Saturday, November 6, 2010

What is Depression and What Can Be Done About It?

Every year over 18 million American adults suffer from a depressive disorder (National Institute of Mental Health) and depression in children and the elderly increases every year (Mental Health Organization). Some individuals do not recognize they are depressed, some choose to self-medicate (this can increase depressive symptoms as alcohol is a nervous system depressant) or some deny their emotional pain. Depression affects the mind and body and interferes with normal day-to-day functioning. Depression can affect every aspect of a person’s life (relationships, work, physical health, sleep habits, eating habits, thought processes, etc.). The good news is that depression is treatable. It is essential to note that an individual who is suffering from depression is dealing with a real illness. They can not just “cheer up” or “snap out of it.” Although there is no “cure” for depression, it is very controllable. There are different types of depression and treatment is dependent upon an accurate diagnosis by a trained professional.

Depression may develop quickly as a result of a sudden event or it may develop slowly over time. It may have an obvious cause or it may begin with no rhyme or reason. The causes may include: loss and grief, brain chemistry, genetic vulnerability, thyroid disease, chronic illness, hormonal imbalance, major life transition, stress overload, and financial concerns. Depression can affect anyone regardless of gender, age, socioeconomic status, or ethnic background.

Depression can make a person feel a sense of hopelessness and helplessness. It is important to realize that these negative feelings/thoughts are a part of the depression and often do not reflect the actual circumstances. As Albert Ellis (founder of Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy) notes, it is not the actual event a person tends to react to but their interpretation of the event. If interpretations are negative and they continue a person may enter a negative thought cycle that can get more intense and hurtful, increasing depressive symptoms. Negative thinking is dealt with in treatment and it fades as therapy begins to take effect. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Interpersonal Therapy are proven to be effective treatments for depression.

If you feel you may be struggling with depression, please take action. Contact a professional to discuss your situation, learn about depression, and be gentle with yourself (try to be your own best friend rather than your own worst enemy). If you are suicidal please go to the emergency room, call 911 or the crisis hotline at 779-HELP.

1. Be aware of your self talk. Be kind to yourself.
2. Be sure to get at least six hours of sleep at night.
3. Eat nutritionally.
4. Exercise.
5. Relax in various ways. Begin with deep breathing.
6. Connect with family and friends, do not isolate.
7. Empower yourself through taking appropriate action steps.
8. Engage in healthy coping skills.
9. Use positive affirmations.
10. Learn to assertively express yourself, with respect and responsiblity.
11. Set goals and work toward them.
12. Remember to be your own best friend.

Written By: Marcia Overstreet, LPC

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