Have you ever woken up and just felt like you were “in a funk?” Maybe you didn’t want to get out of bed, even if you slept well. You probably didn’t want to eat or do much of anything at all. The thought of going to work or running errands just makes you want to run away and never come back? We’ve all had those days where we just want to not do anything at all. Can you imagine feeling that way for months at a time? That is what being depressed feels like and 18 million people in the United States are struggling with that feeling at any given time. For people who do not experience depression, it can be difficult to understand why someone can’t just “snap out of it”. Why can they not simply choose to be happy? It is almost never as simple as that.
So what is this disease and how do you cope with depression if you or someone you love is experiencing the wrath of these symptoms?
Depression has many different possible causes and can look many different ways.
There have been studies that link it to genetics, others that link depression to an imbalance in brain chemistry, some forms of depression are related to hormonal changes or poor nutrition. Other causes may be environmental, a consequence of drug use, stressful life events or grief and loss. All of these different possibilities can lead to depression – that may look different in different people but it is all distressing. Typical symptoms of depression include energy loss, loss of pleasure in activities you used to enjoy, change in eating patterns, change in sleeping patterns, suicidal thoughts, concentration problems, among other things.
Depression is one of the leading causes of disability and suicide in the United States.
It is estimated that the majority of suicides are attempted by people who are depressed. On top of this only 50% of people struggling with depression get help. It can happen to anyone and is the leading disability in the age between 15-44. Depression is so common. It is important to educate yourself about the symptoms of depression for many reasons. One reason it is so important is so that you can recognize it in yourself and/or someone else. That way, you will be able to get help more quickly.
What can you do to cope with depression?
If you are feeling depressed one of the best ways to help yourself is to reach out and ask for help. Whether it’s calling your doctor to ask about medication or through counseling, treatment is found to be 80-90% successful. Asking for help is a big step and can often feel scary or embarrassing, but it does not have to be. More than 20% of the population experience depression every year, so you are not the only one. Doctors and therapists can help you learn how to cope with depression. They can help you start to feel better and more like yourself.
You can help a depressed love one by validating their emotions. One of the many difficult things about being depressed is feeling isolated or alone. Validating someone’s emotions shows you are hearing them. Whereas telling someone they shouldn’t feel a certain way or giving advice may make them feel guilty for not appreciating what they have. For example, if someone tells you are they are really struggling, validate them by empathizing with how difficult that sounds. Do that instead of saying “well atleast you have…”. Even if you can’t imagine what they are feeling or going through, you can still make that connection and help them feel heard.
You can also encourage them to seek help. You do not need to carry the weight alone if someone you love is depressed. Encourage this person to learn how to cope with depression and offer to support them through it. Knowing that they have someone supporting them can be extremely powerful.
If you are someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts or depression, you are not alone. Call the national suicide hotline today at 1-800-273-8255 to get help.