By Ernst Lamothe Jr.
Depression is a topic that is hard for many to understand, difficult for sufferers to cope with and often something challenging to talk about. Whether it’s because of the various misconceptions or the complexity of the subject, too often depression gets misdiagnosed or ignored. Making matters worse, 2020 has offered a consistent plate of unpredictability, tragedy and anxiety that has led to an increase in reported depression cases.
“Depression is one of the most treatable illnesses, but if left untreated, it could have fatal or debilitating consequences,” said physician Steven L Dubovsky, professor and chairman of the department of psychiatry at University at Buffalo. “It is essential to recognize when you start feeling symptoms because 10% of men and 20–25% of women report feeling at least one episode of depression in their life. It is something that is more common than people realize.”
1. Watch the symptoms
Although depression symptoms may vary in intensity or frequency, there are a few warning signs of which people should be aware. A person may feel sadness, tearfulness, emptiness or hopelessness. There are times with angry outbursts, irritability or frustration, even over small matters. When depression hits, there is a loss of interest or pleasure in most or all normal activities, sleep disturbances, including insomnia or sleeping too much, ` and reduced appetite and weight loss or increased cravings for food and weight gain. There can be feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixating on past failures or self-blame.
“When you are feeling a loss of joy in activities you love, a significant decrease or increase of sleeping pattern and the same for weight, these are some symptoms you should look at as an early warning,” said Dubovsky. “People also report just an overall feeling of irritability and anxiety which causes some to pull away from people which can cause a cycle of more depressed behavior because you are detaching yourself from life.”
2. Don’t subscribe to the myths
There is still a stigma about people expressing their inner thoughts about their depression. Some people will simply call it the blues or dismiss it as something that can easily be solved with a nap or vacation. However, it goes deeper than that. And because of the layers associated with depression and the backlash from family and friends, sometimes people decide to keep that part of their lives to themselves.
“There are some that believe depression just goes away by itself and all you have to do is tough it out. If it was something that went away that easy then people wouldn’t be dealing with depression,” said Dubovsky. “This is something that you don’t want to wait a long time before taking action.”
3. Talk to a professional
Exposure to and living through traumatic events has the strong potential to shape a person’s belief, knock us off our equilibrium and rock a person to their core at a fundamental level. That is why reaching out to a psychological expert is important.
“Being depressed is not a sign of weakness. Actually, admitting you have an issue is a show of strength,” Dubovsky said. “You shouldn’t have the attitude of I’m just going to grin and bear it. You should be proactive because admitting it is a sign that something is wrong and you are trying to fix it so you don’t affect your life or the lives around you.”
4. Medication can work
Antidepressants are a popular treatment choice for depression. Although antidepressants may not cure depression, they can reduce symptoms.
“Antidepressants have been known to work and can make a person’s quality of life better,” said Dubovsky. “Sometimes there are situations when taking it consistently is needed because you have those who stop taking antidepressants and they are surprised that some of the symptoms come back. It is no different than a diabetic deciding not to take their insulin or someone diagnosed with epilepsy not taking their seizure medication. While you can’t solve everything with a pill, for some it is quite helpful.”
5. Avoid drinking
Sometimes in deciding what’s worse the pain or the hangover, people opt to avoid the former. But mental health experts say one of the worse things you can do is try to drink away depression.
“Even drinking one or two drinks per week can keep you depressed so my best advice is to avoid drinking completely when you are depressed,” said Dubovsky. “The problem is more severe than a drink can fix.”