Maybe you’ve asked this question before, or at some point, you may have had doubts about what depression really is. This may have led you to believe that the disease is the same as other aspects of the human mind such as sadness, discouragement, and bad moods.
But the truth is that there are essential points that distinguish depression and make it an important issue to be addressed, especially as it bears the title “evil of the 21st century”.
So, what is depression?
It is a multifactorial disease. It has no age, race, status, that is, it is the result of complex interactions between genetic, environmental, and social factors. It is also associated with a chemical imbalance in the brain caused by a low amounts of serotonin, norepinephrine, dopamine, endorphins, and oxytocin (neurotransmitters associated with sleep, joy, pleasure, affection, happiness, diet, and motivation).
What are the symptoms?
Depression can cause a series of unpleasant symptoms that will show up practically every day, hindering the establishment of healthy relationships and the proper performance of daily tasks. In summary, the symptoms are general ill-being, irritability, hypersensitivity and crying, low self-esteem, loss or increase in appetite, insomnia or too much sleep, negative thoughts, frequent thoughts about death, suicide attempts, desire to disappear or run away, psychological exhaustion, difficulty concentrating, and sexual dysfunction. It is important to note that not everyone experiences all symptoms.
What’s the treatment?
Depression, in many cases, requires psychiatric and psychological treatment, in addition to medication.
Going to a psychiatrist is important so that this professional can prescribe the medication that will be the most effective for each individual.
A psychologist assists in self-knowledge, in addition to identifying possible causes and reactions to a particular problem and developing ways to manage deeper emotions and behaviors.
How can family and friends help a person with depression?
The symptoms of depression indicate that the person tends to be more distant from relationships, less active, and develops internal conflicts that lead to a lack of desire to do anything. Explain that treatment is essential. Be proactive in care. The best thing you can do for someone with depression is to support treatment. Let them know that you and others care about them and are willing to support them. Listen carefully for signs of hopelessness and pessimism. These attitudes can reduce the risk of suicide. Call, visit, and pray with them.
Be sure to invite the person to join you in daily activities. Encourage routines that promote physical exercise, a balanced diet, and a healthy sleep pattern. Invite them to perform some outdoor activities. A walk, a bike ride, and even a picnic in the park.
A little walking and physical exercise will already contribute to the release of pleasure hormones such as dopamine and endorphins. Notice and praise small daily achievements, even something as simple as getting out of bed (a heroic feat for someone with depression).
How can someone with depression help themselves?
In all likelihood, you will not want to take a single step towards healing and will instead feel more and more shackled to all the symptoms (as mentioned above), but try to find alternatives to your routine and you may be surprised.
Finding different ways to carry out daily activities can help change the way you look at your daily life. This can help you face situations in a different and, who knows, positive way.
Talking is easy. What’s hard is actually experiencing this!
I really want you to know that I understand what you are going through, and that I have a lot of respect for your pain.
As much as each case is unique and singular, I invite you to read the following experience by Helena Esteves, one of the writers here at The Girl Writes. Perhaps it will give you strength and hope at this moment and, believe me, it is possible to find the joy and the mastery of life again!
Four years ago, I lost my father to cancer. Six months later, my mother was also gone. She was taken from us suddenly in a car accident, and that finished me. It was as if a part of me had died and been buried with them. One moment I had a home, a family, financial and emotional stability, and the next, everything was gone. Nothing else made sense in my life, and I couldn’t feel the least bit of joy in anything. It was as if I were facing a window watching one day start and end, over and over. The best part of the day was when I was sleeping. Sleeping became my refuge because when I slept, I didn’t feel pain. I didn’t feel anything.
I remember waking up every morning, opening my eyes, and crying because I had to face another day. My sleep became unregulated because I varied between oversleeping and sleepless nights. I didn’t remember to eat, and it made me lose a lot of weight. Basic tasks like cleaning the house, organizing my room, and even taking a shower, were huge challenges for me. The very thought of having to get out of bed made me feel anxious and would make me sob.
At a certain point, suicidal thoughts began. I planned the appropriate methods and the right times, but I thought they were just ideas that I would never put into practice. When I finally realized that I was really tempted any time I was in high places, that I needed to make a conscious effort to keep my feet on the sidewalk at the edge of a very busy avenue or on the platform of a train station, I shared what was happening with my family and other people, and they helped me.
I began a psychological treatment, and it helped save my life. (In some sessions, I couldn’t even speak. I just cried, and even then I felt better when I left the office). Talking about what I was feeling, even without understanding it exactly, helped me a lot because the psychologist helped me to name my feelings and learn how to deal with them. I used antidepressants for a while, which was essential because, with the intervention of my medication, I had the strength to continue my treatment.
It was a long journey! There were days when my depression was like a bee buzzing around my head; while it didn’t keep me from performing my tasks, I was always cautious and aware it was there. On other days it was like a bear that would topple me and sit on my back preventing me from doing anything. But, with all the help I received and with Jesus by my side, I managed to overcome this phase of my life. Today I am happy, my days have become colorful, and I have more self-awareness about myself and my feelings. If you are going through this today, don’t despair, there is a way out, you just need to take the first step and get help! Believe me, the sun can rise again in the sky of your life!
Now that you understand what depression is a little better, you may have noticed that someone close to you, or that you yourself, are experiencing this illness. You are not alone. God is with you, and He wants to heal your pain. He has prepared people and trained professionals to help you. Don’t hesitate to seek help!
Share this article and spread more information to those you love so much!
Photo: Gabriele Machado (@garrbz)