People who have never experienced true depression may confuse it with garden variety sadness. They expect that people with depression will look a certain way – sad or dejected – and that they will act in certain ways – mopey or inert.
However, the truth is that depression can manifest itself in many different ways. It is just as likely to look like hyperactivity and energy as it is to look like sadness.
Estimates are that by 2020, depression will be second only to ischemic heart disease as the leading cause of disability worldwide
What is Depression?
Depression is characterized by feelings of profound helplessness and hopelessness. It is more than just sadness. People who have depression often feel that there is no point to going on with their lives, or that their lives are meaningless. Severe depression can lead to suicidal thoughts. But how can you tell the difference between sadness and depression? Let’s start by taking a look at the symptoms of depression – if you have at least five of these symptoms at the same time, you most likely have depression:
- Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
- Insomnia (inability to sleep) or hypersomnia (sleeping too much)
- Fatigue or loss of energy
- A depressed mood for most of the day, particularly in the morning
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feelings of restlessness
- Diminished pleasure in activities you normally enjoy
- Reduced sex drive
- Sudden weight gain or weight loss
- Thoughts of death or suicide
In order for these symptoms to qualify as depression, they must persist on a daily basis for at least two weeks. It is normal to be sad in certain situations, such as upon the breakup of a relationship or the death of a loved one. However, if the symptoms persist and interfere with your daily life, it may indicate that you have depression.
How Common is Depression?
Because depression often doesn’t look the way we expect it to look, you might be surprised to learn how widespread it is:
- One in every 33 children has depression
- The rate is higher among adolescents, 1 in every 8
- Estimates are that by 2020, depression will be second only to ischemic heart disease as the leading cause of disability worldwide
- 8 million adults in the United States suffer from major depression
- The risk of suicide is dramatically higher for people with major depression
- Suicide is the third leading cause of death among people between the ages of 10 and 24
Suicide is alarmingly common, and due to the stigma that still surrounds mental illness, it can often go untreated. When people fail to distinguish depression from sadness or moodiness, instead of being offered treatment they can end up getting a “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” type speech. That type of talk may be useful for someone who’s just down in the dumps, but for a person with major depression it’s worse than useless – it might be dangerous too.
5 Things You Can Start Doing Today to Stop Your Depression
Like so many things in the human body, depression is part of a complex system of bodily functions. While some depression may be purely emotional, at times it can be caused or exacerbated by physical conditions in the body. When treating depression, it is important to consider all possible causes. While everyone’s depression is different, here are five things you can start doing today to help nip your depression in the bud.
- Eliminate inflammatory foods such as sugar, trans fats and monosodium glutamate (MSG)
- Limit your intake of caffeine
- Get enough DHA (found in fatty fish like salmon and mackerel, or taken as a supplement
- Consider eliminating gluten – it causes inflammation in some people and is linked to a number of autoimmune disorders
- Get enough of Vitamin B12, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, Vitamin K, iron, calcium and magnesium. It’s better to get these nutrients from whole foods if you can, but you can take supplements if necessary.
Major depression is a serious issue, and people who have it may sometimes feel helpless to do anything about it. The thing to remember is that you do have a certain amount of control over your body – and you absolutely have control over your actions. Doing the five things listed above can help to move the dial away from depression.