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Understanding Depression

28201632 – woman suffering from stress or a headache grimacing in pain as she holds the back of her neck with her other hand to her temple, with copyspace

Margaret collapsed onto a couch after sending her kids to school. She could hardly make sense of her jumbled thoughts. “I’m exhausted.” “My husband is too busy to notice.” “The kids don’t help.” “I never get time for myself.” “I’m so lonely…but there’s no one to talk to.” After several minutes she looked at the clock and willed herself off the couch to head to her retail job, reminding herself that she had a pretty good life. “Then why am I so unhappy? Why does everything feel like such a chore?”

Here’s a sobering statistic. Major depression, the form that is severe and most debilitating, affects some 300 million people around the world and 21.4 million Americans (6.7% of the population) each year.  And studies show that between 15% to 25% of the population will experience major depression at some time during their lives. And I’m not even talking about more mild forms of depression that go undetected because so many sufferers continue to function and lead somewhat normal lives.

Depression can occur to anyone, at any age, gender, race or ethnic and socio-economic background. It affects more people and causes more suffering than any other illness—physical or mental—known to humankind. Not only does depression squeeze the joy of life out of us, but it decreases our ability to function and leads to a variety of other emotional and physical problems.

Depression and Shame

But here is the worst part. People who are depressed too often conclude that there is something wrong with them. They feel shame, like they are broken and unworthy which not only aggravates the depression but makes it hard to talk about or seek help.

However, the truth is that depression is not a sign of personal weakness but an illness (like kidney failure, high blood pressure, or cardiovascular disease) in which the brain lacks chemicals like serotonin and norepinephrine that regulate happiness, motivation and self-esteem. Although the causes vary, there is something real going on in the mind and brain that needs to be treated.

And here is the good news. Depression is very treatable. Most people who take steps to overcome their depression will experience a full remission—whether on their own or with the help of a professional.

In this article, I want to help you understand depression, it’s symptoms and causes. In my next article, I’m going to teach you the actions you can take to both prevent and overcome this malady that wears you down and strangles your enjoyment of life.

 Symptoms of Depression

Depression revolves around a constellation of symptoms that have to do with how we think, feel and act. Brain physiology is altered and hormones surge, disrupting normal rhythms of mind and body and leading to disturbances in sleep, concentration, appetite, energy, self-esteem, emotional regulation and interest in life.

Although the symptoms will vary in severity, below is a checklist of the most common. Be aware that reading a list of symptoms does not really capture the totality of the anguish that a severely depressed person may feel.

  • Fatigue, low energy and motivation
  • Numb or dulled feelings and loss of pleasure or interest in anything
  • Sadness, feeling down in the dumps for long periods of time
  • Poor appetite or overeating
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • Low self-esteem and confidence; sense of failure and worthlessness
  • Isolation and withdrawal
  • Hopeless about future
  • Self-injuring, suicidal thoughts and sometimes actions

Male Pattern Depression

For years mental health professionals believed that women were more likely to be depressed than men. Perhaps this is because women are more likely to talk about their feelings and seek treatment. However, research from studies of thousands of men and reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association concludes that men are just as likely to experience depression although their symptoms often demonstrate:

  • Agitation and irritability
  • Reactivity and blame
  • Aggression
  • Risk-taking
  • Substance abuse
  • Workaholism

So, don’t be fooled. Such aggressive forms of behavior often mask deeper feelings of hopelessness, isolation and loss of interest in life and may mean that men experience depression as much as women.

What Causes Depression?

