Got the blues? Or…? (part 1)

Have you been feeling down lately? Is it something temporary or have you been like this for a long time now? Are you having the blues? It’s not Monday, you know. Or are you up to something more serious? I want to talk today about a grave subject in our life: depression. The reason why I thought of writing about this condition is that I’ve been having some mood swings lately. But depression is not just some “mood swings”, it’s way more than that.

What is depression?

So what exactly is depression? Depression, according to Oxford medical dictionary, is a mental state characterized by excessive sadness. This mood disorder has persistent symptoms that last for more than two weeks. This illness can affect your thoughts, behavior, feelings and sense of well-being. So it’s not exactly a case of a bad day, it’s a condition that lasts for weeks or even months. Some people think “it’s not a big deal” but it’s actually a serious illness that needs to be treated in order to prevent any dangerous complications.

How to know if you’re depressed

According to WebMd, the symptoms of depression are:

Psychological symptoms:

  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and/or helplessness
  • Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
  • Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable
  • Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings
  • Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts

Physical symptoms:

  • Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
  • Fatigue and decreased energy
  • Irritability, restlessness
  • Overeating or appetite loss
  • Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment

As you can see, depression doesn’t only affect you mentally but also physically. So, if you have most of these symptoms mentioned above you are probably suffering from depression.

Why do we get depressed?

Generally, there are many causes of depression. It is caused by a combination of factors such as a person’s genes, personal experience, neurochemical (a drug or other substance that affects the nervous system) factors and psychological factors. It can also be due to a chronic illness (a condition that lasts for a very long time and usually cannot be cured completely) like diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, and HIV/AIDS. But as a normal teenager or an adult, let’s see why you can get depressed.
Let me talk about the psychological and environmental factors here. As a teenager, you are probably facing a lot of pressure in your daily life. Whether it’s your parents’ high expectations, getting good grades in school, or peer pressure, it could affect you in a negative way. All this environmental stress can cause feeling of frustration, despair, self-worthlessness, helplessness, anxiety, and fear. You keep worrying about your social life and social status, your future, problems in your household…etc. The same thing can apply for young adults and adults. Getting a job, the pressure from your boss at work, feeling like you are stuck in a rut, and all the other ‘real world’ problems can be very overwhelming. You start to isolate yourself inside your safe shell to avoid all this. The next thing you know, you are falling in a dark pit. This can lead you to think of suicide as a way out.

Warning signs of suicide:

  • Talking about killing or harming one’s self
  • Expressing strong feelings of hopelessness or being trapped
  • An unusual preoccupation with death or dying
  • Acting recklessly, as if they have a death wish (e.g. speeding through red lights)
  • Calling or visiting people to say goodbye
  • Getting affairs in order (giving away prized possessions, tying up loose ends)
  • Saying things like “Everyone would be better off without me” or “I want out”
  • A sudden switch from being extremely depressed to acting calm and happy

Getting help!

If you show the signs of depression and/or suicide or know someone who does, you should get help immediately. There are a lot of methods to fight depression, and different treatments works for different people; whether it’s support from your family and friends, a lifestyle change, or professional help. I recommend you get help from a mental health professional. They can offer effective treatments such as medication, group therapy, and alternative treatments. Also your family and friends can be a great source of hope that will help you to recover. Do not shut yourself from the outside world and say that you are better off away from everyone else. A night out with your friends or a road trip with your family can definitely lift your mood and prove to you that there are people who care about you, and you’d be selfish to think of leaving them.

Still, some of us might not be able to reach for professional help, or too afraid to ask. And maybe your friends or family can’t provide you the support that you need to get your life back. So in that case, what can you do? I am going to discuss ways you can fight depression if you are alone in this. In Got the blues? Or…? (part 2) I am going to talk to you about how to beat depression from within and finally reach the light at the end of the long dark tunnel.

You can find more info about depression here:
http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/depression/index.shtml

You can find more info about teen depression in this link:
http://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/teen-depression

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