Depression is not just feeling sad for a couple of days. It is a medical condition with a multitude of symptoms that are emotional, physical, behavioural and cognitive.
Often people dismiss the symptoms and don’t ask for help for fear of social stigmatization. But depression is not a weakness or a flaw in our personality. It is an illness and needs to be treated accordingly.
What are the symptoms of depression?
- Constant sadness, almost every day that occurs for no apparent reason. It is often intense and feels like there is nothing that will help you feel better.
- Feeling of worthlessness, of excessive or inappropriate guilt. Often the feelings are negative and unrealistic.
- Dark or suicidal thoughts that can occur throughout depression. If you are experiencing these thoughts you must ask for help right away from a health care professional. Please phone 811 (Healthline in Saskatchewan) or Mobile Crisis in Regina (306-757-0127)
- Loss of interest or pleasure in favourite activities in all areas of your life such as spending time with loved ones, going out shopping, cooking etc.
- Low energy even when a person has done nothing and no amount of rest or sleep will alleviate it.
- Psychomotor impairment is the feeling that everything has slowed down; speech, thinking and body movements.
- Physical aches and pains; such as headaches, joint pain and/or stomach pain.
- Insomnia or its opposite, hypersomnia, sleep is often unrefreshing and the person wakes up often and is unable to get back to sleep due to thoughts.
- Change in weight loss or weight gain.
- Change in appetite; usually appetite is decreased and food will seem tasteless. Others, however, increase their food consumption which often results in a weight gain.
- Feelings of restlessness; some people feel agitated and almost jumpy, not being able to sit still, pacing and fiddling with items.
- Difficulty making decisions or focusing
- Person often feels like they cannot think or concentrate.
Major Depressive Disorder
For a person to be considered to be suffering from major depressive disorder:
- Their symptoms must either be new or must be noticeably worse compared to what they were prior to the episode.
- These symptoms also have to persist for most of the day, nearly every day for at least two consecutive weeks.
- The episode must also be accompanied by clinically significant distress or impaired functioning.
It is important to discuss all the symptoms you may have with your doctor. Your doctor, psychiatrist or psychologist can recommend care customized to your needs. The healthcare professional you chose may recommend psychotherapy or antidepressant therapy. Taking an active role such as: discussing your symptoms, enquiring about your treatment, or seeking more advice, is essential to the success of your treatment.
So what can you do to help yourself feel better after seeking medical attention? The following are suggestions that have helped others in the past. As you have read depression can affect many different areas of your life. As a result, lifestyle changes that include exercise, nutrition and proper sleep are excellent places to start. As well as reaching out to friends and family for support, as well as taking the time to be social with others.
Although it may be difficult to start, becoming more physically active may help you manage depression. Regular physical activity is related to improved mental and physical well-being. Recent research indicates that physically fit people are less vulnerable to depression, and that regular exercise can greatly reduce symptoms of depression for many people.
Exercise affects mood in four ways:
- It can produce an immediate elevation in mood after exercising in some people (during depression this effect may not occur).
- After a few weeks of regular exercise (three to four times a week, at least 20 minutes at a time), a general improvement in mood tends to begin.
- Improvements in physical fitness are associated with improved energy, which can enable you to do more.
- Exercise can be a good way of “burning off” stress when you are feeling tense.
A Healthy Diet
Depression is an illness which tends to disrupt appetite. This is why maintaining a balanced diet can prove difficult. But, the potential positive effects of a healthy, balanced diet on overall health and even on depressive condition cannot be overlooked.
Stress, anxiety and depression often have a disruptive effect on sleep, and poor sleep itself can exacerbate anxiety and depression. In other words, sleep disorders are both a cause and effect of mood disorders.
Limiting Alcohol Intake and Avoiding Drug Use (Cannabis or Other Drugs)
The extreme feelings and emotions that a person experiences during depression can prompt a person to consider the use of alcohol or other substances that trigger dependency (such as tobacco, cannabis, amphetamines and cocaine). Initially they may seem soothing, with a tranquilizing or calming effect, but these immediate effects are deceptive: the impression of improvement dissipates quickly and these substances become toxic.
There are many forms of talk therapy. Cognitive behavioural therapy is the most studied and is an effective treatment for depression. Cognitive behavioural therapy helps people correct negative thought patterns and better adapt to the world around them. Talk therapy has few known risks to speak of and is generally considered to be safe.
There are also a couple of support groups within Regina that might be of interest. These include but not limited to:
- Depression Support Group – 3200 McCallum Avenue
- Postpartum Depression Group – YMCA
- Depression Support Group – Regina General Hospital
Depression is a debilitating illness that can rob people of joy in their life, but there is hope. Finding a team of professionals that are understanding and supportive is essential to the healing process. By taking an active role in the healing process you can find a way out of the pain and start enjoying life again.