“I'm Not Depressed I’m Just a Little Down” Recognizing Depression
Let’s discuss depression and it's more common definition. I think that there's a really big misunderstanding about what depression really is because what we believe depression to be is what we see on television or in movies. It’s not always something that we can define in real life. And unfortunately when depression and other kinds of illness portrayed on television; it's for drama. Often they kind of overdo it a little bit so I think that some of the common ideas about depression are “oh that's where people sleep too much or they're just kind grungy and they just don't care. They’re eating constantly or maybe they’re just not eating at all. They’re sad and they're crying all the time. They have this “Debbie Downer” attitude and they just kind of seem flat; like they're kind of dead inside”
What is Depression?
So that’s what I think the common definition or perception of depression is and I think when people imagine what someone that's depressed is, they think of someone that needs to be hospitalized or someone that is almost homeless. Their life is just terrible and they got nothing good going on and so yes of course they're depressed. The truth is that depression is a serious mental illness and it varies in severity. There are all different levels of depression from mild depression to severe depression which does require hospitalization and intense care. To think about depression as just “one Thing” person fails to take into account the 75 percent of all other various levels of depression that also need treatment and they are causing people to suffer. Like any illness depression is very treatable.
Can Depression Be Treated?
Treatment for dispersion has the best outcomes when you intervene early. So the earlier you can get involved in treating the depression the better chance you have of managing it for your life or maybe even getting rid of it to a certain extent. Depression is one of those things that you never really get rid of. It’s kind of like cancer. Once you have cancer you never really get rid of it. Because then after you have the treatment and you’re certified “cancer free: you still have your body trying to recover from the radiation and from all these other interventions and the 5 year follow ups. So you're never really the same. It’s kind of like that with depression. Once you have depression; it's treatable but it always kind of lingers. There’s always something there so you have to be on top of it. Otherwise if you have depression and you get really great treatment and you're doing well but then you kind of lay off of it you can absolutely go into another depression and it could be a really deep and dark one.
How Common Is Depression?
It’s important to understanding that depression is really common. I bet everybody out there that's watching this has been depressed at some point in their life. Or maybe you’re even depressed now or had mild depression your whole life but not to the point where you need to be hospitalized or you need some kind of major intervention. For many people depression starts when you're just a kid. When we're kids we're trying to figure out how to be in the world. We’re trying to figure out what it means to be a person. What is safe, what's not safe. How should I behave in these situations? How should I build behavior in those situations? we're learning a lot about what it means to be a person and developing into what it means to be “me.” And this is the time when we see a lot of depression developing.
How Depression Affects You?
Depression is something that is really hard to notice until it’s out of control. It's hard to see depression in another person unless you're really well trained and sometimes it's really hard to notice it in yourself because it's secretive. We don't like to let people know that we’re not feeling good. It’s much easier to go to work or go to school and just kind of be who people want us to be while on the inside we’re suffering terribly. That’s kind of what depression is. I have had the luxury of having a supervisor in my career that I love very much and she once told me, probably more than once that depression is like anger that gets turned inward. Depression in an internal kind of a suffering. When something happens, people with depression will take that and often turn it inward and make it some kind of a poison for themselves. So everything comes in and it fills you up with all of these things that are not kind and then while it's in there it starts turning and turning in on itself. It’s like being stuck in the gears of a clock. You’re chewed up by this gear and then you get pushed over into that gear and you're just getting chewed up and chewed up in clocks can go on infinitely because the gears just keeps spinning and they keep spinning. So depression is like being stuck in the gears of a clock and you just keep turning everything to the inside and your inside hurts terribly. When we think about depression the more you get chewed up about bigger your depression gets. Depression is a very sad place to be but that does not mean that you're going to be crying every day. It’s an internal suffering that’s hard to see in somebody else if they’re suffering internally but there are signs.
How Do I Know If I Have Depression?
We talked how the things that happen in our life when we are depressed we put them through a filter that then comes inside of us and is really negative. It’s very critical. It is not kind. So what are the signs for what is depression? We discussed how it feels but what are the signs? How do I know if my partner or spouse is depressed? How do I know if my child is depressed? Number one identifier is a loss of interest or pleasure in things that you would usually find pleasurable. If you really like running and then for some time you are just not feeling it and you say to yourself “I think I'm going to skip today” and that goes on for a period of time that could be sign of depression. Someone that is more tired. Being depressed is very taxing on our nervous system it's very taxing on our body. So sometimes you need more sleep sometimes you actually get less sleep because in addition to the depression you have a little bit of anxiety at work which is like the double whammy.
What Are the Signs of Depression?
You may see somebody that's more tired and sometimes that lethargy is actually connected to this lack of interest. There’s also often a desire to isolate. Sometimes people will actually isolate and then it’s clearer but a lot of times it's just a desire to isolate. This desire to isolate often can’t really be seen. It’s because people are powering through. They are trying to show the world that they're okay; they’re trying to be who they are supposed to be. So the desire to isolate is another strong indicator but it's hard to see.
