Reduce Stress

Depression: What It Is and What to Do about It (Part I)

This is the first of a two-part series on depression. In this issue, I will explore what depression is and what causes it. In the next issue, I will describe how depression is treated and prevented. If you or someone close to you suffers from depression, it is important to educate yourself about it and seek treatment from qualified mental health professionals.

 

Depression is a serious illness, not a harmless part of life. It is a complex disorder with a variety of causes. It is never caused by just one thing. It may be the result of a mix of factors, including genetic, chemical, physical, and sociological. It is also influenced by behavior patterns learned in the family and by cognitive distortions.

Depression affects millions of people in this country. It is always troubling, and for some people it can be disabling. Depression is more than just sadness or "the blues." It can have an impact on nearly every aspect of a person's life. People who suffer from depression may experience despair and worthlessness, and this can have an enormous impact on both personal and professional relationships. In this newsletter, I will describe many of the factors that may cause depression, and I will explore strategies for preventing it.

 

Depression Is Pervasive

 

When a person suffers from depression, it can affect every part of his or her life, including one's physical body, one's behavior, thought processes, mood, ability to relate to others, and general lifestyle.

 

Symptoms of Depression

 

People who are diagnosed with clinical depression have a combination of symptoms from the following list:

 

·    Feelings of hopelessness, even when there is reason to be hopeful

·    Fatigue or low energy

·    Much less interest or pleasure in most regular activities

·    Low self-esteem

·    Feeling worthless

·    Excessive or inappropriate guilt

·    Lessened ability to think or concentrate

·    Indecisiveness

·    Thinking distorted thoughts; having an unrealistic view of life

·    Weight loss or gain without dieting

·    Change in appetite

·    Change in sleeping patterns

·    Recurrent thoughts of death

·    Suicidal thoughts

·    A specific plan for committing suicide

·    A suicide attempt

·    Feelings of restlessness or being slowed down

 

When a person is suffering from depression, these symptoms cause significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning. This means that the person's family and social relationships, as well as work life, are impaired.

When a person is suffering from depression, symptoms such as these are not the result of a chronic psychotic disorder, substance abuse, general medical condition, or bereavement.

 

Grief, Sadness, and Depression

 

Depression may include feelings of sadness, but it is not the same as sadness. Depression lasts much longer than sadness. While depression involves a loss of self-esteem, grief, disappointment and sadness do not. People who are depressed function less productively. People who are sad or disappointed continue to function.

 

Depression and Socioeconomic Factors

 

Depression does not seem to be related to ethnicity, education, income, or marital status. It strikes slightly more women than men. Some researchers believe that depression strikes more often in women who have a history of emotional and sexual abuse, economic deprivation, or are dependent on others. There seems to be a genetic link; depression is more common among parents, children, and siblings of people who are diagnosed with depression. The average age at the onset of a depressive episode is the mid-20s. People born more recently are being diagnosed at a younger age.

 

Physical Causes

 

Many physicians believe that depression results from a chemical imbalance in the brain. They often prescribe antidepressant medication, and many people find relief as a result. However, there is no reliable test to identify such a chemical imbalance. It is unknown whether life experiences cause mood changes, which create changes in brain chemistry, or whether it works in reverse.

Depression may be associated with physical events such as other diseases, physical trauma, and hormonal changes. A person who is depressed should always have a physical examination as part of the assessment process to determine the role of physical causes.

 

Signs That Professional Treatment Is Needed

 

If you or someone you know is depressed and exhibits any of the following signs, it is extremely important to seek the assistance of a medical or mental health professional.

 

1.    Thinking about death or suicide. This is always dangerous and you should see a professional therapist immediately.

2.    When symptoms of depression continue for a long time, you may need professional help. Acute responses to events are normal, but they should not last beyond a reasonable time.

3.    Your ability to function is impaired by your depression. Seek help before your life situation deteriorates to a serious level.

 

4.    You have become so isolated that you have no one with whom to check reality. Seek out someone to share your thoughts and feelings with.

5.    Depressive symptoms have become severe.

 

In my next newsletter, I will discuss the treatment and prevention of depression.

MANAGING STRESS IN YOUR LIFE & RELATIONSHIPS

Photo by RapidEye/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by RapidEye/iStock / Getty Images

Learn to Have Healthy Relationships

This subject could fill an entire book. In the limited space of this newsletter, let’s look at the key components of this stress-reducing strategy.

1.    Identify the sources of stress in your relationships. Write about them in a journal. Make a list of people who cause you stress and explore what the issues are.

2.    Resolve the underlying issues. For each of the situations identified in step 1, assess what needs to happen to resolve it. Make a list and design a plan to improve the situation.

3.    Learn skills to improve relationships. Relationship skills are learned. We are not born knowing how to get along well with others, and most of us learned only limited skills from our parents. Identify the skills you need to develop, and make a plan for yourself. You can learn these skills by reading books, taking classes, or working with a therapist.

4.    Avoid toxic people and situations. Some people have a toxic effect on you. If you can, limit the amount of time you spend with them. Look for opportunities to decline their invitations. When these people are family members, remind yourself that you don’t have to feel guilty about avoiding anyone who makes you feel bad about yourself. In work situations, look for ways to rearrange your schedule or your workspace to avoid interacting with such people.

5.    Seek out positive people and situations. This step is the reverse of the previous step. Look for opportunities to spend more time with people and in situations that make you feel good. Think about people who make you feel good about yourself and look for ways to increase time with them.

6.    Watch what you eat. Some substances amplify the stress response. These include:

·    Caffeine stimulates the release of stress hormones. This increases heart rate, blood pressure, and oxygen to the heart. Ongoing exposure to caffeine can harm the tissue of the heart.

·    Refined sugar and processed flour are depleted of needed vitamins. In times of stress, certain vitamins help the body maintain the nervous and endocrine systems.

·    Too much salt can lead to excessive fluid retention. This can lead to nervous tension and higher blood pressure. Stress often adds to the problem by causing increased blood pressure.

·    Smoking not only causes disease and shortens life, it leads to increased heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration.

·    Alcohol robs the body of nutrition that it might otherwise use for cell growth and repair. It also harms the liver and adds empty calories to the body.

During times of high stress, eat more complex carbohydrates (fruits, vegetables, whole breads, cereals, and beans).

7.    Get moving. The human body was designed to be physically active. However, in most jobs today, people are sitting down most of the time. They hardly move at all except when it is time for coffee break or lunch. When faced with stressors, we respond with our minds, not our bodies. It is no wonder that many of us have a difficult time responding to stressful events.

Exercise is one of the simplest and most effective ways to respond to stress. Activity provides a natural release for the body during its fight-or-flight state of arousal. After exercising, the body returns to its normal state of equilibrium, and one feels relaxed and refreshed.

8.    Look for ways to let go of tension and anxiety. Meditation, hypnosis, and progressive relaxation are valuable ways to regenerate and refresh yourself. You can purchase meditation and relaxation audiotapes or record your own. This is especially important because your health and long life depend on minimizing stress and achieving a sense of balance and well-being.

 

101 Affirmations and Positive Suggestions: A Workbook Utilizing The Power of Journaling and Self-Hypnosis
by Dr. Elizabeth A Mahaney
Link: http://a.co/0SzD9hN

or

https://www.createspace.com/3402297