The National Institute for Mental Health estimates that over 16 million American adults struggle with one or more major depressive episodes in a year. That number has been rising rapidly across age groups in the past decade.
Identified as major depressive disorder, this condition involves a feeling of profound and often unexplained sadness, for more than two weeks. Being sad over the loss of a loved one, a tragedy, or a personal moment of failure, is normal. However, depression is characterized by continued sadness long after any potential trigger event, and often the disorder manifests without any triggers at all.
The factors that go into how depression develops differ from person to person. Common factors include brain genetic or hereditary anomalies, changes in brain function due to hormone problems, and environmental factors. One way to explain depression is in the brain, a neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of joy and euphoria. This is why SSRIs and SNRIs are effective and commonly prescribed antidepressants, alongside other forms of antidepressants like MAOIs and tricyclic antidepressants.
Depression can be a scary disease, and the extent to which it affects your quality of life depends on the day, and aggravating factors such as stress and dual diagnoses such as depression and anxiety. However, with a combination of treatment and proper support, it is possible to live a fulfilling and successful life with this condition. Many well-known celebrities and historical figures have struggled with depression, and some have openly discussed their battles, and have spoken out in order to encourage others to get help, and shed feelings of shame.
By understanding how depression can affect your life, you can better understand what to expect, and how to adapt to the disorder.
Your Depression and You
The first thing to notice about depression is how it affects your thinking, and your mood. Major depressive disorder manifests specifically in the brain – you feel sad, often for no reason, and often for entire days. People with depression are far more likely to struggle with self-esteem issues, and thoughts of worthlessness and suicide.
Mood swings are common as well, with emotions ranging from sorrow to rage and confusion. Because of emotional stress, depression is linked with lethargy and mental fatigue. It becomes harder and harder to get out of bed in the morning.
This can translate into poor performance at work, less social interaction, and days or even weeks of isolation. In many ways, MDD can becomes a disability.
From the mental, the effects seep over into the physical. With depression comes a struggle to maintain personal hygiene, and an exercise routine. Without the motivation to prepare food, ordering food or living off junk becomes more common. Some use food as a way to cope with depression, putting on weight in the process.
Your Depression and Society
While there has been a lot of progress in the treatment of depression and social awareness of the problem, there remain misunderstandings, misconceptions, and traces of stigma. Many who struggle with depression today can still recount times when they have been told to “snap out of it” or “toughen up”.
Because of the nature of depression, these comments can weasel their way into your mind and make it harder to move forward. Overcoming these comments and understanding that depression is a disease — and not a weakness — takes a lot of time, and a lot of strength. It is something you may have to remind yourself of every day.
Your Depression is Your Depression
Your depression is ultimately a unique case requiring the diagnosis and inspection of a trained professional.
There is a lot of value in hearing other people go over their personal struggles and victories in the fight against depression. Not only can their stories be uplifting and motivating, but they can help you get some perspective, and perhaps even see your own situation in a different light.
Many people who have gone through the worst years of their life can also give you sage advice on how to avoid grief, can help you better come to terms with the disorder and how it changes things, and can help to ensure that you avoid the cycle of self-deprecation, loathing, shame and regret.
Nevertheless, at the end of the day, it is your disorder, and it is important to speak with a professional to get help that pertains specifically to you.
How To Be a Part of The Solution
If you are not personally struggling with depression but have recently found out that someone you care about has been diagnosed with MDD, then you may have a tough road ahead as well. Providing good support to someone with depression is not easy. There is a fine line between help and being overbearing, between offering a hand and causing unnecessary stress and pressure. Tact is important, as is understanding that a person with depression will have very specific and different boundaries.
If your friend or loved one has revealed to you that they are struggling with depression, then the best thing you can do to honor their trust is learn more about the disease. Take steps to find out more about how depression develops and what it entails, and if possible (with your friend’s permission), speak to their therapist about becoming a source of support.
Depression treatment comes in many shapes and forms, including medication, talk therapy, and more specialized treatments like transcranial magnetic stimulation. However, an important part of any successful treatment plan is making sure the patient is living their life in an environment conducive towards beating the depression, minimizing undue stress and judgment. Therapists often work with families and friends to help mold and shape their patients’ environment, so they have the support they need at home and in the community.
Depression can be a terrifying disease, with life-long consequences. However, it does not have to be that way. Treatment options today address any case of depression, molded and shaped around each person’s unique circumstances. You can get help today, for yourself or your loved one, and help them experience a better and more joyful life.