• Lady J

A Beginners Guide to Depression

Updated: Jul 26, 2020

You can’t get out of bed because you’re constantly tired.  Taking a shower is exhausting. One of your co-workers asked you a question and you snapped at them.  Reading was something you loved to do and now you can’t pick up a book. The feeling of sadness and hopelessness seems to be taking over your life.  Can you relate to these scenarios? If you do, you might be depressed.

What is Depression?

Depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest.

Feeling down and/or hopeless is a normal, but when you feel this way consistently, more than likely it’s depression. It affects how you feel, think and behave and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems. 

What are the Symptoms of Depression

10 Symptoms of Depression

  1. Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. A bleak outlook—nothing will ever get better and there’s nothing you can do to improve your situation.

  2. Loss of interest in daily activities. You don’t care anymore about former hobbies, pastimes, social activities, or sex. You’ve lost your ability to feel joy and pleasure.

  3. Appetite or weight changes. Significant weight loss or weight gain—a change of more than 5% of body weight in a month.

  4. Sleep changes. Either insomnia, especially waking in the early hours of the morning, or oversleeping.

  5. Anger or irritability. Feeling agitated, restless, or even violent. Your tolerance level is low, your temper short, and everything and everyone gets on your nerves.

  6. Loss of energy. Feeling fatigued, sluggish, and physically drained. Your whole body may feel heavy, and even small tasks are exhausting or take longer to complete.

  7. Self-loathing. Strong feelings of worthlessness or guilt. You harshly criticize yourself for perceived faults and mistakes.

  8. Reckless behavior. You engage in escapist behavior such as substance abuse, compulsive gambling, reckless driving, or dangerous sports.

  9. Concentration problems. Trouble focusing, making decisions, or remembering things.

  10. Unexplained aches and pains. An increase in physical complaints such as headaches, back pain, aching muscles, and stomach pain.

What are the Causes of Depression

There are many factors and possible causes of depression, and like I mentioned in a previous post, they can range from genetic to situational.  Healthline.com gives 5 common causes of depression:

  • Family history

  • Early childhood trauma

  • Brain structure

  • Medical conditions

  • Drug use

Healthline.com ends this section with something that I think is important to note: The causes of depression are often tied to other elements of your health.  What does that mean? Low self-esteem, obesity, insomnia, life changes (just to name a few, we can add so much more to this list) all can contribute to causing your depression or make it worse.  I would encourage you to read last week's post, to understand how your doctor determines if you are depressed.

What are the Types of Depression

There are 2 major types of depression: major depressive disorder and persistent depressive disorder. 

Major depressive disorder - is the more severe form of depression. It’s characterized by persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and worthlessness that don’t go away on their own.  In order to be diagnosed with clinical depression, you must experience 5 or more of the following symptoms over a 2-week period:

  • feeling depressed most of the day

  • loss of interest in most regular activities

  • significant weight loss or gain

  • sleeping a lot or not being able to sleep

  • slowed thinking or movement

  • fatigue or low energy most days

  • feelings of worthlessness or guilt

  • loss of concentration or indecisiveness

  • recurring thoughts of death or suicide

Persistent depressive disorder (PDD) - is a milder, but chronic, form of depression.  In order for the diagnosis to be made, symptoms must last for at least 2 years. PDD can affect your life more than major depression because it lasts for a longer period.  It’s common for people with PDD to:

  • lose interest in normal daily activities

  • feel hopeless

  • lack productivity

  • have low self-esteem

What Are The Different Treatments for Depression

  • Psychotherapy - talk therapy, is a way to help people with a broad variety of mental illnesses and emotional difficulties. Psychotherapy can help eliminate or control troubling symptoms so a person can function better and can increase well-being and healing

  • Family or couples therapy - Family or couple therapy may be considered when depression affects others in the household. Therapy that involves other family members focuses on interpersonal relationships. The roles played by various family members in a patient's depression may be examined. Education about depression in a general way may also be a part of family therapy.

  • Hospitalization - may become necessary when it is deemed that a patient has become a danger to himself or others. A patient who is seriously considering suicide, for example, may require inpatient hospitalizatiom. If you are hospitalized, it may involve individual therapy, family therapy, and group therapy. A patient may also be prescribed medication. Once a patient is safe to leave the hospital, an intensive outpatient program, such as a partial hospital may be recommended. These services take place for several hours each day to help support a person's recovery from their depression. 

  • Medication - There are many different medications that can help reduce the symptoms of depression and are most effective when it is used with therapy

What Are Ways to Cope with Depression

I've been on this healing journey for a while now, so here are some tips about treatment I've learned along the way.  Hopefully, you find them helpful!

  • Learn all you can about the type of depression you've been diagnosed with.  Knowledge is power and there you know, they better you will do to see that you are getting the best from you, your doctors and your treatments.  For example, it pays to know your body!  If I'm in a bad depressive episode, I can't concentrate and it's like I'm in a fog.  When this happens, I know I need to pull back from making decisions, get plenty of rest and make sure I eat right (too much gluten makes my depression worse).

  • Be patient with yourself.  It may take a while to find the right therapist, medications and therapies.  Click HERE for a link to find a black therapist in your area.

  • Lean on your tribe - those around you that you can depend on, that will tell the trust and that you trust.  I talk about your tribe in the post.  If you're serious about healing then you have to trust those around you to help you.

  • Part of healing is moving past your comfort zone.  You may be asked to face things in therapy that make you uncomfortable, but in order to heal, you need to face them in order to conquer them.

  • Be open to changing your lifestyle.  There may be things or people in your life that make you depressed that you need to let go of.  You may need to change your diet, exercise more or set boundaries.  Whatever changes you need to make to get better, do them.  I know it's not easy, but you have a choice of continuing on in depression or moving toward healing.

In the End...

Whether it is temporary or long term, your depression can be treated, but sadly, it may not go away completely.  However, the right treatment helps to manage your symptoms. It may take some time for your doctor to find the right combination of medicine and therapies, so hang in there.  Make sure you keep track of any side effects and how you feel so that you can report back to your doctor and they can make any changes. Don’t be discouraged, there is hope!

I believe in you Brown Girl, you got this and you are NOT alone!

Click HERE to listen to my podcast episode

~ This Is My Depression ~

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*I am not a licensed therapist.  This post does not serve as a form of therapy or diagnosis.  If you are experiencing an emergency, please call 911 or your doctor.