Do you feel overwhelmed by going to the grocery store, doing the laundry or making dinner?
Did you stop socializing with friends and/or stopped being intimate with your partner?
Are you having difficulty concentrating at work and/or taking care of your kids?
Do you feel hopeless that things will never get better?
Between all the stress of work, school, family, friends, health...the list goes on and on....it's easy to get overwhelmed and lose the joy in life. Sometimes in today's world it can feel like we are playing "hide and seek" with happiness.
But just like when you played hide and seek with your friends as a kid, you can't just wait around hoping for happiness to come to you. You have to actively go out and look. You have to work hard, sometimes really hard, to find what you're looking for. Here are some ideas for how to find your happiness when it's hiding from you:
- Genes- People who are predisposed to a family history of depression may be more likely to inherit the illness.
- Brain Chemistry-An imbalance of chemicals in your brain can impair mood, thoughts, feelings, sleep, appetite, behavior and more.
- Stress-Death of a loved one, job loss, divorce, or any stressful situation can trigger depression. It is normal to be sad or have a brief period of minor depression as a response to these types of events; however if your symptoms continue to interfere with your daily life for weeks or months you may be experiencing Major Depression and you will need professional help.
What are the symptoms of depression? Depression may present differently in different people but generally symptoms of depression include:
- Feeling extremely sad, "empty" or hopeless
- Feeling irritable, anxious, guilty or overwhelmed
- Loss of interest in activities or hobbies you once enjoyed
- Feeling lonely but isolating yourself from friends and family
- Lack of concentration or lack of focus
- Inability to accomplish daily tasks or follow through with things
- Sleeping too much or not able to sleep at all
- Ruminating thoughts
- Overeating or not being able to eat at all
- Aches, pains, headaches or digestive problems
- Thoughts of suicide or suicide attempts
Depression is a serious illness that can be life threatening. If you are suffering from depression you are not alone. Three hundred fifty million people are affected by this disease and many will not seek treatment. Why? There are many reasons but one of the main reasons is due to stigma. People feel ashamed and embarrassed and some feel depression is a weakness.
Friends and family may say to you, " cheer up, you have nothing to be depressed about" or "pull yourself up from your boot straps" or my favorite which is "snap out of it." Well, I have news for you folks. You can't snap out of a depressive episode any more than you can snap out of cancer, contrary to what many people might think. Unfortunutely, people are much more sympathetic and supportive to those that are suffering from a physical illness because they truly don't understand or accept that depression is a disease too.
The good news is depression is treatable. The first step is to visit a mental health professional such as myself for an assessment. Whether you are diagnosed with mild, moderate or severe depression, there are a variety of treatment options depending on the severity of your illnsess.
One of the best treatments for mild to moderate depression is psychotherapy or "talk therapy". Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is the most effective therapeutic modality for treating depression. CBT teaches you how to reframe your negative thoughts and behaviors which contribute to your symptoms of depression. This will help you percieve your environment and your interractions with others in a more positive and realisitc way.
For severe depression, psychotherapy may not be enough and a combination of medication and psychotherapy would be the most effective approach. In some cases, a higher level of care may be needed which may include in-patient hospitalization, partial or IOP programs. It takes time for therapy and/or medication to work but gradually, you will begin to feel better.
As an experienced therapist I have treated a countless number of people with depression in a hospital setting as well as in my private practice. With my compassion and empathy I was able to give my patients and clients the therapeutic tools and coping strategies to help them return to their normal level of effective functioning.
Risa Simpson-Davis, LCSW
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