What Depression Is & What It Is Not
Depression is quite complicated. It entails a host of symptoms that perplex even the savviest therapist. Depression is even more complicated in children and men because the expression of symptoms is not as clear-cut for them as it is for others. Nonetheless, depression is one of those “diseases” that requires a compassionate, caring, knowledgeable, and understanding individual to identify it. Families, caregivers, and friends who suspect a loved one experiencing depression ought to know that depression can entail lots of symptoms. Sadly, many people believe depression is a sad mood, bad mood, or negative thinking that can be overcome through will power. This is not always the case. Depression often requires treatment.
I have always assessed depression by looking for 3 major defining features and you can do the same:
- Depression is emotional: Depression is not an attitude or a fleeting mood. It is a deep-rooted emotional response to internal stimuli (negative self-talk, perceptions, etc.) and external stimuli such as events in one’s life, circumstances, people, interpersonal relationships, job-related issues, finances, etc. Depression is a state of mind that influences every aspect of human life.
- Depression is physiological: Depression is so emotional that it often creeps up in a physical way. For example, a woman who is going through a tough life transition may begin to experience migraine headaches chronically and severely. A struggling college student may begin to experience daily muscle cramps or spasms or wake up feeling sore and unrested. If symptoms persist despite over the counter meds, rest, exercise, etc., you may be dealing with depression.
- Depression is psychological: Depression takes a toll on an individual’s sense of self. Self-esteem (how one sees him or herself), self-efficacy (how one views their skill level or effectiveness in the world), courage, and confidence are all often effected by depression. People who say “pick yourself up, you’re good at what you do!” or “I don’t get why you are so hard on yourself, you’re beautiful!” may only work temporarily until depression is dealt with. It’s hard to see otherwise.
I often refer to depression as dark colored glasses. Depression causes people to see the world through dark and faulty lens. You can never really see the truth for the darkness. If the “darkness” persists, an individual can become numb to life around them and begin to lose the ability to feel present, engaged, or included in life. The human mind just simply checks-out.
If you suspect your loved one may be experiencing depression I encourage you to discuss your concerns with your loved one, tell them you care and want to make sure they are okay, explain that depression is typical and treatment is available, and then reach out for professional support. To start out, you can contact your PCP for a medical evaluation and referral. Before you go, read more about depression at WebMD.
In the next article, we’ll talk about coping skills.
I wish you all the best
Hill, T. (2013). What Depression Is & What It Is Not. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 30, 2015, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/caregivers/2013/05/understanding-what-depression-is-and-what-it-is-not/