A Mental Disorder, Not a Mood
“I’m a little depressed today.” “You’re just depressed right now. Don’t worry…you’ll get over it.” “18 to 3? This game is depressing.” We have all heard these types of things in our daily lives. We have also probably said them ourselves. But they aren’t accurate. What these sentences describe are low moods ranging from sadness to a mere bummer. However, they do not describe depression. Depression is a very common but potentially very serious mental disorder that affects over 15 million American adults each year. And no one who has gone through it would describe someone as “just depressed right now.”
Symptoms of Depression
One of the best quotes I’ve read concerning depression is from Elizabeth Wurtzel in her book, Prozac Nation. She writes, “That’s the thing about depression: A human being can survive almost anything, as long as she sees the end in sight. But depression is so insidious, and it compounds daily, that it’s impossible to ever see the end.” However you may feel about the book (it’s pretty polarizing), the end of that quote nails it. I always attempted to describe depression as living inside a black hole. The National Institute of Mental Health, on the other hand, lists the following as signs and symptoms:
- Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
- Feelings of hopelessness, or pessimism
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
- Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities
- Decreased energy or fatigue
- Moving or talking more slowly
- Feeling restless or having trouble sitting still
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
- Difficulty sleeping, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
- Appetite and/or weight changes
- Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts
- Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems without a clear physical cause and/or that do not ease even with treatment.
Depression and Substance Abuse
Compounding the problems of depression is the fact that it is one of the most common co-occurring disorders. For those of you who haven’t read our previous blogs, co-occurring disorders are a complex of mental health disorders, usually involving some type of substance abuse disorder along with another mental health issue. Unfortunately, these disorders become inextricably intertwined. For example, a person with depression may turn to alcohol in an effort to self-medicate. This approach initially provides some comfort. However, alcohol is also a depressant so eventually, the condition worsens and requires more alcohol for relief, creating a horrible downward spiral.
Contrary to the many well-intentioned posts I see on social media, exercise will not cure depression. It can, however, alleviate some of the symptoms. Socialization is another “home remedy” that can help with feelings of depression. However, major depression often requires some type of therapy or counseling. Cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavioral therapy are two evidence-based approaches that have proven effective in treating depression. Ocean Recovery offers both techniques, along with group therapy, nutritional counseling, and other activities as part of our holistic approach to treating depression. If depression or substance abuse has become too much for you or your loved one, please give us a call today.