When Depression Hits: Meaning, History, Symptoms, Causes, Prevention and Treatment
What depression feels like
We, as human beings, are born to experience everything in life. Be it the beautiful sights through our eyes, the magical sounds via our ears, the amazing smells through our nose, those scrumptious foods tasted by our tongue or the amazing feeling of happiness, joy, laughter, a warm embrace, the romantic touch and love that is felt by our body and mind through our skin.
You get the picture.
What is Depression?
How depression affects you
Now let’s take this all away. That you feel nothing. Neither happiness nor sadness, no longing or desires. All you feel is this unending emptiness, nothingness, and fear that you will never get out of it. This is the dreaded “D” word depression.
Medically defined, when you feel intense sadness, including feeling helplessness, hopelessness, and worthlessness that lasts for many days to weeks and keeps you from living your life, it is clinical depression.
In simple words, depression is the state of helplessness where people experiencing it can’t change it and those with the patients don’t know how to help. The patients have no control over their moods. This helplessness creates more aggressive mood swings. And the patients keep falling into a spiral of emotions. But, the good news is, it’s not permanent.
History of Depression
Where depression comes from
Depression came about as a state from the primitive human. During that era when danger was sensed (in the form of a larger animal), human beings chose 3 ways to tackle the challenge-
To assess the situation and if the person feels they can defeat the danger or challenge they engage in a battle.
To escape the situation if the challenge was assessed as far more powerful.
Knowing that the animal is not going to harm a dead person, humans chose to play dead.
In the modern era, while there are no scary animals who can threaten our lives (unless of course, we chose to go on a safari), we still exhibit the above 3 behaviours in situations we find challenging.
As a child, if his/her exams did not go well, the child would go to bed early, rather than face the yelling of the father, hoping that the anger would subside in 24 hours (flight).
Or if you are in a classroom setting and someone else takes your seat, you walk up to the person authoritatively to have them get up (fight).
In both these cases, you have successfully acted on your feelings.
When you play dead (not allowing your feelings to release) is when depression starts setting in.
Let’s take an example of a girl in a conservative household, wants to wear shorts, but is not allowed to do so. She is too scared to ask for permission as children in her home are not allowed to speak. She sees her brother wearing shorts and gets jealous.
Now, her parents have always taught her that siblings are supposed to love each other. So, she starts feeling guilty for feeling jealous. Observe what is happening. A longing to fit in with other friends who wear shorts leads to jealousy which leads to guilt. The inability to do anything about her feelings leads to stuck emotions. This leads to the feeling of being frozen (depression setting in).
Depression is nothing more than imbalances in body chemistry.
What’s not Depression
Depression is real
We have gotten accustomed to exaggeration. In day to day life, we use words like “real truth”, “extremely extreme”. Similarly, whenever we are feeling low, we say we are depressed.
Depression thumb rule, as you will learn below, is the persistence of symptoms, not a one-off or two off days.
Different forms of Depression
Which depression do I have?
Depression can be seen across ages from children to old age and is triggered by a traumatic situation in a person’s life. Trauma is unique to everyone, so it’s important to know that what we may feel as trivial may be a big deal for another.
Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder: Severe anger bouts (at least 3 times a week for over a year).
Major Depressive Disorder: Symptoms show up daily and go on for 2 weeks or more. The symptoms include being sad or numb, loss in motivation in things a person normally enjoyed, extreme increase or decrease in appetite, anxiety, self-harm desires.
Persistent Depressive Disorder: Go on for over 2 years in adults or 1 year in kids. Symptoms occur daily include appetite change, change in sleep pattern, lack of energy and poor self-esteem.
Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder: Occurs before the menstrual cycle and symptoms include mood swings, heightened sensitivity, and anxiety.
Substance/Medication-Induced Depressive Disorder: Happens while taking medication or substance abuse. Symptoms are irritability, bad temper, hopelessness, no interest or pleasure.
Prolonged illness can also lead to depression.
Postpartum Depression: This occurs after the birth of a baby. Often referred to as the “baby blues.
