If you feel hopeless, helpless, worthless or guilty, have thoughts of death or suicide, you are most likely suffering from depression.
You are also not alone.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, at any given period, 9.5 percent of the population or about 20.9 million American adults suffer from depression.
One of the most difficult things to understand and believe about depression when you are depressed is that you did not cause your depression.
You can’t get out of it by willpower alone. You are not lazy, or stupid or unworthy. You want to feel better but you somehow can’t “pull yourself up by your bootstraps.” You also did not create this reality for yourself.
When you became depressed, a biological process happened in which certain synapses in your brain became depleted. When that happens, it is very difficult to regain a sense of buoyancy and joy on your own. This is when you need to seek professional help.
Treatment is commonly a combination of medication and psychotherapy. Some people do not need medication to relieve their psychological symptoms, others do. There are many different ways of managing depression.
How to Help Yourself if You Are Depressed
Depressive disorders can make you feel exhausted, worthless, helpless and hopeless. It’s important to realize that these negative views are part of the depression and typically do not accurately reflect the actual circumstances.
Negative thinking will fade as treatment begins to take effect. In the meantime:
- Set realistic goals in light of your depression.
- Break large tasks into small, manageable ones and do only what you think you can.
- Exercise daily, even if it’s just walking around the corner and back.
- Do not isolate. Try to be with other people.
- Confide in someone you trust.
- Participate in activities you enjoy and that make you feel better
- Postpone important decisions until the depression has lifted.
- Expect your mood to improve gradually, not immediately. Feeling better takes time.
- If you feel suicidal, call 911 or the National Suicide Hotline, 1-800-SUICIDE.
- Let your family and friends help you.
- Seek professional help.
Once the darkest part of the depression is over, new coping strategies can be developed. There are skills that can be learned to help you find a way to deal with life’s ups and downs so that it doesn’t have to be that way in the future.
If you are in the midst of a depression, it may seem impossible to believe that you can learn new ways of thinking to help you stay out of the “black hole” when difficulties arise. But there are people who do not get thrown by life’s ups and downs. They have learned it is their reaction to events, rather than the events themselves which determines their emotional health.
You don’t have to go so far down into the hole each time something bad happens. If a person processes life events in a way that causes them to believe that they will always be on the losing end of things, that they are unlovable, undeserving, worthless and full of shame, depression will result. These are called Cognitive Distortions and they can play a big role in creating and maintaining depression.
Biology does play a role in depression. Medication is only a partial solution. But I promise you, you will learn new ways to process information that will help empower you when you begin to feel yourself sliding into that black hole again.
There several major factors that predict depression:
- Self criticism, self loathing, anger turned inward
- Substance abuse
- Genetic factors
One of the strongest predictors of risk for depression is a depressed parent, suggesting there many be a biological vulnerability. But it does not have to be your fate. There are ways to help you manage it.
Depression in Women
Depression is twice as common in women as in men. Many hormonal factors many contribute to this increased rate, including menstrual cycle changes, pregnancy, miscarriage, postpartum period, pre-menopause and menopause. Many women also face additional stresses, such as responsibilities both at work and at home, single parenthood and caring for children and for aging parents.
Depression in Men
Men’s depression is often masked by alcohol or drugs or by the socially acceptable habit or working excessively long hours. Depression often shows up in men not as feeling hopeless and helpless but as being irritable, angry and discouraged. Depression may be difficult to recognize in men and men may be less willing to acknowledge they need help or reach out for help than women. Encouragement and support from concerned family members can make a big difference.
Depression in Children
Depression in Children – Depression Therapy & TreatmentDepression in children has only been recognized or taken seriously in the last two decades or so. A child who is depressed may act out at school, pretend to be sick, refuse to go to school, cling to a parent, or worry that the parent may die. Older children may sulk, get into trouble, be negative, grouchy and feel misunderstood. It can be difficult to determine whether a child is going through a normal developmental phase or suffering from depression. A trip to the doctor to rule out any physical problems is a good idea followed by therapy with a psychotherapist who specializes in children.