 It is natural for people to be curious about the causes of their depression. Some causes relate clearly to one’s situation and life events—loss or chronic stress. At other times depression seems to come out of the blue for unexplainable reasons. For most people, depression is caused by multiple factors, like those listed below:

  • Genetics. Science tells us that as much as 40% of depression is linked to genetics. If a parent or close family member has been depressed, it increases the likelihood that you’ll be depressed.
  • Hormones. The likelihood of a woman becoming depressed increases during the reproductive years and is associated with menstruation, child-birth or perimenopause. This risk declines following menopause.
  • Chronic stress. Depression and anxiety go hand-in-hand. Living with the ongoing stresses of modern life can wear us down and eventually lower serotonin and increase cortisol in the brain leading to depression.
  • Loss. Any type of loss may result in depression. Most obvious is loss of a loved one, but loss may also include job, health or status. More insidious is loss of one’s hopes and dreams—be it career, marriage, living situation, how kids turn out, etc. We either come to terms with such losses or slip, albeit imperceptibly, into the shadows of depression.
  • Social isolation. Feeling lonely is highly correlated with depression. When human connection is missing, even if around other people, we are far more likely to feel depressed. Unfortunately, our feelings of loneliness are increasing in our modern society with people withdrawing from active involvement in community organizations and turning inward. More Americans say they have no close friends in spite of our participation in social media.
  • Lack of meaningful work.  According to a massive study by the Gallop Organization in 2012, only 13% of people feel like they do meaningful work. Most people report that their work is monotonous, repetitive and unfulfilling which often leads to a sense of boredom and even depression.
  • Personality predisposition. Perfectionists are more likely to be depressed. Likewise, those who are accommodating, conscientious, worry-prone, and hard-working. These people set high standards for themselves and, if not careful, feel like they can never do/be enough, tell-tale signs of depression.
  • Unresolved traumas from the past. Upsetting childhood or earlier life events make us more susceptible to depression, especially when deep and unresolved emotions are involved. Painful feelings are often suppressed until into adulthood when they begin to resurface. Our attempts to avoid or resist them often lead to depression.
  • Poor health care. Poor nutrition and self-care can contribute to depression. Some studies have found that diets high in sugar or low in omega 3 fatty acids are associated with depression. Likewise, lack of exercise and abuse of substances contribute.
  • Superficial Values and Social Comparing. We live in a competitive society in which it is easy to judge ourselves based on how others are doing—whether it be material success, beauty, status, athletic fetes, popularity or what not. Social media certainly contributes to this phenomenon. Comparing means we look outside ourselves for validation and feelings of success which often results in self-criticism and not feeling good enough.

 Three Dynamics that Keep us Trapped in Depression

 Irrespective of the specific causes, there are three dynamics that not only contribute to depression but make it difficult to escape. Understanding these three factors will help you know what it is like to be depressed and also frame the most important work to loosen its grip.

First, is negative and distorted thinking. Depression is not so much a disorder of mood but of perception. People who are depressed view the world through a negative filter that influences everything they see, feel and do. This filter originates in the limbic system of the brain, which evolved to protect us from the threats and dangers of life but also robs us of hope, optimism and confidence. Negative thinking colors everything and makes it difficult to enjoy life. Challenging this distorted thinking is perhaps the most important and effective treatment of depression.

Second, the emotions of depression are addictive. Our bodies literally memorize such hormonal or feeling states as sadness, emptiness, hopelessness, and self-distain. Although we hate these feelings, they become so powerful that it is difficult for the conscious mind to override them. They become default emotional states which crowd out more pleasant emotions. Overcoming depression has much to do with putting ourselves in new feeling states, incompatible with the feelings of depression.

Third, people who are depressed are trapped in a catch 22. They need to take action to overcome their state and yet they lack motivation. They feel fatigued, low energy and a loss of interest in life and so have a difficult time mustering up the motivation to do what they need to do to feel better. And yet, doing something different is exactly what the doctor ordered. They must act in new ways to feel better.

So, notice the pattern that I’m describing. Distorted thinking, negative, memorized feelings and inaction not only characterize depression but make it difficult to overcome. So many people like Margaret (opening paragraph) feel burdened by life and yet quite powerless to free themselves from the clutches of depression.

But there is so much hope. In my next article, I’ll teach you some powerful strategies to both avoid and overcome depression. The strategies get at the heart of these three patterns and are essential to feeling and doing better.

