With all the chaos going on in the world today – riots, elections, pandemics, anger and fear to name a few, it reminds me of an old Billy Joel song, from the 1980’s, “We Didn’t Start the Fire.” “We didn’t start the fire; it was, always burning since the worlds been turning.”
Problems have always been around, some more profound and some not so much.
Depression is the result of such chaos and the feeling of helplessness. Feeling down from time to time is a normal part of life, but when emotions of hopelessness and despair take hold, and just won’t go away, you may have depression.
More than just sadness in response to life’s struggles and setbacks, depression changes how you think, feel, and function in daily activities. It can interfere with your ability to work, study, eat, sleep, and enjoy life.
Some people describe depression as “living in a black hole” or having a feeling of impending doom, others feel lifeless, empty, and apathetic. Men in particular can feel angry and restless. However you experience depression, left untreated it can become a serious health condition. It is important to remember that feelings of helplessness and hopelessness are symptoms of depression and not the reality of your situation.
The 10 most common symptoms of depression are; anger or irritability, feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, loss of interest in daily activities, appetite or weight changes, sleep changes, loss of energy, self-loathing, reckless behavior, concentration problems, and unexplained aches and pains.
Depression and anxiety are believed to stem from the same biological vulnerability, which may explain why they often go hand-in-hand. Anxiety makes depression worse and vice-versa. It is a normal and often healthy emotion but when a person regularly feels high levels of anxiety it becomes a medical disorder. Anxiety disorders form a category of mental health issues that lead to excessive nervousness, fear, apprehension, worry.
Some illnesses have a specific medical cause, making treatment straightforward, depression is much more complicated. Certain medications, such as barbiturates, corticosteroids, benzodiazepines, opioid (pain killers) and certain blood pressure medicine can trigger depression symptoms in some people-as can hypothyroidism (an under active thyroid gland.)
However, most commonly, depression is caused by a combination of biological, psychological, and social factors that can vary dramatically from one person to another.
Depression is not a chemical imbalance in the brain. Biological factors can certainly play a role in depression, including inflammation, hormonal changes, immune system suppression, nutritional deficiencies, and shrinking brain cells.
Psychological and social factors, such as past trauma, substance abuse, loneliness, low self-esteem, and life style choices can also play an important part.
More than 264 million people worldwide suffer with depression. Depression is the leading cause of disability in the world, according to the World Health Organization. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, neuropsychiatric disorders are the leading cause for disability in the U.S. with major depressive disorder the most common.
Stress levels and depression increase during the “holiday season” months of November and December. The National Alliance on Mental Illness reports 64% of people with mental health issues find the holidays make their symptoms worse.
The American Association of Suicidology says at least two-thirds of people who commit suicide struggle with depression. Of those diagnosed with depression, 1% of women and 7% of men commit suicide. The risk of suicide is about 20 times higher for those diagnosed with major depression.
Aware of those around us that may have issues during the holidays or anytime encourage them to talk to their doctor about their feelings. The doctor can help guide them in a proper course of action appropriate for them.
“It’s difficult to describe depression to someone who’s never been there, because it’s not about sadness. I know sadness. Sadness is to cry and to feel. But it’s the cold absence of feeling – that really hollowed out feeling,” said J.K. Rowling, author of Harry Potter books.
Overfield is an advocate for the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Park County.