Everyone feels a little sad and blue sometimes, it is completely normal to have low periods, but there is something distinctive about depression. Depression is a persistent sadness, emptiness, or irritability. Depression significantly affects how you function in day-to-day life. So, some people may feel sad and down but they are still able to get out of bed, go to work or answer a phone call from a friend, a depressed person may not be able to even do these basic things.
There are actually eight depressive disorders which are diagnosable in the DSM-5 which all psychologists use, but I am going to speak just more generally. There are some common symptoms of depression (remember these are persistent and significantly affect your life) which include: sadness, emptiness, hopelessness, being tearful every day, feeling diminished interest in all activities, weight loss/gain, decreases/increases in appetite, insomnia/hypersomnia, restlessness, fatigue, worthlessness, feeling excessively guilty, unable to concentrate, indecisiveness, suicidal thoughts, low self-esteem or isolation.
These symptoms are not all of the possible symptoms and there is also the possibility that someone may experience high-functioning depression. High-functioning depression (which is very common!) is a concealed depression where symptoms are less noticeable and the person is able to hide their difficulties well; however they are still experiencing very real symptoms internally. So, someone with high-functioning depression may feel all these symptoms but it presents as the person being overly happy, being a perfectionist, engaging in numbing behaviours like drinking, be searching for connection, and are often expressive in other ways like art.
Depression can be anywhere from mild to severe; remember every person is different and everybody reacts differently to life events. Some common causes to depression could be a recent break-up, concerns about the future, loss of a friend or family member. Something worrying right now is COVID-19 and the huge spike in depression which we are seeing because of this pandemic. You might notice that you have never really been an overly negative person but now with this huge life shift and unpredictably, you suddenly are experiencing these symptoms. It is OKAY and APPROPRIATE and EXPECTED, please don’t feel like you are alone or that you should be coping better, this current worldwide crisis is a valid reason to be struggling.
Whether your feelings of depression have been present for 1 month, 1 year or 10 years, it doesn’t matter, without some kind of assistance it can feel like every single day requires a huge amount of energy / focus and requires a lot of ‘faking it’. It is best to seek professional help so you can get counselling and/or medication, but here are also some healthy coping tips.
Stand connected by reaching out to family, friends, support groups or a professional
Provide support to others (altruism) for a mood boost
Do things you enjoy like a hobby or sport
Stay healthy with better sleep, eating habits, exercise, etc
Challenge your negative thoughts by keep a journal and constantly reminding yourself of the things which ‘go against’ your depressive thoughts
Stick to a schedule and be productive
Consider herbal or prescription medication
Reduce your stress and anxiety
Identify your triggers to depressive episodes and avoid or fix these situations
Reflect on some of the things going on in your life right now, if you are feeling supported and if you feel you are coping. If you feel you have too much stress, no support and you are not coping – please reach out to me, to someone else you trust or you can contact SADAG (South African Depression and Anxiety Group).
If someone reaches out to you for help then just listen attentively, be non-judgemental and be supportive, and help them find the right help for their situation.
DID YOU KNOW??
Depression is almost twice as likely to affect women than men due to hormones, stress responses, and social pressures.
Depression is the leading cause of suicide in South Africa.
Globally, more than 264 million people of all ages suffer from depression.