Depression – Symptoms, Causes, and Cures.
About 9% of Americans report they are depressed at least occasionally. And 3.4% suffer from major depression – that’s over 7 million people. (Source – Centers For Disease Control).
The Symptoms of Depression
Key signs of depression are either depressed mood or loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed. In order for you to be diagnosed as “depressed”, these signs should be present most of the day either daily or almost daily for a minimum of two weeks. Also, the depressive symptoms need to cause you to experience “clinically significant distress or impairment”. These symptoms must not be due to the direct effects of a substance, for example, a drug or medication. Nor can they be the result of a medical condition such as hypothyroidism.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, people with depressive illnesses don’t all experience the same symptoms. How severe the symptoms are, how frequently they occur, and how long they last varies from individual to individual and his or her particular illness.
The medical website WebMD lists the following common symptoms that people with depression experience:
- A depressed mood during most of the day, particularly in the morning
- Fatigue or loss of energy almost every day
- Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings
- Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
- Irritability, restlessness
- Loss of pleasure in life
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt almost every day
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
- Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment
- Insomnia (an inability to sleep) or hypersomnia (excessive sleeping) almost every day
- Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in almost all activities nearly every day
- Recurring thoughts of death or suicide (not just fearing death)
- A sense of restlessness or being slowed down
- Overeating or appetite loss, leading to either significant weight gain or significant weight loss
The Principal Causes of Depression.
Certain major events in your life can trigger depressive symptoms or even major clinical depression.
- Grief from losing a loved one through death, divorce, or separation;
- Major life changes — moving, graduation, job change, retirement;
- Personal conflicts in relationships, either with a significant other or a superior;
- Physical, sexual, or emotional abuse.
You May be Causing Your Own Depression.
Aside from the above-mentioned causes of major depression, you may be interested to know that you can also cause your own depression. And if you’re causing it yourself, you may be able to cure it yourself.
The average person has about 25,000 thoughts every day. If you allow yourself to have negative thoughts, you could be having thousands of negative thoughts every day. And since depression can definitely come from negative thinking, you could be causing your own depression with your negative thoughts.
Negative thinking inevitably leads to feelings of hopelessness and gloom. And most people are not even aware that they are doing it to themselves. We are always free to make our choices – no-one can make you feel anything but you. We can control what happens to us: but we certainly can control how we react to what happens to us. So the first step in avoiding depression is to control your thoughts. A wise man once said, “You are wherever your thoughts are, so make sure your thoughts are where you want to be”.
The first step in controlling or avoiding depression is to know that you are causing it yourself. Once you know this, you can start making a conscious effort to change your thinking and stop those negative thoughts. Psychological counseling always begins with teaching you the steps to correct your thought processes so you can stop causing your own depression by stopping your negative, distorted thinking.
Different people come up with different types of distorted thinking. All of them are dangerous. Here’s a look at some of the most common types of distorted thinking which lead to depression:.
- Polarized Thinking.
This type of thinking is “black-and-white thinking”. If things aren’t totally perfect, you think you are a failure. You may think that if someone does not have a successful career, they are a loser and not worth being your friend. Even worse, you may think that if you are not a total success in your career, you yourself are a failure and no-one will want to be friends with you. This type of negative thinking leads straight to depression.
- Jumping To Conclusions
With this type of negative thinking, you think you know exactly what the other person is thinking and why he/she is behaving towards you in a certain way. You think they are having negative thoughts about you, that they don’t like you, and you therefore think you know why are behaving that way towards you.This type of negative thinking is basically just jumping to conclusions. You are making assumptions about someone else’s feelings towards you without any proof or justification that the person feels that way towards you. You are just being negative. If you call someone several times, leave messages each time, and they don’t return your calls, you start thinking that they are ignoring you or that they don’t like you. Maybe there’s a perfectly good reason why the person is not returning your calls – they are extremely busy, or they’ve been called out of town, or a loved one is sick and they’re at their bedside in the hospital for a week, not checking messages from anybody and not returning anybody’s calls. People who jump to conclusions often think that things are always going to go wrong, and then start believing that their negative prediction is already an established fact. The American industrialist Henry Ford said it best: “If you think you can’t, you’re right”.
