Depression is one of the most common mental health issues suffered by individuals. According to the World Health Organization, more than 300 million people worldwide are affected by depression. There is a broad spectrum in the intensity of depression. It can range from usual mood changes that are short lived to long-lasting symptoms that have moderate to severe intensity. Depression affects a person’s relationship with others and all those around. It also affects work or school related productivity. Depression needs to be taken seriously as it can lead to substance abuse, and self-harm activities that can reach suicide. Every year, near 800,000 people commit suicide. Suicide is also rising within young people, being the second leading cause of death in 15-29 year olds.
How do I know I am Depressed?
First we need to differentiate between depression and sadness. Sadness is an emotion, thus temporary. Depression is an affective state that lasts months and even years. Depression has a physical, cognitive, emotional, and relational impact in us.
There are areas that are affected that can indicate you that you or someone you love is depressed:
- Physically we might experience physical pain and alterations in our appetite and sleep patterns.
- Cognitive aspects that are affected are memory and concentration.
- Emotionally we feel bad with ourselves, we lost hope in the future, and we do not care about ourselves. It is also difficult to find enjoyment in activities and/or life in general.
- Relationally we feel numb, distant, and shut off from others.
Why do we enter this state?
Depression is a way of our body to alert us. It is a signal telling you that you have kept too many feelings inside for too long. It is a signal telling us that there are deep issues that have not been resolved. It is very difficult to deal with feelings such as intense pain, hurt, and even anger. Many times the way we learn to deal with them is by shoving them inside and pretending they are not there. The tricky thing is that they might leave our awareness, but they do not disappear. They creep in, but in silent and indirect ways ending up manifesting themselves in ways in which we do not understand such as depression.
When we are depressed we enter a spiral of negativity. We feel down, completely sad and we say to ourselves like: I am not important, I am not enough, I cannot do anything right or I am completely powerless, bad things just happen to me. We feel completely helpless and stuck… then we remember all the times when this was true and these negative thoughts/beliefs about ourselves are validated over and over and we feel worse and worse ending up in a dark place that seems to have no exit.
How to Deal with Depression
If you recognize depression, the first thing we need to do is to start taking care of ourselves and be aware of what we are saying to ourselves. The key of recognizing how we feel is to explore where that pain of feeling powerless/invisible is coming from. Maybe there has been an event or a series of events throughout our lives when we felt that way. Maybe we have not processed those events and the wounds are still open.
As we explore within ourselves to figure out the root cause of our pain, it is also important to take care of ourselves. For this you can start with the following:
- Take care of your body by exercising and eating well.
- Find support: good friends, family, support groups. Talk to others.
- Have a space where you can have fun and laugh: watch a movie, a TV series, read a book.
- Learn how to calm down. Find a peaceful space within yourself.
All these things I am suggesting have a chemical impact that helps your body regulate better and provide it with feel good hormones that are our natural anti-depressant.