What is Depression?
Depression doesn’t look just one way. There are many different types of depression and it can be experienced and expressed very differently depending on the person. There is something called persistent depressive disorder or dysthymia, which is a chronic low-grade depression experienced over a period of 2+ years as well as major depressive disorder (MDD), which is experienced episodically for a period of 2 weeks or more; you can experience one or both. There are also variations of MDD such as MDD with peripartum onset, or what is referred to as postpartum depression, and MDD with seasonal pattern, or what is commonly referred to simply as seasonal affective disorder (SAD). This article will focus specifically on MDD. MDD is characterized by low mood or feeling sad nearly everyday most of the day, a lack of interest or pleasure in things most of the day, nearly everyday, weight loss or weight gain, insomnia or hypersomnia, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt, hopelessness, and sometimes thoughts of suicide. It can also be expressed as irritability and anger, particularly in men. MDD is not the same thing as being sad. Although it is common, MDD has the potential to be extremely debilitating, or even deadly.
If you are in crisis, call the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or chat online, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can also call 911 or go to the nearest ER.
Ways of Managing Depression
When people feel depressed their tendency is often to want to withdraw or isolate and to become inactive. These are the very tendencies that lead to the maintenance or worsening of depression. For this reason, it is important to reach out to other people, be active, and make sure you are taking care of yourself in terms of sleep, diet, and exercise; in fact, there are some studies that suggest exercise is just as effective in treating depression as taking an antidepressant for those with mild to moderate depression. That being said medication can be an important part of treating depression. You can learn more about medications for depression here. Therapy can also play an important role in treating depression. Often times, when people are depressed there are negative biases or distortions in their thinking, for example, thinking that they are a failure. Traditional cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can help people challenge these types of thoughts by examining the evidence and coming up with a healthier, more realistic way of thinking. Third-wave cognitive-behavioral therapies such as acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) help people learn how to use mindfulness skills such as cognitive defusion to notice that these are just thoughts, not facts, and get enough distance from them so that don't get in the way of working towards building a meaningful life.
"We must understand the power of the stories we tell ourselves and differentiate them from the direct experience of life. In this way, we can use thoughts without becoming trapped by them."
You can learn more about depression here. You may be interested in the book, The Mindful Way Through Depression or The Mindful Way Workbook. Another great self-help book is The Mindfulness & Acceptance Workbook for Depression. If you struggle significantly with depression, you might also look into Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), which was developed by Zindel Segal, Mark Williams, and John Teasdale. You can search for a MBCT group in your area here. You can also learn more about managing depression in my book, which can be purchased here.
Please note that this information is intended for informational purposes only. It should not be used as a substitute for psychological or medical care. If you are looking for professional help, visit my resources page for guidance on how to find a therapist. If you are experiencing a mental health emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest ER.