By Stephanie Camins – MA, LPC
I think I have depression is a sentiment expressed by nearly 35 million American adults. Why am I depressed? is often the followup thought that may never really get expressed or vocalized. Approximately one in five of us will struggle with depression at some point in our lives. Symptoms of depression in women are identified at the rate of 33 percent as compared to 27 percent of men. The increasing demands on our time and energy have a direct impact on our susceptibility to low moods. Our busy lifestyles have decreased the amount of sleep we get, decreased the amount of physical activity we get, decreased the amount of sunlight we get, and decreased our availability to connect in meaningful relationships. Chronic dissatisfaction and lack of defined purpose have developed in part from the pressures of a cultural focus on performance and achievement. Environmental factors such poverty, hunger, abuse, violence and instability increase the symptoms of chronic depression.
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Depression hurts you and your loved ones. A person’s perspective which is unrealistic, overly focused on negatives, highly self-critical or highly anxious contribute to the effects of depression and affect your relationship with yourself and those around you. Depressed people tend to exhibit self-defeating patterns of thinking and behavior. When we become fixated on unattainable goals, we set ourselves up for failure and disappointment. You may be impacted by lifestyle choices, environmental stressors, negative family or social situations, physical illness, hormone changes such as menopause depression and post-partum depression, or a negative personality type. The more you understand about the causes of your depression the better you can learn to combat depression and move toward a happier state of being.
What is Depression?
Symptoms of depression vary somewhat by individual and typically include persistent low mood, feelings of emptiness, hopelessness, helplessness, lacking joy in activities, changes in sleep patterns, changes in appetite, difficulty focusing, isolation, irritability, self-destructive thoughts, agitation, low libido, low energy, excessive guilt and negative attitude. Physical signs of depression can include an increase in headaches, stomach problems, weight loss or gain, and chronic aches and pains. If you recognize yourself in some of these symptoms you may be wondering how to diagnose depression. This depression checklist is used by counselors to diagnose levels of clinically significant depression along with assessing the degree to which these symptoms disrupt your daily functioning.
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What to do About Depression?
How you react and cope with negative mood states is directly correlated to depression. Learning to incorporate healthy lifestyle choices into your routine, change negative thought patterns, connect in meaningful relationships and work toward a positive purpose in your life will reduce your depression significantly. Increasing your support network will help you to learn and maintain healthy ways of coping with the ever increasing demands of life. This support network can include friends, family, clergy, doctors and counselors. Your physician may help you with an appropriate medication protocol if your symptoms are severe and unremitting. A psychotherapist or counselor can help you identify your level of depression as well as aid in a plan to climb out of the depression. Depression can be very serious, sometimes involving suicidal thoughts. In this case seek professional help immediately. For more information on treating depression stay tuned for my next article, “Can Depression Be Cured?” If you’d like to be notified by e-mail when this article is posted, sign up for the e-mail newsletter on the homepage of this website.