By: Roger K. Allen
Roger K. Allen, Ph.D. is an expert in personal transformation and family development. His tools and methods have helped tens of thousands of people live happier and more effective lives. To learn more, visit www.rogerkallen.com>.

Source: Understanding Depression

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Everyone feels worried or anxious at some time and it’s not always easy to tell if you are experiencing anxiety or depression. Dr. Michael Marcus, psychiatrist for Kaiser Permanente in Portland, Ore., explains the symptoms and how to identify the differences between anxiety and depression.

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I’m Not Broken, But I’m Definitely Glitching

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They’re right. I’m not broken. It’s not that I can’t be fixed. It’s not that I can’t overcome my anxiety. It’s not that there is no hope and I should just be thrown out like the pieces of my favorite porcelain mug that I accidentally dropped. I can be put back together and there’s a great possibility that I will one day return to my former, non-anxiety-filled self.

I’m not broken, but I’m definitely glitching.

definition of the word glitch

I can’t wake up, get myself ready for the day and get things done, without some sort of malfunction. Anxiety has been a constant disruption in my daily life, for years now.

Some days it’s the inability to stop working long enough for a little self-care. Other days, my anxiety level is so high, I have to lay down or cry, or a combination of the two. Then, there are the days when I have errands to run, but have to continuously tell myself that I won’t have a panic attack while we’re on our way to the store, inside of the store, or on the way home from the store.

I’m not broken, but I’m definitely not ok.

My mind’s first reaction to just about any invitation, experience or opportunity is fear. Pure fear. Fear that I’ll have a panic attack in front of people. Fear that they will talk about me. Fear that they will stare. Fear that my kids will witness it. Fear of how far our car will be from wherever we are and whether or not I can get back to it quickly, if I need to. Fear of waiting on a line that might be one minute too long and I’ll have to walk out of the store, because the anticipation of the anxiety attack has already overcome me and I know I can’t come back from that.

I know I’m not broken, but sometimes I don’t believe it.

Every morning, I tell myself that this is not permanent. Nothing in life is. Tomorrow will be better. I will overcome something big today and celebrate my victories, no matter how small. With each victory, every obstacle ahead will seem easier and easier. I don’t have to settle for what anxiety has brought into my days.

I’m not broken. I’m just glitching and glitches can be fixed.

When a computer glitches, we restart or reset it. I just need to restart myself, clear my memory of the thoughts and feelings that seem to be the root of the problem. If I can get rid of whatever combination of factors that created the glitch in the first place, I can restore myself to the time when I didn’t have a care in the world.

But what are they? How do I find them and more importantly, how do I drag them to the trash?

My faith is bigger than my anxiety.

I have faith that one day, those obstacles won’t be an issue anymore.

Fear won’t be an issue anymore.

Anxiety won’t be an issue anymore.

I refuse to believe that anxiety will cause a total system failure. I have too much life left to live. Too much to see. Too many places I want to travel to. Too much to say to too many others like me who are reading this and know exactly what I’m feeling.

We may be glitching, but we aren’t broken.

Heather is the Mom of three and a marketing professional. She enjoys graphic design, writing, photography and making new memories with her family.

When Everyone Abandons You — The Bipolar Writer Mental Health Blog

A realization came to me in mid-December. Someone I was close to, had spoken to almost every day for a year and a half, began ignoring me. It was easy to notice. I stepped away from all social media not wanting to be reminded that I’m being ignored. Maybe I said something that bothered this […]

via When Everyone Abandons You — The Bipolar Writer Mental Health Blog

What Stress, Change, And Isolation Do To Your Brain – Christine Comaford

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Change happens. Adversity happens. Conflict happens. Then your brain and body tries to cope with it. Your brain releases stress hormones, like cortisol, which then fire up excessive cell-signaling cytokines which alter your physiology. Suddenly your ability to regulate your behavior and emotions is compromised. Your ability to pay attention is compromised, your memory, learning, peace, happiness are all compromised. Why? Because all that change has caused your system to be overloaded with stress…….

