Many people suffer from depression. Because it is a mental disorder, it is often associated with weakness or excessive emotion. It's not something that people are comfortable talking about. Recently, the media and many celebrities have been trying to change that perception and remove the stigma associated with depression.
What is Depression?
Depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the US, and it can affect anyone. Nearly 10% of Americans suffer from depression including men, women, teens, and postpartum mothers. Depression is more than just feeling sad. With depression, the feelings don't fade away, often getting in the way of daily tasks. Depression can be hard to identify because some symptoms are physical and some are emotional. Here are a few common symptoms. If you have been experiencing any of these for more than a few days, contact your doctor.
- Loss of confidence or self-esteem
- Avoiding others
- Difficulty concentrating
- Not enjoying the things you used to enjoy
- Feeling guilty or worthless
- Trouble sleeping
- Changes in appetite
- Loss of sex drive
- Aches and pains
- Thinking about suicide
- Harming yourself
What Are the Causes of Depression?
Depression doesn't have a single cause. There can be many events or circumstances leading up to it. It can be triggered or it can just happen. Scientists believe there may be several contributing factors that lead to depression.
- Trauma, especially as a young child, can cause the brain to react to fear and stress in a depressive way.
- Genetics. Mood disorders tend to be genetic.
- Life circumstances: Financial situation, marital status, and environment can all contribute to depression.
- Medical history: Certain medical conditions make it more likely for a person to develop depression.
- Drug and alcohol abuse: About 30% of people with substance abuse problems also have depression.
Advice for Friends and Family
Seeing someone you love struggle is hard. You may not know what to say or do that will help. Most people who have depression need professional help, but help and support from friends and family can make a big difference. Talking to someone about depression can be hard and uncomfortable. Knowing what to say, or not to say to a person struggling with depression is difficult. Here are a couple of tips to keep in mind as you talk to your loved one.
- Listen without judgment. Depression is hard, and it takes courage to open up and talk about it. Let them know that they are safe to open up and share with you.
- Don't dismiss the person's feelings. Feelings are feelings, and the best way out is through. Honor your loved ones right to feel their emotions, whatever they are.
- Be supportive. Talk, text, or meet for coffee. Call them to let them know that you care about them.
- Don't be afraid to ask questions about safety. Because depression can make a person feel helpless and desperate times call for desperate measures, don't be afraid to ask if they have self-harming thoughts.
- Ask what you can do to help. One part of depression is the inability to do daily task. Offer to get groceries or do laundry.
- Encourage them to talk to their doctor and seek professional help.