This type of negative thought involves thinking that whatever someone is doing, they’re doing it to hurt you in some way. Your friend starts taking flying lessons, so you think they’re doing it to prove that they’re better than you – that they’re doing it to make you feel inferior to them. In most cases, this is totally untrue – a pure fabrication in your own negative mind. Your friend is taking flying lessons because he wants to learn to fly – maybe he’s even planning on taking you flying with him when he gets his license. He’s planning to have fun with you, yet you think he’s doing it to “get at” you.This type of negative thinking often involves comparing yourself to others in a number of ways. You always think that other people are better than you, better looking than you, smarter than you. It can also lead you to think that you are responsible for other people’s failure, even though you had nothing to do with it. For example, your friend’s business fails, so you blame yourself, thinking that you didn’t do enough to help them or encourage them to succeed. Usually, there is nothing further from the truth – it’s not your fault in any way, but nevertheless you blame yourself. Then you start to feel guilty and helpless. And this leads to depression.
Many people think that the world “should” be a certain way. There “should” not be poverty in the world, there “should” not be crime in the world. Everyone “should” have a decent job and “should” make a decent living.The worst thing you can do to yourself is to impose strict rules about the way things “should” be. You impose those rules on yourself, you impose them on others, and you impose them on the world. If you think you shouldn’t eat meat, you tend to look down on those who do eat meat. And if you break your own strict rules, you feel guilty. If others break these rules, you judge those people as “bad”. And if the world isn’t the way you think it “should” be, you think the whole world is “bad”.This type of negative thinking often leads to what is called “global labelling”. You see one instance occurring and you generalize to think that everything is like that. You think you “should” be able to perform a certain task: if you fail once, you call yourself a “loser”. Or you think that someone else “should” be able to do something: if they fail, you call that person a “loser”. If you don’t like one thing a person does, you label them as “bad”. No-one, including you, is all “good” or all “bad”. We all have our strengths and we all have our weaknesses. To focus only on weakness inevitably leads to depression. To focus only on strengths leads to disappointment and perception of “failure” if you or someone else stumbles, and this negative labelling also leads to depression.
A lot of people become obsessed with negative “what if” thoughts. What if our home gets robbed? What if I lose my job? What if my spouse dies? What if my kids fails at school? A certain school of mysticism holds that if you think something bad will happen, you are causing that bad thing to happen. The reverse is also be true: if you think something good will happen, you’ve already made it happen. They say that if you think about taking a walk on the beach, you’ve already taken that walk as soon as you think about it: tomorrow, when you actually go to the beach and take that walk, you are walking in your own footsteps that you created yesterday when you thought about taking that walk.Catastrophizing also makes you exaggerate the magnitude of someone’s behavior or actions: a person does one “bad” thing, so you think they are “all bad”. Worse, you can do it yourself: a single “bad” thing happens to you or you do one “bad” thing, now you think you are all bad.
- Always Being Right.
Some people believe they are always right. And even worse, those people think they are the only ones who know what’s right. And that means they think that everyone else is wrong. No matter what another person says, the other person is always wrong and you are always right. Such thinking can only lead to depression, because no-one is always right and no-one is always wrong. But if you condemn a person (or yourself) for one single action, it can only lead to frustration, then anger, then depression. So give people a break. And give yourself a break.
- The Fallacy of Fairness.
Some people judge the world and everyone in it on the basis of fairness. They think they know what’s “fair”and what is “unfair” And even worse, these people think they are the only ones who know what’s “fair”.People who judge things on the basis of their perception of fairness often think that life is “not fair” to them. Or they think God is “unfair” because they didn’t get exactly what they want.There is no such thing as “fair”. The world isn’t fair and life isn’t fair. The world is the way it is. Some people are rich, some are poor. Some people are healthy, some people are sick. Some people are good-looking, some people are not. Some people are talented, some are not. We must all stop expecting the world to be a certain way and accept that it is the way it is. If something isn’t “good” in your eyes, maybe it’s your opportunity to make it better. But if you see only “unfairnesss” in the world, it can only make you angry. And this anger, when left unresolved, leads straight to depression.
