The zest for life has vanished without giving notice. Hours and days seem to drag on into weeks, months and, even, years. The simplest tasks loom over you like impossible demands. All your energy has evaporated. You lie in bed at night feeling intensely sad and dejected. You remember contentment and peace as fading memories. Darkness truly rules.
If you have experienced these kinds of emotions consistently for a period longer than two weeks you may be suffering from clinical depression. You are not alone - surveys from the United States suggest that between 5 and 10 percent of adults in the United States suffer from a severe pattern of depression in any given year, whilst another 3 to 5 percent suffer from mild forms of the disorder.
Its natural to feel “blue” at certain times. Feelings of elation and sadness are understandable responses to daily events. The mood of people with clinical depression, however, is persistently negative regardless of external circumstances. This negative mood colours all interactions with the world and disrupts normal functioning.
The symptoms of depression span five areas of functioning: emotional, motivational, behavioural, cognitive and physical. People who are clinically depressed will typically display five or more of the following symptoms: sleep disturbances, excessive feelings of guilt, anger, irritability or anxiety, decreased interest and motivation in life, lack of energy, poor concentration levels, noticeable change in appetite, psychomotor disturbances and suicidal ideations or actions.
Women are twice more likely than men to experience both severe and milder forms of clinical depression. Once a person has experienced depression, he/she has an increased risk of becoming depressed again. Researchers distinguish between reactive (exogenous) depression which follows clear-cut precipitating events and endogenous depression which is assumed to be caused by internal factors. Often, however, this distinction is hard to make.
Problematically, a large number of sufferers don’t recognise that they are experiencing a clinical depression. They attribute their consistently negative mood to all kinds of external events. The first step in beating clinical depression is acknowledging that you are suffering from it.
Once you are aware you are suffering from depression, you should seek effective help in dealing with it. Fortunately, depression is now one of the most treatable of all brain disorders. Almost all clinically depressed people can be helped substantially by a combination of modern treatments.
A wide variety of effective anti-depressants are available. It is also helpful to regularly consult a therapist to work through any underlying issues that may be contributing to your depression.
If you discover that you are suffering from clinical depression there is no need to feel ashamed or embarrassed. Don’t let the words “mental illness” scare you. Phrases such as “you’re crazy” or “it’s all in you head” stem from deep ignorance about depression and its workings. The truth is that there is a defect in your brain’s chemistry which is beyond your control. You are suffering from an illness as real as the flu or a heart disease. You wouldn’t think less of yourself or someone you know because of a heart disorder. In the same vein, you need not feel guilty or ashamed if you suffer from clinical depression.
SELF HELP FOR DEPRESSION
1. Don’t bottle things up: if you have some bad news or major upset, tell people close to you about it and how you feel.
2. Although you may want to be alone, you may feel better if you try to take part in some routine activities you previously enjoyed with you family and friends.
3. Try to take it easy and don’t criticise yourself for not being able to do all of your usual activities. You will be able to resume all your old activities when the depression is gone.
4. Don’t expect too much from yourself right away. Feeling better takes time. Keep your expectations realistic. It is usually not possible to resolve an issue or change a long-life pattern overnight.
5. Avoid making any major life decisions, such as changing jobs or ending a relationship until you are feeling better.
6. Maintain your daily routine as much as possible.
7. Keep occupied, e.g. reading a book, watching TV, pursuing a hobby, doing a jigsaw puzzle. While concentration may be difficult, it is possible to train yourself to increase the amount of time spent concentrating on something, simply by practice.
8. Exercise: do something physical. Get out of doors, even if it is only for a walk. Any form of exercise, rigorous or gentle can have beneficial results. Walk the dog!
9. Relaxation: there are many methods of relaxation, e.g. exercises, audio tapes, yoga, meditation, aromatherapy, massage, etc. which are effective in allaying anxiety and tension.