We often hear people say they’re depressed when they’re feeling down or sad, but this isn’t actually what depression is. Clinically diagnoseable depression, or Major Depressive Disorder (“MDD”) is a medical condition which consists of several symptoms, occurring daily for at least 4 weeks, and which are severe enough to impact a person’s physicality as evidenced by changes in sleep patterns, appetite, and sex drive. See the list below for more possible symptoms. The severity of the symptoms may vary in intensity, but are persistent for at least a month.
MDD affects approximately 1 in 33 children, 1 in 8 adolescents and approximately 6.7 percent of adults, per the U.S. Department of Health records. MDD can be triggered by physical health problems, hormonal changes, trauma, medical procedures and stress. Adult women are twice as likely to struggle with MDD as men. Severe depression can also lead to suicide and is estimated to be the source of approximately 60% of suicides in the United States. Adolescents and young adults are especially at risk of committing suicide if their depression goes unrecognized and untreated. Teen boys, are at the highest risk, and are estimated to commit suicide seven times more often than girls.
Unfortunately, many people do not seek help, for a variety of reasons. Sometimes people don’t realize they have a treatable condition. Some are afraid of being judged by others or that seeking help will stigmatize them. Sadly, this disorder can be debilitating and prevent people from fully living their lives, sabotaging their happiness and success, and tricking their minds into believing there is no alternative reality.
Approximately 80% of people have a reduction of symptoms within four to six weeks with treatment. People benefit from psychotherapy, medication, support groups and the empathy of others. If you suspect you or a loved one may have depression here are some common symptoms and suggestions to help yourself and your loved ones.
Signs of depression:
• Irritability (especially in children)
• Frequent tearfulness
• Emotional numbness
• Not getting enjoyment from activities you once enjoyed
• Feelings of worthlessness
• Feelings of hopelessness
• Low Motivation
• Changes in appetite
• Changes in sleep (sleeping more or less)
• Inability to concentrate
• Not caring about things
• Poor hygiene
• Resistance to getting out of bed in the morning
• Stomach aches
• Head aches
Things you can do to help yourself or loved one:
• Maintain a daily routine
• Go outside
• Connect with nature
• Engage in daily exercise even if you don’t feel like it. A daily 20 minute walk can be a good starting place.
• Be around other people, even if it’s just sitting in a coffee shop reading a book
• Eat plenty of healthful foods, such as fruits and vegetables, nuts, fish, and whole grains
• Get an appropriate amount of sleep
• Shower or bath
• Engage in an activity you are good at and can feel good about yourself doing
• Connect with your environment, i.e. look around you, be curious about your surroundings
• Practice mindfulness
• Seek the help of others, including a qualified medical doctor to rule out possible health conditions, and a mental health provider for support