Depression – What it looks like and what to do?

identify and handle depression

We all have our days of occasional blues, when we feel too low emotionally. It can be after a hard day at work, after a break-up, death of a loved one or long waiting promotion. However, Depression has much more deep roots emotionally, psychologically and physiologically.

Being unhappy/sad is not the same as depression. The word depression is quite often used loosely to describe our general sadness. Here are few signs of depression that you can go through to identify and also understand that what can be done about it.

  • Feeling sad

Yes, depression does mean feeling sad. But in Major Depression the intensity of the sadness outweighs being unhappy. The low mood in depression is crippling to the point where it impacts the way you look about yourself and life in general. It is present most of the day and nearly every day. The sense of feeling empty is a first sign in any depressive episode.

  • Lack of motivation

The second most common sign of depression is decreased interest in day to day activities. This could be observed by disinterest to meet friends or giving up activities that were previously enjoyed. This is not like missing a party once in a while, it is a repetitive behaviour. At times even when being involved in the situation the pleasure that you once obtained by engaging in it is no longer present.

  • Self- criticism

Self-hate, sense of worthlessness and hopelessness are also very common signs of depression. There is the bleak outlook that nothing will ever get better and there is the constant self-guilt that “I am responsible for it all”, “I am horrible”, “I am a failure”, “I deserve this” etc.

  • Mood swings

A person suffering from depression has constant mood swings ranging from uncontrollable anger at one minute to uncontrollable crying the next. The mood swings are majorly towards the negative emotions like irritability, anger, sadness, crying or self- harm.

  • Weight fluctuations

Depression impacts physically as well. It disturbs your appetite. You may either gain or lose weight which might take place when not dieting as well. A significant amount of change is weight is an alarming sign which needs to be looked into.

  • Sleep disturbance

There are different sleep patterns of every individual during depression. You might either sleep excessively (10-12 hrs a day) or sleep slightly (3-4hrs a day). There might also be reversal in sleep cycle, where you might be able to sleep during the day and not at night. Again, this is not a one-time occurrence, it is a repetitive pattern.

  • Feeling tired

Fatigue is another most important sign of depression. It can also be the reason why you are unable to take part in activities you enjoy. It also impairs functioning at work by reducing concentration and attention. Despite having slept adequately but unable to feel fresh and carrying that sense of tiredness is depression.

  • Suicide

There is persistent need to break away from the sadness, hence self -harm or suicidal ideations are very common. If there is substance abuse along with ongoing depressive episode, the chances of attempting suicide increases.

What to do?

If you are noticing that either you or your loved one have been displaying these behaviours for more than 2 weeks, it is likely that they are undergoing a depressive episode. Follow the steps below to provide better help.

  • Support– A person undergoing above mentioned symptoms is already facing emotional difficulties, it is extremely important that you provide unconditional support by being there for the person, not judging him/her, provide the care needed. Take one extra step such as checking in on them frequently, not pushing them to do things such as going out, give them their on time to heal.
  • Drug treatment– Visit a Mental health professional who will undertake a detailed assessment of the symptoms. If needed start drug therapy, as Depression has an underlying chemical imbalance. By asking the person to distract by going out, watching movies or cheering up will not help in long run. Hence it is the need of the hour to visit the mental health clinic.
  • Psychotherapy– Along with drug therapy which maintains the chemical, it is important that the individual undertake talk therapy as well. It provides a platform for the individual to discuss the stresses in an open non-judgemental space. Talking to a professional is different from talking to a friend or family member, as professionals are equipped to apply various techniques and therapies focusing on each and every area.
  • Self-help– there are many things that the you can do to help yourself such as exercising. Research has been successful to establish a positive link between exercise and positive emotions. Keep a schedule for working out thrice a week for 20 minutes. Also including healthy meal plan, avoiding alcohol and drugs as coping mechanism is beneficial. Working on sleep hygiene which focuses both on quality and quantity of sleep adds for speedy recovery.

Just like after every stormy night a new day with sunlight appears, it’s the same with depression. It is an evil which establishes its deep roots in the individual. But it does not mean it cannot be uprooted.

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