Since there are many causes of depression, there are also several things you can do to cure chronic depression.
- Psychological Counselling
Many people seek psychological counselling for issues like depression and anxiety. A good psychologist will definitely be able to help you, but a bad one will just take your money. If you need counseling, find a qualified, experienced psychologist. And find one who holds similar beliefs to yours: if you are an atheist, you won’t be able to relate to a psychologist who is religious, and if you are religious, don’t consult a psychologist who is an atheist. Many women prefer a female counselor, and many men prefer a male counselor, but the choice is always yours. If you need medications to treat your condition, you will need to consult with a psychiatrist – a medical doctor who has specialized in psychiatry.
- Anti-Depressant Medications
A good psychiatrist can help you with medications in addition to providing good counselling. But beware of psychiatrists who only write prescriptions and don’t provide the counselling – and there are far to many of these out there. A good psychiatrist can prescribe you with benzodiazepines (such as Valium or Xanax) or SSRI medications (such as Prozac) to treat anxiety, depression, or insomnia. Benzos can be taken “on demand” – you feel anxious before an airplane flight, so you take a benzo and it calms you down. SSRI’s on the other hand, must be taken continuously for a month before you see any effect.
And now a couple of warnings about these medications:
- Benzos, especially, are highly addictive. Once you’ve taken them for a while, you become physically and psychologically dependent on them.
- If you decide you are feeling better after taking benzos for a while, and you want to stop taking them, you must wean yourself off them slowly. This can take months. There is a warning in the benzo literature that suddenly stopping benzos can cause you to have a seizure. Always consult with your doctor/psychiatrist when stopping to take any benzo or SSRI medication.
- If you take benzos for a very long time, say more than six months, you will start experiencing more of the side effects of the drug and less of the benefits. Side effects can include anything from weight gain or loss, increased or decreased libido (sexual appetite) and many other side effects. Some of these side effects can start as soon as you begin taking them, and often increase in intensity the longer you take them. Consult with your physician/psychiatrist. Some doctors may switch you to a different benzo after you have been taking one for a long period of time.
See this link at WebMD for more information about benzodiazepine abuse.
- Religious Faith
People with strong religious faith are encouraged to renew their faith in God as a cure against depression. religious people believe that being depressed means you don’t like what God has given you, and that God hates that. Being depressed means you have no faith in God that things will get better. So now you are in the grasp of the devil. For those who have deep religious faith, renewing your this works better than any medication, counselling or any other remedy. Even Alcoholics Anonymous tells its participants to put their faith in God – it is a key element in the 12-Step program.
Some people say that exercise is the best cure for depression. Exercise releases chemicals in your brain that make you feel better. Joggers swear by this. A recent news piece on ABC News said that exercise, while it cannot reduce the amount of cancer cells in your body, it prevents the cancer cells from multiplying.
- Other Cures: Yoga, Meditation
Many people swear by yoga and meditation as a cure – and even a prevention – for depression.
It often said that “laughter is the best medicine”. Watch funny movies, read funny books and magazines, listen to stand-up comedians, engage in any activity that stimulates laughter. There is the famous story of the Hollywood producer who was diagnosed with terminal cancer and given three months to live. So he checked himself into Cedars-Sinai medical Center in Los Angeles, and brought in every funny movie he could find – all the films of Charlie Chaplin, Mel Brooks, Woody Allen – all his favorite funny men. And after three months…they found he was completely cured and had no more cancer in his body. It is a known fact that anxiety, depression and stress cause many illnesses, including cancer and many others. Laughter can be a cure. Try it.
A wise man once said, “If you broke it, only you can fix it”. We all need to take more personal responsibility for what happens to us, and know that we have the power to change ourselves if we try hard enough.