Causes of Depression
Where depression starts
So, what is the cause of depression? Why does it show up for people who seemingly are living happy lives? The environment plays a big factor. Simply put, when a person is consistently forced to remain under pressure without an outlet or release of the stress attained due to pressure, it becomes unbearable. This leads to the physical manifestation of the pressure in the form of body and mental issues. Examples would be aches and pains physically and depression mentally.
Did you know that depression is twice as likely to impact women? This is due to reproductive hormones, a differing response to stress, social pressures, and a tendency to be more emotional.
Before we go into how to help yourself and help those in depression, let’s talk about prevention.
Stop depression before it starts
Find your outlets, be it in the gym or talking to a friend over coffee, share what you feel in a space you are not judged. This one piece of advice will keep you away from falling into the depths of sad emotions.
Holistic Approach to Getting Out of Depression
Treating depression without medication
Before we start, here is the disclaimer: You will not feel like doing any of these things. When depressed you care a damn about any solutions. So, knowing that, each step you take must be baby steps. Don’t try leaping and breaking any records.
Get into a routine: Get those ok googles and Siri’s to work. Waking up in the morning to sleeping at night should be all recorded.
Eat Healthily: When you have depression, it may also mean avoiding certain foods and beverages. For example, foods and drinks that are high in added sugars, such as processed foods, soft drinks, and sugary snack foods may cause blood sugar levels to go up and down dramatically during the day. This may have a negative effect on mood and energy levels. It’s also a good idea to avoid alcohol, which can make depression worse. For some people, caffeine may also contribute to depression.
Exercise: Get moving, even small movement is important. Go for nature walks or walks to the mall.
Sleep a lot.
Do fun stuff: Watching movies, gossiping with trusted friends, shopping, travelling; do what makes you feel good.
Breathe: No matter how you feel, focusing on your breath relaxes you, makes you feel that you have a purpose.
Go for counseling: Allow a professional to listen to your condition and help facilitate your recovery.
Reward yourself: When you plan something and do it, stop and reward yourself with the food you love or the clothes you want to buy.
Always stay in good environments: Don’t allow yourself to feel too hot or too cold.
Get off Social Media: Talk to people in the real.
Say Hello to the Sun daily.
Non-medicinal therapies: Regression Therapy that takes the client to the time where the trauma first occurred and its trigger into depression is a safe therapy to help clients out of depression.
Water Treatment: From washing your face first thing in the morning to frequent baths; this helps get over depression quicker.
Singing your favourite song in the shower.
Wear Colorful clothes.
How as friends and family can we help?
Supporting a depressed person
Be there for the depressed person.
Listen to them.
Don’t impose your thoughts.
Be judgement free.
Don’t question their moods.
Always show your support and be patient.
Change the environment of the patient’s surroundings.
Put on the patient’s favourite music.
Make their favourite dishes and allow them to decide when to eat it.
Here are a couple of case studies to help you understand depression better.
Case Study 1: A 42-year-old professional who had a wonderful life. Job Security, luxuries, love in life from spouse, parents, friends, spirituality, basically all that you expect in a very happy person. This person is depressed. What caused it? Post some counselling sessions and regression therapy sessions we got to the core issue. His mother had told him once when he failed an exam that he is a failure and he will be a shopkeeper. This made him feel small and hopeless and no amount of success could overcome this trauma.
What can we learn from this?
The smallest of issues can become huge for a child
Parents have the greatest impact on a child
Depression can be found anywhere
Case Study 2: A kid’s father walked away from his life at the tender age of 8. The male presence in his life was replaced by a step-father, with the mother setting expectations that this was your new father. Unfortunately, the step-father chose to be absent from the boy’s life as a father and was only available as a friend. This created a series of traumatic events in the boy’s life and led to him breaking down at the age of 15. The family could have at multiple times helped the child, but they chose to ignore his (increased) anger and his aloofness. They only got worried when his grades fell.
What can we learn from here?
Don’t set expectations
Watch and observe, in addition to listening
Around 1-in-7 people in the world (11-18 per cent) have one or more mental or substance use disorders. Globally, this means around one billion people.
So, if you see someone with any mental health symptoms, stop and listen.
I am Saurabbh Bidani Mental Health Professional with over 10,000 global clients, and expertise in over 18 modalities and over 18 years of experience in working with people. My mission is to help 1 million people get over their mental blocks and exceed their potential as human beings.
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