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What is Depression?

Several months ago I wrote a blog post on sadness, a natural and necessary emotion. Despite our best efforts to not experience it, nearly all of us will at some point in our lives. Where there is a discussion on sadness, there needs to be one on depression as well. Because our society tends to use the word “depression” interchangeably with sadness-I believe we need to differentiate the two. Given the statistics pointing to increases of depression during this time of year, it seemed the perfect time to dispel some myths and shed some light on the subject.

Sadness is typically the result of loss. Losing a person, a special pet, a job or even witnessing someone else’s sadness. This sadness can last hours, weeks or months and the intensity can vary. The loss of a loved one can cause such intense sadness that it interferes with work and regular activities for several weeks or months. So, how does depression differ?

Depression, although it can be “triggered” by loss, can seemingly come out of nowhere. Maybe a few down days turns into several down months, with no hope in sight. The two main indicators of depression are feeling down, hopeless and/or empty mostly all day, nearly every day and loss of pleasure for at least 2 weeks (there is an exception for someone experiencing a major life event such as job loss or death of a loved one). Other signs include sleeping too much or too little, eating more or less than usual, ongoing feelings of worthlessness or guilt, being unable to concentrate or think clearly, feeling tired all the time-even if sleeping a lot or recurring thoughts about death. Some people may even notice their movements and speech have slowed down.

I have had clients and loved ones say one of the biggest differences between sadness and depression is with sadness, they become tearful and “feel” sad; with depression, they feel “numb”-the lack of feeling anything can be frightening. It’s important to recognize that people can experience depression differently. One person might find it extremely difficult to get out of bed in the morning or concentrate at work and another person might seem fine at work, but get home and sleep 12 hours. While one person might look like a zombie throughout the day, barely talking or emoting, another person might cry at the drop of a hat and seem jittery.

If left untreated, depression can lead to significant disruption of one’s life. Relationships can become strained, poor performance can lead to losing a job and the hopelessness that is often felt can lead to thoughts of suicide. The lack of any pleasure in life and constant feelings of emptiness can make death seem like the only option to stop feeling that way. Even passive thoughts of “not wanting to be around anymore” need to be seen as a sign of depression.

The most important thing to remember about depression is that it is very treatable. Various types of individual therapy, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, has an extremely high success rate for treating depression. Sometimes, medication is necessary-even if for a short time. If you have noticed that you’re not feeling like yourself or you can identify with parts of this blog-it’s important to see a professional and get the help you need. Depression is not something that can be overcome by will-power or “positive thinking”. There is no need to suffer in silence, please contact Life Enhancement Counseling Services today at 407-443-8862 to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced mental health counselors and get the help you need.

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