Something Affie said a few days ago stuck. She said you can be depressed without knowing it, or even show obvious signs of it. This got me thinking. I've been in this rut lately. But it seems, upon reflection, that this rut has been happening pretty frequently. I decided to do some research on depression and this is what I found:
Signs and symptoms of depression
Depression varies from person to person, but there are some common signs and symptoms. It’s important to remember that these symptoms can be part of life’s normal lows. But the more symptoms you have, the stronger they are, and the longer they’ve lasted—the more likely it is that you’re dealing with depression. When these symptoms are overwhelming and disabling, that's when it's time to seek help.
Common signs and symptoms of depression:
Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. A bleak outlook—nothing will ever get better and there’s nothing you can do to improve your situation. -- hmm, not really.
Loss of interest in daily activities. No interest in former hobbies, pastimes, social activities, or sex. You’ve lost your ability to feel joy and pleasure. --some but not all mentioned here.
Appetite or weight changes. Significant weight loss or weight gain—a change of more than 5% of body weight in a month. --ok, weight loss. But this is a good thing. Really.
Sleep changes. Either insomnia, especially waking in the early hours of the morning, or oversleeping (also known as hypersomnia). --yes
Irritability or restlessness. Feeling agitated, restless, or on edge. Your tolerance level is low; everything and everyone gets on your nerves. --yes, yes
Loss of energy. Feeling fatigued, sluggish, and physically drained. Your whole body may feel heavy, and even small tasks are exhausting or take longer to complete. --yes, yes, yes
Self-loathing. Strong feelings of worthlessness or guilt. You harshly criticize yourself for perceived faults and mistakes. --ok, I've been like this since high school, ask my best friend, so I don't think this counts.
Concentration problems. Trouble focusing, making decisions, or remembering things. --yup
Unexplained aches and pains. An increase in physical complaints such as headaches, back pain, aching muscles, and stomach pain. - definitely
Types of depression:
Major depression is characterized by the inability to enjoy life and experience pleasure. The symptoms are constant, ranging from moderate to severe. Left untreated, major depression typically lasts for about six months. Some people experience just a single depressive episode in their lifetime, but more commonly, major depression is a recurring disorder. However, there are many things you can do to support your mood and reduce the risk of recurrence.
Atypical depression is a common subtype of major depression. It features a specific symptom pattern, including a temporary mood lift in response to positive events. You may feel better after receiving good news or while out with friends. However, this boost in mood is fleeting. Other symptoms of atypical depression include weight gain, increased appetite, sleeping excessively, a heavy feeling in the arms and legs, and sensitivity to rejection. Atypical depression responds better to some therapies and medications than others, so identifying this subtype can be particularly helpful. (this sounds more like what I've been going through)
Dysthymia (recurrent, mild depression)
Dysthmia is a type of chronic “low-grade” depression. More days than not, you feel mildly or moderately depressed, although you may have brief periods of normal mood. The symptoms of dysthymia are not as strong as the symptoms of major depression, but they last a long time (at least two years). These chronic symptoms make it very difficult to live life to the fullest or to remember better times. Some people also experience major depressive episodes on top of dysthymia, a condition known as “double depression.” If you suffer from dysthymia, you may feel like you’ve always been depressed. Or you may think that your continuous low mood is “just the way you are.” However, dysthymia can be treated, even if your symptoms have gone unrecognized or untreated for years.
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
There’s a reason why so many movies and books portray rainy days and stormy weather as gloomy. Some people get depressed in the fall or winter, when overcast days are frequent and sunlight is limited. This type of depression is called seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Seasonal affective disorder is more common in northern climates and in younger people. Like depression, seasonal affective disorder is treatable. Light therapy, a treatment that involves exposure to bright artificial light, often helps relieve symptoms.
Some causes of depression. The list was long so I only included what I thought was applicable:
Role strain - Women often suffer from role strain over conflicting and overwhelming responsibilities in their life. The more roles a woman is expected to play (mother, wife, working woman), the more vulnerable she is to role strain and subsequent stress and depression. Depression is more common in women who receive little help with housework and child care. Single mothers are particularly at risk. Research indicates that single mothers are three times more likely than married mothers to experience an episode of major depression.
Relationship dissatisfaction - While rates of depression are lower for the married than for the single and divorced, the benefits of marriage and its general contribution to well-being are greater for men than for women. Furthermore, the benefits disappear entirely for women whose marital satisfaction is low. Lack of intimacy and marital strife are linked to depression in women.
Coping mechanisms - Women are more likely to ruminate when they are depressed. This includes crying to relieve emotional tension, trying to figure out why you’re depressed, and talking to your friends about your depression. However, rumination has been found to maintain depression and even make it worse. Men, on the other hand, tend to distract themselves when they are depressed. Unlike rumination, distraction can reduce depression.
Stress response - According to Psychology Today, women are more likely than men to develop depression under lower levels of stress. Furthermore, the female physiological response to stress is different. Women produce more stress hormones than men do, and the female sex hormone progesterone prevents the stress hormone system from turning itself off as it does in men.
Ask for help and support
If even the thought of tackling your depression seems overwhelming, don’t panic. Feeling helpless and hopeless is a symptom of depression—not the reality of your situation. It does not mean that you’re weak or you can’t change! The key to depression recovery is to start small and ask for help. Having a strong support system in place will speed your recovery. Isolation fuels depression, so reach out to others, even when you feel like being alone. Let your family and friends know what you’re going through and how they can support you.
Make healthy lifestyle changes
Lifestyle changes are not always easy to make, but they can have a big impact on depression. Take a good look at your own lifestyle. What changes could you make to support depression recovery? Self-help strategies that can be very effective include:
Cultivating supportive relationships
Getting regular exercise and sleep
Eating a healthy, mood-boosting diet
Practicing relaxation techniques
Challenging negative thought patterns
Learn social and emotional skills
Many people lack the skills needed to overcome stress and make satisfying connections to others and these limitations may contribute to depression. This is a skill set that can be learned.
Seek professional help
If positive lifestyle changes and support from family and friends aren’t enough, seek help from a mental health professional. There are many effective treatments for depression, including therapy, medication, and alternative treatments. Learning about your options will help you decide what measures are most likely to work best for your particular situation and needs.
Are antidepressants right for you?
Medication can help relieve the symptoms of depression in some people, but they aren’t a cure and they come with drawbacks of their own. Learning the facts about antidepressants and weighing the benefits against the risks can help you make an informed and personal decision about whether medication is right for you.
Effective treatment for depression often includes some form of therapy. Therapy gives you tools to treat depression from a variety of angles. What’s more, what you learn in therapy gives you skills and insight to prevent depression from coming back. Some types of therapy teach you practical techniques on how to reframe negative thinking and employ behavioral skills in combating depression. Therapy can also help you work through the root of your depression, helping you understand why you feel a certain way, what your triggers are for depression, and what you can do to stay healthy.
After all this research I am thinking that maybe I am depressed. I don't like the idea of taking meds or paying to see a shrink though. Both are too time consuming and expensive. So I am going to try the tips highlighted in light green and see if they do me any good.