One out of three people in the world suffers from psychological depression at least once. This is why depression is also known to as the “flu” of psychological problems. Moodiness, hopelessness, self-blame, despair, disappointment, and pessimistic point-of-view can be described as its most prominent symptoms. Most people suffer from depressive symptoms at one point in their lives. “Melancholy” and “feeling low” are the most known forms of depression. These emotions are generally of a short duration and affect daily life only slightly. In the further stages of depression, symptoms get more intense and longer lasting, and it becomes considerably harder to perform in daily life, even though the individual can still cope with them. Somebody who is severely depressed has intense mood swings and may not be able to perform the functions of daily life.
Symptoms of Depression
• Despair, lack of expectation from the future
• Low, pessimistic temperament
• Self-blaming and devaluing the self
• Inability to enjoy anything
• Being on the verge of tears frequently
• Inability to feel, dulling of emotions
• Inability to concentrate and to maintain concentration, being easily distracted
• Confusion, inability to collect thoughts, slowing down in speed of thought, indecisiveness
• Thoughts related to death
• Pessimistic point-of-view, thoughts about the present being meaninglessness, the past being lost, and future foreboding evil
• Delaying duties and fun activities
• Staying away people and a desire to be left alone
• Slowing down of movements (walking, talking etc.), stagnation
• Spending a great deal of effort to perform basic tasks
• Inability to fall asleep, waking up several times during the night, or sleeping too much, and inability to wake up in a rested and fresh way
• Decrease in appetite, considerable weight loss or binge eating and weight gain
• Chronic fatigue, amotivation, demotivation
• Headaches, backaches and digestive abnormalities that are not due to physical reasons
Not all of the symptoms mentioned above need to appear during depression. Sometimes depression can manifest itself through only a few symptoms. The symptoms can be mild, moderate, or severe, and the intensity changes from person to person.
Reasons for Depression
Depressive symptoms might surface in the face of a sudden and serious loss. This loss might be the death of a loved one, or other situations, such as loss of a job, a relationship or others. In these circumstances, the person is aware of what afflicts him/her.
Exposure to long-lasting high stress levels might also result in depression. The stress, responsibilities and the numerous things to accomplish can cause negative feelings and people might feel like they do not have control of their lives. In these circumstances, a person suffers from depression, but may not be aware of what afflicts him/her.
First way to defeat depressive mood is to organize daily functions. Do not wait until you feel naturally inclined and do things that make you feel good. This might be taking a break during a heavy tempo, meeting with a good friend that you had been postponing, or waking up earlier and having breakfast. Do not forget that the fatigue of depression is different from regular fatigue; you cannot overcome it by resting. Moving and being more active will make you feel fit and less tired.
Try to regulate your eating and sleeping schedules. Try not to skip meals, and eat warm food made with fresh ingredients instead of fast-food. Try to avoid drinking coffee, tea, and smoking cigarettes (if you do) close to sleeping time. These substances stimulate your neural system and make it harder to fall asleep even if you are sleepy. Stay away from sedatives and other drugs that are not assigned by your doctor. Do not consume alcohol with the intention that it will help you fall asleep. Try to increase your daily activity levels with small movements and you will discover that it helps you sleep better at night.
Do not increase your responsibilities during this period. Stay away from sources of stress, such as refraining from decisions that change your life.
The biggest hurdle as you try to accomplish these things will be the depressive way of thinking, such as “it won’t do any good”, “too hard”, “I will be messed up anyways”, “nothing will improve”. If you find yourself thinking this way, you might benefit from reminding yourself this: these thoughts are a symptom of depression too, and being active will help you distance yourself from these painful thoughts.
Helping a Person Close To You in Depression
Friends, family members, and other close people who are suffering from depression might drift away from us. If you observe any of the above in your loved ones, even if they might not talk about it, the most functional intervention you can make will be to share these with that person and direct them to seeking help. While speaking to them:
• Try not to cheer them up or solve their problems yourself.
• Do not strive to sympathize by saying that you feel exactly as they do.
• Refrain from saying that they could overcome their troubles if they wanted to, that there is “nothing to worry about”.
• Try not to get angry at them.
• Do not blame or judge them.
• Make it your priority to explain that you care about them and that you want to help.
When Is There Need for Counseling/Therapy?
If your symptoms (or those of a person close to you) are increasing and exacerbating, if they are approaching a level where it disrupts the quality of life, if your troubles are suffocating you and if suicide has seemed like an option, make sure to seek help from a psychologist. Depression can be overcome and responds well to intervention, so do not hesitate to seek help.
• Fennel, M. (2000). Depression. In K. Hawton, P.M. Salkovskis, P.M. Kirk and D.M. Clark (Eds.), Cognitive and behavior therapy for psychiatric problems: A practical guide (pp. 169-235). New York: Oxford University Pres Inc.
• Tuğrul, C., & Sayılgan, M.A. (1997). Depresyonla başa çıkma yolları. Ankara: Türk Psikologlar Derneği.
This text has been translated to English by Oya Nuzumlalı.