Read more: https://www.forbes.com/sites/christinecomaford/2018/10/20/what-stress-change-and-isolation-do-to-your-brain/#2f51c4481940

 

 

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Why You Should Be Using Worry Time To Help Tackle Anxiety – Me Against Myself

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During my recent studies and research on anxiety I came across the notion of ‘Worry Time’. To begin with, this baffled me. Why would I put aside time to worry each day? Surely this seems counter-productive when you suffer with anxiety? Surely you don’t want to be having extra time to worry when you already suffer with anxiety? This isn’t the case at all. In fact, when I read about worry time I felt suspicious about whether or not this would work but nonetheless I decided to give it a go. In this article, I am going to describe the process of worry time and why I think it’s important and a great way to start tackling your anxiety……

Read more: https://meagainstmyself.blog/2018/09/18/why-you-should-be-using-worry-time-to-help-tackle-anxiety/

 

 

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How to Support a Partner Struggling with Depression – Eric Ravenscraft

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Being in a romantic relationship when one (or both) of you suffer from depression is a massive challenge. Depression can make your partner seem distant. They may feel like they’re a burden or close themselves off. None of that means your relationship is the problem. You two can tackle this together. Here’s how…..

Read more: https://lifehacker.com/how-to-support-a-partner-struggling-with-depression-1717700336

 

 

 

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The Neuroscience of Depression in the Brain – Emma Allen

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Depression is a multifaceted and insidious disorder, nearly as complex as the brain itself. As research continues to suggest, the onset of depression can be attributed to an interplay of the many elements that make us human—namely, our genetics, the structure and chemistry of our brains, and our lived experience. Second only, perhaps, to the confounding mechanics of anesthesia, depression is the ultimate mind-body problem; understanding how it works could unlock the mysteries of human consciousness.

Emma Allen, a visual artist, and Dr. Daisy Thompson-Lake, a clinical neuroscientist, are fascinated by the physical processes that underlie mental health conditions. Together, they created Adam, a stop-motion animation composed of nearly 1,500 photographs. The short film illuminates the neuroscience of depression while also conveying its emotive experience.

“It was challenging translating the complicated science into an emotional visual story with scenes that would flow smoothly into each other,” Allen told The Atlantic.

“One of the most complex issues we had to deal with,” added Thompson-Lake, “is that there no single neuroscientific explanation for depression…While scientists agree that there are biological and chemical changes within the brain, the actual brain chemistry is very unique to the individual—although, of course, we can see patterns when studying large numbers of patients.” As a result, Allen and Thompson-Lake attempted a visual interpretation of depression that does not rely too heavily on any one explanation.

The film’s first sequence depicts the brain’s vast network of neuronal connections. Neurons communicate via synapses, across which electrical and chemical signals are exchanged. In a depressed patient’s brain, some of these processes are inefficient or dysfunctional, as the animation illustrates. Next, we see a positron emission tomography (PET) scan of a depressed brain, demarcated by darkened areas. Finally, the animation shows activity in the hippocampus and the frontal lobe. Abnormalities in the activity of both of these areas of the brain have been implicated in depression by recent research.

For Allen, one of the main objectives in creating Adam was to help dispel the notion that depression is a character flaw. “A common misconception is that the person is at fault for feeling this way, and that to ask for help is a weakness or embarrassing,” Allen said. “But depression has a physical component that needs treating.”

“The shame surrounding mental health still exists,” Allen continued. “In fact, in the case of Kate Spade, it was reported that she was concerned about the stigma her brand might face if this were made public.”

And who, exactly, is Adam? “Daisy lost a friend to suicide,” said Allen, “so the film is named in his memory.”

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6 Ways To Cope With Depression & Lift Your Mood

how to cope with depression when you're feeling down

Some days, you just can’t bear to feel depressed for another minute. Are you looking for some things that you can do to help with depression when you simply can’t stay down?

