Depression is the focus of April, and I’ll be talking about it for the duration of the month. I want to help you recognize if you’re depressed, and how to identify the symptoms of depression. Depression is quite common, especially for men, and the factors contributing to it are varied. According to the National Institute of Mental Health’s website, depression is different from normal “blues” in that is is not short-lived and it interferes with daily life and causes pain for you and others.
Here are 6 ways to know if you’re depressed:
- You’ve lost interest in things that normally bring you pleasure, like eating, sexual intimacy, and being with friends or family. “Plugging in” to your life becomes hard, and you feel like an outside observer to it.
- Constant low energy drains you, and you feel fatigued, slower or “fuzzier” than normal.
- Difficult feelings linger, like chronic sadness or hopelessness, feeling anxious, or a vague sense of emptiness. Something’s not feeling right inside of you, and you can’t quite put your finger on it.
- Many men also feel irritable, stressed or even angry much of the time, for no reason why. This may not typically look like depression on the outside, but it’s underneath.
- Your “blue” mood may be interfering with your ability to work, study, and sleep
- The depression puts strain on your marriage or relationship, and on your wife or significant other
Depression varies from “dysthymia,” or low grade depression, to major depression. In the case of the former, many people are functional in their lives and work, but have an experience of “the blues” or low grade depression. In the case of the latter, major depression is usually debilitating and preventative of general functioning, such as taking care of oneself, getting to work, doing things around the house.
Sadness, on the other hand, is a normal part of the human experience. Often times, we can “process” sadness if we’re present, and it can work it’s way through as a normal emotion. If, on the other hand, it “freezes” and we don’t process it, it can turn into depression. Sadness builds, and if we have no way to “process it” (for lack of a better metaphor, think of an “emotional bowel movement”), it gets stuck and builds up. Then, we have depression.
So, how can I get help? Consider these ideas below. We’ll elaborate on them next week when we talk about the alleviation of depression.
- Recognize that you may be suffering from depression, and commit to seek out help
- Talk with your doctor about possible antidepressant medication options for your depression
- Seek out a trained psychotherapist or counselor who specializes in depression. Research shows that seeking out treatment for depression sooner rather than later can relieve symptoms of depression quicker.
- Try to get some exercise, such as walking or light jogging
- Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables included in a healthy diet; stay away from caffeine, nicotine and sugar
- Maintain a normal sleep schedule as best as you can
Depression is multifaceted, meaning there are a number of causes and factors involved. I tend to look at people holistically, and see if they are helping themselves with everything from lifestyle, interpersonal issues with others, stress management, coping strategies, etc. before I refer to a psychiatrist for a possible antidepressant medication.
Consider these symptoms of depression, and try to differentiate the different kinds of depression you might encounter, from normal emotional feelings like sadness and pain. Continue to read for more information on depression this month, as I’ll be looking at different aspects of it.