Every person goes through ups and downs throughout the course of life, but depression is more than sometimes feeling sad or experiencing a slight mood shift during a difficult life season or following a loss. Depression is powerful and colors the lenses of the person experiencing it. Life can feel meaningless and one might feel worthless, inadequate, and like a failure, despite evidence that indicates otherwise. As much as we all (and most of all the affected individuals) wish that they could just “snap out of it” and think positively, this is often an unrealistic task for one truly experiencing depression.

Am I experiencing depression?

  • The majority of the time, I feel sad or “down.”

  • It is difficult for me to experience pleasure or joy, even with things that used to make me happy.

  • I have a difficult time concentrating.

  • I have less energy and motivation than I used to or than the average person.

  • I have excessive feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and inadequacy.

  • Life feels meaningless, and my situation feels hopeless.

  • It is difficult for me to care about anything.

  • I have pulled away from friends and family. Some might say I isolate more than I used to.

  • My sleep patterns have changed – I struggle with falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking up in the morning.

  • I have thoughts of death or suicide.

  • I have had significant weight gain or loss.

  • I have unexplained aches and pains that doctors cannot connect to a medical cause.

  • I am more irritable than I used to be. (Irritability or an increase in anger is a more common symptom in children and teenagers.)

If you can relate to more than one of the statements above, you should consider seeking therapy or additional support. 

you can find healing for your depression.

If more than a few of these symptoms have been true for more than two weeks, you may be experiencing depression. The good news is that depression is very treatable and there is hope for change! About 80 percent of people who seek help for their depression are able to feel better with time. Talk therapy can be very helpful in understanding depression, identifying solutions for coping with the symptoms, identifying the triggers, and evaluating and exploring different perspectives to help balance the thoughts and feelings about oneself and the future. Psychotropic medication can also be a support to explore with a primary care physician or a psychiatrist. Another powerful tool for coping with depression is exercise. Many studies indicate that regular exercise throughout the week (about 4 to 6 times a week for at least 30 minutes) can create chemical reactions in the body that improve mood as effectively as anti-depressant medication.

what causes depression? 

The root of depression is complex and is usually tied to more than just one single cause. What we do know is that genetic predisposition and brain chemistry absolutely play a role for many depressed individuals, as do life circumstances and relationships. Understandably, depression is more common for those who have experienced significant loss, undergone a significant life transition, or who are experiencing significant health issues. Depression also commonly occurs alongside anxiety and for those who have experienced trauma. Those who are depressed are more likely to develop a substance abuse issue as a means of coping with their depression. Occasionally, health issues or a chemical imbalance might be the sole cause for depression, which is why it is always important for those experiencing depression to consult with their primary health care physician about their symptoms so other medical causes can be ruled out.

ask for help. 

Severe depression can be very dangerous, even deadly. If you or a loved one are having thoughts of death or suicide, please don’t ignore the signs. Seek help. This is also not the time to “keep a promise” if a friend has asked you to not tell anyone about their thoughts; depression is a strong force and can seriously alter a person’s ability to respond to reason. Tell a trusted adult, call 911, or go to the nearest emergency room.

There are many various suicide hotlines available, including the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) and the local Crisis Prevention Hotline for Orange County residents (1-877-727-4747).

Next, read about Therapy for Anxiety.