Mental health, not the sort of thing most people choose to talk about seriously. We've all heard the comments about 'Sad Sack', 'Mr Grumpy' or phrases like 'Smile, I'll pay for the stitches' or 'Stop moping around'. It saddens me every time I hear a remark like that, something insensitive or said out of plain ignorance, usually by people who have little or no contact with people who suffer from depression, and most certainly do not have a loved one or family member that suffers from depression or any other mental disorder, that can so easy get a tight grip on a sufferers life. It's almost taboo if you think about it.
Suffering from depression or mental health problems, is something that most people feel ashamed to admit. Who wouldn't, with comments like those above aimed right at you. If you have suffered from major depression or have had an episode of depression that has contributed significantly to a change in your daily life, facing up to comments like those above is something that you will have to accept sooner or later.
What about those people who don't suffer a major depression or severe episode, whether life-threatening or not? Those of us who definitely don't have depression and definitely don't need to see a shrink to confirm what we already know: that we are not depressed! This brings me to the core of this article: How do you recognize depression?
It is so very important to be vigilant. To be aware of the warning signs, and the earlier they are spotted, the better. Why? Because being depressed leads to behavior that is not helpful. Behavior that over time, is reinforced day after day, month after month. Slowly but surely getting a firm grip on your life. It is much harder to spot a change in behavior if it occurs and develops gradually over time. But what are these signs and behavior that we should look out for?
The most common symptom of depression and one which most people think is the only one is having a persistent empty or 'sad' mood. This is not what can sometimes be referred to as feeling 'down in the dumps'. The mood will last from several weeks at least. At which point you should see a psychiatrist or doctor. A feeling of pessimism, hopelessness or helplessness and being critical of oneself for never being good enough at anything no matter what we do. Depression can lead to a lack of interest in pursuits someone usually enjoys. Feeling lethargic or having no energy or drive, even for sex, is another symptom of depression that can slowly be re-enforced over time. Trouble with sleeping and eating is a symptom that most people would not usually associate with depression. Sleeping disorders are often dismissed as having developed a mild case of insomnia that will surely go away over time. Some people wake early in the morning and are unable to fall back asleep. Eating disturbances to, especially in women, can hide the depression, because the first thing that will come to mind is anorexia or bulimia. This is true, but we also need to place these symptoms in context, which is why it is so important to know the facts and symptoms of depression so that we can see the bigger picture.
Depression often goes hand in hand with anxiety. Anxiety can also cause sleeping disturbances, as well as a feeling of dread, increased heart rate and more severely, panic attacks. Depression and anxiety can easily knock our confidence levels as both can lead to difficulty concentrating and remembering or making decisions. These symptoms can climax with devastating effect. Within the workplace they can lead to a complete nervous breakdown where the person no longer knows, or can't remember how to do their job or how they even got there. Nothing makes sense and it can be very frightening when you are faced with a situation like this where you no longer know what is happening around you, or much less, why you are feeling this way. Depression can also manifest itself through persistent physical symptoms or pains that do not seem to respond to treatment. Irritable and losing ones temper are also symptoms of depression, seen more often in males than females. Thoughts of suicide, attempts and plans are never to be taken lightly. Often, suicide attempts are a cry for help. Sometimes they are not.
A person can be diagnosed with depression if four or more of the symptoms above have been present in a two week period or more. Not everyone will have the same symptoms so it is important to be aware and look for signs of all symptoms of depression. Remember, only a doctor or psychiatrist can diagnose depression.