Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Overcoming Depression

Everybody experiences moments or even a few days of being down in the dumps and/or sad from time to time. This is a very normal experience we all have occasionally. People often refer to getting the blues as being in a depression.

However, clinical depression is a distinct experience from getting the blues. There is a difference between getting the blues and clinical depression. Anyone can get the blues.
It's a temporary, and normal, reaction to stress or difficult situations and times.

The blues come and go they usually don't affect our sense of self-worth or cause us to experience physical symptoms such as weight loss or gain or have suicidal thoughts.

As opposed to the blues, clinical depression is much longer lasting and is more intense affecting not only our mood, but our thinking, our bodies, our abilities to perform our jobs and our social interaction.

Clinical depression brings on feelings of inadequacy, generalized loss of interest of pleasure, social withdrawal, feelings of guilt or brooding about the past, irritability, excessive anger, decreased activity, effectiveness or productivity.

In children, it is observed in impaired school performance
and social interaction. They are usually irritable and cranky as well as depressed. They can also suffer from low self-esteem and poor social skills and are pessimistic.

Many people often don't recognize that clinical depression is a serious illness. They will frequently see it as character flaw in the individual, or something that you just need to buck up and get over.

It's not uncommon to hear someone tell them to just snap out of it. It's no easier for someone with clinical depression to just snap out of it than it is for someone with a broken leg to just get over it and walk. Clinical depression is a condition that needs to be treated professionally for the best recovery results.

Some depressions are a result of chemical imbalances in the brain and can be treated with anti-depressant medication.
Others respond to treatment in a one-on-one situation in psychotherapy along with improved nutrition and exercise.
And others could benefit from a combination of all of them.

In any case, clinical depression does not generally go away on its own and it requires some from of treatment for the best results.

Statistically, women are two to three times more likely to develop clinical depression than men. Over the course of a lifetime, approximately 6% of the general population will develop clinical depression.

It generally has an early onset beginning sometime in childhood, adolescence or early adulthood. There is a strong correlation that it is more common among first-degree biological relatives of people clinical depression than among the general population.

Men have a difficult time admitting that they are experiencing depression. They have been taught to hold onto their feelings through the culture of the society. They also generally have a biological disadvantage to identifying their feelings and putting them into words.

Their brains are designed to think linearly in order to triage easily and come to fast solutions. Therefore their brains somewhat sacrifice the ability to observe extended connections and draw connections to their feelings. The result is that men have a more difficult time placing words to their feelings.

They feel feelings as strongly as women, they just don't know how to identify them as easily. Hence, when men go into depression they tend to isolate more than women. They also tend to experience anger more when depressed than women. Men have been socialized in a way that anger is considered one of the few acceptable expressions of emotion. Therefore, it is not uncommon for men to appear grumpy or angry when they are depressed. They also are more action oriented than women, so they go into action by isolating, or throwing themselves into their work.

Men are taught to go it alone and tough it out. To seek out help is to appear weak. They are least likely to reach out for help when they most need it and could most benefit from it.

The suppression of these feelings and their internalization of them by men can lead to host of physical symptoms that can be made worse by their reluctance to care for themselves during these times due to a lowered sense of self esteem.

Women, on the other hand, have more access to their feelings as a result of their brain structure as well as the benefit of a culture that supports their expression of feelings. Women more easily recognize when they are feeling depressed and are more likely to reach out to other women or therapy for help over men.

However, women have a tendency to internalize and blame themselves, which may impede them to reach out for help. They have also been taught to sacrifice themselves for others and may then ignore their own feelings and not reach out for help.
There is also a tendency for women in depression to focus on the negative, which makes the symptoms of their depression worse and cuts them off from reaching out for help as a hopeless endeavor.

To help move yourself away from depression:

Check automatic thoughts. What is the evidence its true, what's the evidence its not true. Make a more reasonable statement by combining the two.
Volunteer and take the focus off yourself, get out of being internally focused.
Buy self flowers. Scents such as vanilla and baked bread have an uplifting effect.
How would you treat yourself if you were a friend?
Schedule pleasant events
Sometimes, it is anger turned inward to protect others around them from their feelings so they attack their mood with depression.
Meditation, exercise and proper nutrition are very helpful
Separate out facts from feelings, just because you feel something doesn't make it a fact. Sometimes our thoughts and feelings can lie to us about what is real.
Learn how to communicate with others better by reading books or going to therapy.
Get a therapist who you feel comfortable talking with.
Seek medical attention for your depression

I generally recommend seeing a psychiatrist for treating the medical aspect of depression. They are specifically trained to help you choose the best medication available for your condition if you choose to use medication. Milder forms of depression can be treated with psychotherapy alone, but more sever forms generally require a combination of both medication and psychotherapy for maximum benefit and recovery.

If you know of someone suffering from depression and you want them to seek help:

Be straight forward to tell them about the behaviors you are observing.

Do not stigmatize them by calling them crazy, or defective in some way.

Tell them that they are not alone and that many other people who have sought treatment for depression have been helped.

Do not judge them rather emphasize the benefits they might gain from receiving help, such as an improvement in their mood and feelings, improvement in their thoughts and greater success in their relationships and at work.

Give them hope.

From time to time, bring up the options and benefits for help.
Pass along articles that you find. Do this at a very measured pace. If you bring it up too often or are too forceful about it, it will only lead the person who is experience depression to isolate more or become more resistant to any form of treatment or help.
Show interest in their entire life, not just in whether or not they get treatment.

To help a resistant partner get help for depression, it is important for them to see the benefits of such help for themselves as well as for their family. It is important for the individual's family and or partner to have empathy for them and their experience.

Try to view their experience through their eyes without blaming them or telling them to snap out of it. It may be helpful to set a therapy appointment or doctor's appointment together. Don't blame them as the problem or refer to them as the sick one. This would only lead them to avoid receiving any kind of help in a bid to prove that they are OK on their own.

However, if someone staunchly refuses treatment, there is only so much you can do as long as they are not a danger to themselves or others. You can only do what you can do.

Talk therapy, usually referred to as psychotherapy, can be very helpful for all forms of depression. Marriage and Family Therapists, Clinical Social Workers, Psychologists and Psychiatrists are all qualified to treat depression through talk therapy.

The goals of therapy are to:
Improve mood and stability
Decrease irritability
Increase motivation and interest in life
Improve memory
Improve sleep in quality and pattern
Improve outlook on life
Improve energy
Improve clarity of thought and cognition
Improve sexual desire
Eliminate suicidal thoughts
Improve functioning at work, school and home

Psychiatrists are the only ones who are licensed to dispense medication and they generally limit their practices to handling the medical side of depression leaving the talk therapy side to MFTs, Social Workers and Psychologists.

For more information on depression log onto For free samples and self-help audios, log onto the Dr. Walton Series at

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