Suffers From Depression?
Depression is very common. In fact, about 7% of U.S. adults experience major depression in a given year (nami.org, 2019), and is a huge problem for our youth as well. We often stereotype teenagers as being moody and irritable, but that isn’t always the case. If your child is extremely irritable, chronically sad, has lost motivation or interest in things they used to enjoy, then it is worth talking to a professional to see if he/she may be struggling with depression.
Depression is not something people can just “snap out of.” It is a real illness with sometimes very severe, even fatal, consequences. However, with professional help such as therapy and/or antidepressant medication, depression is treatable.
And, along with professional treatment, a big part of overcoming depression is establishing a strong social support system. That may seem like an impossible task right now with the current “stay at home orders” and social distancing, but social distancing does not equal social isolation. In fact, having social support is a critical part of our mental wellbeing and something we can’t neglect just because we are in quarantine.
How Do You Build a Support System?
Now may be a great time to get in touch with previous neighbors, friends from college, or others that you haven’t talked to in a while. It may be tempting to just send a quick text to friends or family to check in on them, but it is more socially rewarding to see them too. Try using FaceTime, Google Hangouts, Zoom or other platforms where you can have a more meaningful interaction. Perhaps you could set up a time to have a long-distance coffee with a friend or a “girls night in” together?
Social media can also be a great way to stay connected with others, but only if it is supportive and uplifting for you. If you start to feel bogged down with negativity, then take a break.
Try to focus on positive things. Although social support is wonderful in helping with depression, it can also make depression worse if someone spends too much time talking about problems. If you find yourself reverting back to always talking about the negative, then try planning a few topics of conversation in advance topics (not the COVID19 pandemic!) to discuss your hobbies, things you’ve recently learned, upcoming projects, or even celebrity gossip.
Depression and Suicide
If more of us talked about suicide, there may be less of it. Let’s examine the facts from a NAMI.org 2019 study:
Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S for adults and the 2nd leading cause of death among people aged 10-34.
The overall suicide rate in the U.S. has increased by 31% since 2001.
90% of people who completed suicide had shown symptoms of a mental health condition.
That means that almost everyone who completed suicide showed symptoms beforehand. There is a myth that if you ask someone if he/she is considering suicide, then you will put an idea in their head and they will be more likely to attempt it. That simply isn’t true.
Asking someone if they are considering harming themselves creates an opportunity for them to talk to you and open up. Rather than feeling alone and like no one cares, it gives them a chance to be honest about their thoughts/feelings and get support. If you are worried about yourself or someone else hurting themselves, call a mental health professional right away. In case of an emergency, call the National suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK or call 911 immediately.
Either way, don’t hesitate to ask the question or make the call for help!
American Psychiatric Association: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition. Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Association, 2013.
Mufson, L. and Wright, C.V. (2016). Overcoming depression: How psychologists help with depressive disorders. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/topics/overcoming-depression
NAMI.org (2019, September). https://www.nami.org/mhstats