By Nanette Burton Mongelluzzo
In Part One of the Stress Connection we looked at stress and coping skills. We also explored what happens when there is a breakdown of coping skills.
Healthy coping skills include things such as: talking to someone who cares, exercise, sports, reading, listening to music, doing something nice for someone else, talking to or spending time with pets, watching a good movie, spending time with a friend, going to your special place to think, developing a sense of humor and any thing else that can have the effect of lifting your spirit.
Unhealthy coping skills includes things such as alcohol or drug abuse, reckless driving, promiscuity, self-mutilations, isolation, excessive risk taking, anger acted out as violence, or any thing else that has the effect of increasing your shame, guilt, or feelings of poor self-worth.
When eustress leads to stress and on to distress we have a situation where coping skills begin breaking down. This leads to loss and an accumulation of loss leads to a sense of powerlessness. Powerlessness can lead to depression.
The signs and symptoms of depression occur on a continuum—-from mild feelings of sadness or grief, which everyone experiences at some time, to clinical depression, a serious behavioral or emotional pattern in which several symptoms of depression are exhibited over a prolonged period.
Depression is a condition–a combination of feelings, signs and symptoms. Stress is usually an important factor in the depression.
Depression is trackable and is part of a process. It doesn’t just one day happen.
Symptoms of depression vary widely from individual to individual.
A person suffering from clinical depression usually shows at least four symptoms persisting nearly every day for at least two weeks.
Some depression is normal. Usually we call this sadness or grief.
Grieving is a process of coming to terms with loss or losses. It is different from depression, as is sadness, although sadness may be a key component in the grieving process.
Depression describes a person’s mood, how one feels. When we talk about depression, we are talking about a feeling.
Early symptoms of depression also include general feelings of anxiety, panic, or fear.
Here is a short list of the Symptoms of Depression:
- negative or antisocial behavior
- feelings of not being understood or approved of
- restlessness, grouchiness, sulkiness, aggression
- unwillingness to cooperate in family projects
- withdrawal from social activities
- hiding out in one’s room
- inattention to personal appearance
- extreme or sudden mood changes
- sensitivity to rejection, especially in love relationships
- abuse of alcohol or other drugs
- sexual promiscuity
- weight loss or weight gain
- sleeplessness or sleeping more than normal
- physical agitation or restlessness
- physical lethargy, dragging around, slowed physical responses
Clinical depression is different. In order to qualify as clinically depressed, at least four of the following symptoms need to be present nearly every day for a period of at least two weeks.
Symptoms of Clinical Depression:
- poor appetite, significant weight loss when not dieting
- increased appetite, significant weight gain
- insomnia or hypersomnia (inability to fall asleep or need for excessive amounts of sleep)
- physical agitation–a jumpy, nervous, twitching, restless body
- slowed physical body movements, no “spunk,” dragging around
- loss of interest or pleasure in usual activities (not able to have fun)
- apathy (an “I-don’t-care” attitude)
- loss of energy, fatigue
- feelings of worthlessness or excessive feelings of guilt and self-blame
- inability to think or concentrate, slowed thinking and/or inability to make decisions
- frequent thoughts of death or suicide, death wish or suicide attempt
Just what causes depression?
There are many factors in depression, but feelings of loss play a major role, often evoking feelings of powerlessness or helplessness. When not dealt with, these feelings can lead to despair or to a type of trapped, unexpressed, immobilized anger, either of which can result in depression.
Key Points about Depression:
- Usually there is not just one cause of depression.
- Depression can be physical (organic), having its origin in the body’ biochemistry; or it can be functional, having its origin in the individual’s environment.
- Environmental factors include psychological stressors (e.g. divorce, major illness, alcoholism in family) and traumatic events (e.g. death of a loved one, incest, rape).
- Most often, the first occurrence of a major depression takes place before age 30, and depression may recur throughout one’s life.
- Environmental factors, including psychological stressors and traumatic events, have one important element in common–the element of loss.
- Feelings of powerlessness or helplessness become more likely to occur as losses multiply.
- Feelings of powerlessness may lead to the trapped feeling of despair, which may result in depression.
- Often depression results from a type of trapped, unexpressed, immobilized anger. Without a way to release this anger, individuals may turn the anger that belongs outside on themselves.
- Even when available resources exist, most young people do not consider contacting a professional for help with depression.
Life Events and Loss:
Life involves a series of losses that begin with birth and the loss of placement in a warm womb. The newborn is thrust into another world that is different from where he was. This represents a loss. Life will continue to teach us about loss up until our final loss, which is death.
Here is a brief worksheet to think about:
Life Factors and Loss Worksheet
1. List Several Life Factors that relate to feelings of loss, powerlessness, depression or anger toward oneself.
Examples might include: divorce of parents, death of loved one, family making a geographic move, alcoholism in family, money problems, problems with parents, problems with children, mental illness in the family, fight with a significant other, a friend moves away.
2. From your list identify what has been lost
Examples might be: family home, a parent is absent, loss of a friend, loss of income.
3. When feeling powerless, what might you be thinking?
Examples might be: there’s nothing I can do about this, it will never be the same, I’m stuck.
4. How would you know you were feeling depressed about this event?
Examples might be: feeling worthless; feeling guilty, alone, unhappy; not sleeping; not feeling hungry.
5.If you turned your anger on yourself, how might you be thinking, feeling or behaving?
Examples might be: it’s my fault, If only I had…, They don’t love me, drug or alcohol abuse, reckless driving, road rage.
6. What might you be thinking or feeling if you were beginning to accept this loss?
Examples: There’s nothing I can do about it, because it’s my parents’ problem; I’ll find a way to continue knowing and loving them both.; Things will never be the same, but maybe that’s best. Things weren’t so great with all those fights; As time goes on and I heal, I will feel better about all this.
7. What could you say to yourself to turn your anger and disappointment into a powerful resource for growth?
Examples: I can learn from this experience; I’ve learned to survive pain and loss; What other do does not mean there is something wrong with me; I am lovable; I am whole and good, and I have much to offer the world.
Take Care of You!