Do you have days where you wake up depressed and wonder how you are going to get through your day? Where you know that you have to function but you just don’t know how?

When it comes to coping with depression, here are 6 things you can do right now to lift your mood and bring yourself out of it — even for just a few moments:

1. Get some exercise.

 

One of the quickest and most effective ways to alleviate depression is getting some exercise.

Exercise produces endorphins, which are chemicals that elevate your mood. So, simply put, it’s mighty difficult to be depressed when endorphins are racing through your body.

And don’t think that you have to go for a long run or hit the gym — although you certainly can. Research shows that all it takes is 30 minutes of exercise that raises your heart rate to get those endorphins raging.

So go for a walk, dance around your living room, and play with your kids. Do whatever you can do get that heart rate elevated and those endorphins activated.


RELATED: How To Deal With Depression And Anger At The Same Time


2. Eat a good breakfast.

Eating when you are depressed can seem almost impossible. But eating a healthy and protein-filled breakfast is an excellent way to elevate your mood.

Seratonin, another chemical mood enhancer, is produced by the breakdown of proteins in the body. Eating a protein-rich breakfast will, like exercise, produce chemicals in your body that alleviate depression.

So make yourself some eggs for breakfast. Or maybe some yogurt with fruit and nuts. Perhaps a chia seed pudding. Even cereal with milk will give you a good protein and serotonin boost first thing in the morning to get you on your way.

3. Have sex.

 

There are two things that happen when you have sex. The first is that you feel emotionally connected to someone and the second is that your orgasm generates all sorts of feel-good chemicals — chemicals that, once again, counteract that depressed feeling.

The other thing that happens is that sex keeps your mind off your depression and an excellent way to get rid of depression is to ignore it completely. Without your attention depression tends to slink away, unhappy that it isn’t occupying your every thought.

So have sex. You will be glad you did!

4. Schedule a coffee with a friend.

I know that when you are feeling depressed, getting out and talking with someone, anyone, seems daunting. But it has been proven that spending time with loved ones elevates one’s mood every time.

When we spend time with friends, the love, and laughter that we share trigger those feel-good chemicals, dopamine, and serotonin. So just by interacting with someone, sharing words and thoughts and laughs, you can raise your mood.


RELATED: 5 Ways To Hold Up Your End Of The Relationship When You Have Depression


5. Smile.

 

Did you know that the act of smiling actually elevates one’s mood?

The act of smiling, of your muscles working together to turn your mouth upwards, activates the release of those mood-enhancing chemicals — dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin. Once again, your body will be flooded with things that will reduce your depression immediately.

6. Do something nice for someone else.

An excellent way to lift your depression is to do something nice for someone else.

This world that we live in can be a very challenging place, with people rushing around with their own agendas, caught up in their worries. You are probably that way too.

So think about what it feels like when someone does something nice for you.

How about that gentleman who opened the door for you? Or the barista who put an extra shot in your cup, no charge. Or the lady who ushered you forward in the grocery line because you only had one item. Didn’t those small things make you feel great?

Do those kinds of small things for someone else and make someone else’s life a better place. By doing so, you will once again activate those feel-good chemicals in your body, ones that will wash that depression away.

So you see, there are things that you can do to help get rid of depression when you simply can’t be down.

Get some exercise, eat well, fool around, hang out with friends, smile and help others. All of those things will take you outside of yourself and make you feel better.

You can do it!

However, if your depression doesn’t get lifted, or it comes back, it is essential that you see your primary care doctor right away, to make sure that it doesn’t get worse and so that you can be happy.


RELATED: 5 Things You Must Try Before Turning To Mood-Boosting Medicines


Mitzi Bockmann is an NYC-based Certified Life Coach and mental health advocate. She works exclusively with women to help them to be all that they want to be in this crazy world in which we live. Contact her for help or email her at mitzi@letyourdreamsbegin.com.

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