Another possible sign is poor eating. If you’re emotionally eating too much or if you're restricting your eating to establish more control over yourself; both of these actions are two pretty huge indicators. Another sign are bouts of feeling “overwhelmed” Because everything is coming in and being held in the only way to release is to have a tantrum. Often times it looks like anger; it is anger. These temper outburst might be out of character. Sometimes it's sensitivity. When you're really full, let's say you have zero bandwidth. When you're depressed you're holding on to so much that your bandwidth starts to diminish. You get more sensitive because you don't have the emotional resources to be resilient. So this extra sensitivity could mean you cry. It could mean excessive angry outbursts. It could mean giving into sadness. It could mean just feeling more emotional.
Another signs you’re depressed is Impulsiveness. Impulsivity can in many forms and it's most dangerous form it's when people contemplate taking their life. They contemplate suicide. That is incredibly impulsive. Also impulsivity in like eating or impulsivity in like “well you know not feeling so good so I’m going to go shopping and spend a bunch of money” and still not really feel good. Or maybe it’s impulsively trying to get out of town. You’ll also see bad habits kind of spike; drinking, smoking other types of drug use. Maybe it’s excessive coffee drinking or chocolate consumption. When any kind of bad habit starts to happen more often it’s a possible sign of depression. There’s also a difference between identifying signs of depression for a teenager versus an adult. Often times with a teenager it is the anger it's a frustration it is a feeling of not being understood or not understanding what's going on themselves because they don't have the experience. And taking it out on everybody can be an expression of that depression. That’s not to say that every angry teen is depressed but it's a possibility.
Difficult To Detect Depression
So what makes this again really difficult is that depression is very internal so the longer someone is depressed the better they get at being functionally depressed which means that they are really good at hiding it and they're really good at faking it. So this is not something easy to recognize when you’re depressed or when others are depressed. But we've got to start somewhere. So take some time to think about what you feel like. What are the feelings that you're having? What kind of bandwidth do you have? Do you have this paper thin bandwidth or do you have a nice big heavy bandwidth? Have you found a loss of interest in doing some of your favorite things? Do you feel more tired? Do you feel like you just want to be alone? Do you feel like you don't want to be around people or go out? Or sometimes when you're really depressed do you feel like you don’t want take a shower or change your clothes or even brush your teeth?
Depression Vs. Feeling Down.
Now let’s not take all of these things taken out of context. Everybody’s been there right? Everybody’s experienced these at some time to various degrees. So am I saying everybody's depressed? No I’m not. But there is a point where it kind of crosses the line. We all have moments where we feel a little down and come out of it perfectly fine. But when you find yourself or others having more and more of these moments of depression then maybe it’s time to think of it as more of an issue. When I think about clients that come in that have depression a lot of them don’t want to recognize that it's depression. There’s a stigmas associated with depression. To say “I'm depressed” or to own that you are depressed can be a difficult admission. Clients come in and with anxiety everybody’s like “oh yeah I'm anxious because that's like stress” and if you're stressed you're working hard you‘re doing something. But to be depressed is almost like that means your lazy and lazy is no good. Unfortunately our culture views depression as a sign of weakness.
Should You See A Therapist for Depression?
But if we switch things around and start thinking about depression as an illness it is easier to internalize. It’s like you caught a cold. “Depression light” is when you have a cold and you do a couple of things and everything's fine. And then you can get the flu. What happens when you get the flu? Sometimes you need to go to the doctor and get antibiotics. It's the same thing when your depression starts to ramp up. Sometimes you need to go to the doctor and get additional help. Maybe its antidepressant medication or maybe it's just coming in and talking to a therapist; that's your medicine. Now what happens when it ramps up into the pneumonia? What if it starts ramping up into some kind of like autoimmune problem? What if it starts ramping up into chronic something chronic like fibromyalgia? Do you say oh yeah its good I got this? I know I can handle it. I know what to-do. I don't need medication I don't need to see a doctor it's all good I know what to do. Chances are the answer to that is “No.”
So let’s say having severe depression is like having cancer. So someone has severe depression or someone has cancer. So after all the tests, the doctor comes back and says you have cancer but it’s earlier and treatable if we do the following steps. Do you think you'd be like “alright sure I have cancer I'm just going to let that go and not worry about treatment.” Probably not, you’re going to get a second opinion, you're going to do something about it, so why is that different than treating any form of depression? Depression that can also lead to in some cases death. Severe depression can lead to death if it's untreated. So why is it ok that if we see a teeny tiny spot of cancer we will jump through hoops and do whatever we need to do for treatment but when we start to feel depressed and we have that depression lingering for months, years, decades we don't want to do anything about. So the point of this whole story is that people need to understand that depression is a real thing and that it feels horrible to the person that is experiencing it. It's a suffering. So please don't suffer. Please don't allow your loved ones to suffer. Let’s intervene just like we would with cancer. Let’s make some changes and do things differently so that we can all be healthy and happy.