What is depression?
"Oh, I'm so depressed today! I watched the last episode of my Netflix binge!" You hear "depression" as a buzz word in our culture quite frequently. That doesn't make it easy to ask for help. But since you're here, let's talk about what depression really is. Do you ever experience:
- Sad moods that you can't explain or can't shake
- Changes in your eating or sleeping
- Feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness
- Nothing seems as pleasurable as it once did
- You think your friends and family might be better off without you
There is a wide range of feelings and symptoms that make up the diagnosis of depression. If some of these characteristics sound like you, there is hope!
What can be done for depression?
Over the years, humans have tried some pretty wild ways of treating depression. These days, most cases of depression respond to treatment through therapy, medication, or a combination of the two, along with other lifestyle changes.
Therapy for depression
All sorts of modalities and theories promise to help with depression, because it is one of the most widely encountered problems among all ages, cultures, and genders. Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) has been very well-researched and is considered one of the top evidence-based treatment methods. CBT helps patients understand the link between what they are thinking and how they are feeling and behaving. Then patients learn to change negative thought patterns to create a healthier thought life and improve their moods and their functioning in daily life.
Aside from CBT, your therapist will help you take a look at intergenerational patterns and possible problems that stemmed from your family of origin (FOO, because it's fun to say). Your therapist will take a strengths based approach, helping you excel in the areas you are already doing well and coaching you to be your own advocate. She will also be interested to know about your perspective on your own spirituality and how your spiritual practices (or lack of) may help support your recovery from depression.
Medication for Depression
Soul Grit does not offer psychiatric consultation at this time, but your therapist is versed in the various medications that may be prescribed by a physician or psychiatrist to help overcome symptoms of depression. A common class of medications designated to treat depression are called SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors), which work by helping your brain utilize the serotonin (natural brain chemical that makes you feel happy) that it already produces. It would be unwise to offer advice about medications in this forum; however, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Medications for depression often take 2-4 weeks to reach their full effect. Don't give up if you don't feel better after the first few days.
- There are hundreds of possibilities that your doctor can prescribe for you. If one doesn't work or has side effects, keep trying!
- Your therapist will advise you to have a full physical so your doctor can rule out any medical/biological causes for your depression.
- Are there side effects? Yes, sometimes. But often the side effects are much less bothersome than being depressed.
- Medication isn't for everyone. But it does a world of good for those who truly need it!
Nobody said overcoming depression would be easy. But here are some things you can do on your own to help.
- Eat clean. Research is now showing that the SAD (standard American diet) is in fact making us SAD! Pay attention to what goes into your food and get the bulk of your nutrition for whole, unprocessed foods. Increase your vegetables and decrease your sugar. Not only will you live longer, your mood will improve so you'll be living a longer, happier life.
- Sleep hygiene. It's a funny phrase that means pay attention to when you go to bed and when you wake up. Sleep more and reduce screen time, caffeine, and distractions. Of course, sleep disturbance may be one of the toughest symptoms of depression, so just make sure you're doing the external things to support what's going on internally.
- Exercise. Walking and moderate exercise are great, but rigorous exercise that gets your heartrate up has been shown to increase the flow of brain chemicals like serotonin and dopamine that make you feel better. Ever heard of a "runner's high"?
- Mindfulness. There is a growing body of research that shows that mindfulness improves health and mood and reduces stress. Learn to breath, be present in the moment, and let go of unhelpful thoughts and feelings.
- Prayer and spiritual practices. Doctors and scientists can't explain it, but spiritual people know it's true. When you pray you get better. Search out other practices like fasting, service, and worship and find out how believers have coped with life challenges through the ages.
- Build a support system. It may be your family, co-workers, or neighbors. Whoever it is, seek them out and don't be afraid to let someone know what you are going through. Chances are, they've experienced it, too. Check your church or local community for support groups if your natural circle doesn't include those who can support you.