Depression (often times diagnosed as Major Depressive Disorder) is a very common clinical illness that has an effect on how a person feels, thinks and acts. Sometimes it is temporary, and affects the individual a limited amount of time, causing some discomfort. While, other times it may last a long time and can be debilitating, causing a person to have a variety of emotional and physical issues. The good news is that it is treatable.
According to the DSM V (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders V) the main signs of depression can range between the following:
- Feelings of sadness, emptiness and hopelessness
- Feeling tearful
- Markedly diminished interest in activities or pleasure derived from them
- Weight loss or weight gain or a severe change in appetite
- Change in sleeping patter such as insomnia or hypersomnia for most days
- Daily fatigue or loss of energy
- Feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt
- Problems concentrating
- Thoughts of suicide or wanting to hurt oneself
There are many different reasons why someone could be feeling any of the above symptoms. It is important to differentiate feelings of sadness that are prompted by outside events such as death, the use of substances or other medical conditions (such as vitamin deficiency, thyroid problems or chronic conditions), and clinical depression. The most efficient way to understand which one you may have is; 1) understand how long this depression has lasted 2) think about events in your life that may have prompted this depression and 3) get a medical check-up.
Go to Doctor and Check for Vitamins and Hormone Levels
In recent years, there has been a large focus on research of how vitamin D levels affect people with depression, and if Vitamin D could be used as a preventive measure or a cure for depression. What is known for certain is that Vitamin D deficiency is very prevalent and that depression rates have gone up over the years. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, Major Depressive disorder affects more than 16.1 million American adults. This means that about 6.7% of all adults in the United States are affected by depression.
Whether or not Vitamin D deficiency is a major player in terms of depression, due to its benefits, it would be important to get a medical checkup to see how an individual’s vitamin levels look. Remember our body is a well-oil machine and every machine needs to go in for tune ups and updates. When there is a deficiency in one area, it can have a significant effect in another area. This same line of thinking goes for hormones. Go get those checked and see if you have any hormonal imbalances that could be affecting mood.
Combatting Your Destructive Thoughts
Once you have ruled out the above reasons. You can rest assured that there are things you can do to feel better. Depression has to do with the destructive thoughts that you tell yourself. These thoughts have so much power, that the more you think of them the larger they get. It is helpful to think of these negative thoughts as being a dragon that you are constantly feeding and that is growing each day. It is important to realize that these feelings can be eradicated just like a dragon. I know this may seem like a childish metaphor, but adults have many dragons they want to slay, many of them stemming from childhood. Try to Identify these negative thoughts, and see if you can turn them into compassionate beliefs about yourself. For example, if you think that you are worthless, think about moments in your life that prove that you are not and give yourself another label. This little experiment might come easy for some and much harder for others. So do not despair, if it is not working for you. There is more.
Be As Active As Possible
Depression can make people feel very lethargic and sleepy. You may want to just stay in bed and rest, thinking that this will help you. It Will Not! On the contrary, activity actually helps fight depression and inactivity can make it worse. Exercise releases neurochemicals of the brain called Endorphins, which trigger a positive feeling in your body, similar to that of a low morphine dose. Our bodies are quite amazing.
Many people who are depressed think that they would be a burden and don’t want to bother people with their problems. They tend to isolate themselves and keep to themselves. Talking to others about what is going on, can often times be a revelation. Everyone goes through some type of depression at one point or another and maybe they have some good advice. Just being with people can help you get distracted.
There are times that you may want to sort through your thoughts and you can only do that on your own. The best thing is if you do that somewhere that makes you feel calm and at peace. Going to the beach or going to a park and just breathing in some fresh air can help. You get to be by yourself but you are still connected with others and nature, on a different level.
Do Things That Used to Make You Happy….even though you don’t feel like it
Sometimes when you feel down, its important not to punish yourself for feeling like that. Treat yourself to something special. Go get your favorite food, buy yourself something nice, or go do something you have wanted to do in a while but haven’t had time for, getting a facial or a massage, for example. Doing things that you used to like to do may help you find a little happiness, and that is all you need. Once you realize that you can be happy about something, other happy feelings will follow.
The best medicine, apart from exercise, to combat depression is smiling and laughing. When the muscle in your face contract you smile, and start laughing. During this neurochemicals such as dopamine, endorphins and serotonin are all released into the bloodstream, which creates a feel good sensation. This is because these chemicals lower your heart rate and blood pressure making you feel relaxed and at the same time releasing more feel good chemicals. So…put on a funny show or watch some YouTube videos of your favorite comedian and start laughing.
See a Therapist
Last but not least, if all else fails that best way to beat depression is talking about it. If others do not understand, and are just telling you to ‘get over it’, they do not understand. This is a good opportunity to get the help of a therapist. Many people go to see a therapist. A therapist can help get to the core of your depressive thoughts and find ways to change them forever. Therapy can help to provide tools so that the depression never gets as bad as it is at the moment. Recognizing that you could use external help is the hardest part and the second hardest is finding a therapist you can connect with. Change can happen from the moment you make that phone call.
Monika Kreinberg, Ph.D. is the founder, owner and a licensed psychotherapist at Mind Wellness Center in Miami, Fl. She specializes in working with her clients to overcome depression, anxiety, trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder, low-self esteem, post-partum depression, fertility issues, intimacy issues, couples issues and any sexual problems. Dr. Kreinberg offers individual and couples counseling to help people improve the relationship with themselves and with others. Click to schedule a free 20-minute phone consultation. Follow her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.