Depression is a state of being that can last for many days, weeks or years. It can impair the ability to function normally in life (doing daily tasks, working, taking care of self and others). When depression is active in a person, even the slightest challenge can feel impossible, the smallest sadness unbearably painful and what once brought joy and connection becomes numb and pleasureless.
Depression can run the spectrum from mild to severe and can also present as seasonal experiences, post-birth episodes, as well as illness-related issues.
Symptoms of Depression
Physically, it can present as loss of energy and fatigue felt most of the day. There may be evidence of slowed speech or slow movement. The body can feel continual, non-specific pain.
Mentally, it shows up as an inability to concentrate or remember details (including times of happiness, love and pleasure) as well as difficulty making decisions, recurring thoughts of suicide or death. Everything can be seen as wrong, irritating, or boring which can trigger anger toward self and others.
Emotionally, it causes overwhelming feelings of moodiness, distress and sadness most of the day. There is a pervasive sense of hopelessness, helplessness, worthlessness or guilt, lack of purpose, emptiness and isolation.
Behaviourally, a person who is depressed can be restless and unable to sit still. They can develop eating disorders or have poor nutritional habits with associated weight issues. Insomnia or its opposite, hypersomnia (too much sleep) can become problematic. A depressed person can lose interest in hobbies or in activities that previously were pleasurable (loss of sexual desire, no motivation to socialise). Accomplishing the most normal task can seem impossibly difficult.
Origins of Depression
The sources of depression are not fully understood but current research (National Institute of Health, USA) has revealed “it is caused by a combination of genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors.” Temporary episodes can also be the result of physical disease or side effects from medications, which resolves with the healing of the illness or stopping the medication.
Other triggers can include:
- high stress or anxiety in life situations including early childhood trauma, job loss, the death of a loved one, financial troubles, or divorce.
- Personal or family history of depression, bipolar disorder, alcoholism, suicide.
- Chronic issues of low self-esteem, constant self-criticism, unexpressed anger or grief and pessimism.
- neurological shifts in the physiology in the brain can alter normal communications networks causing depression. (studyalong with Scientific Reports)
- Genetic links
- diet of excess refined and processed foods
Depression and Suicide
Chronic depression is often accompanied by a high risk of suicide. World Health Organisation statistics estimate there are 350 million sufferers of depression worldwide. Approximately 800,000 (or 2/3) of these cases end in suicide annually.
Warning signs of suicide:
- Thoughts or talk of death or suicide by saying things like “I want out” or “I wish I wasn’t here”.
- Thoughts or talk of self-harm or harm to others.
- Aggressive or reckless behaviour or impulsiveness.
- Change in mood from depressed to inexplicable calm and happiness.
- Putting affairs in order, changing a will, visiting or calling to say goodbye.
Dealing with Depression
Recovery from depression is an incremental process that can be supported by seeking professional support, using prescribed medication, or participating in healing modalities such as Breathwork.
Additional steps to restore balance:
- stay as active as possible and commit to daily exercise;
- set small goals that are realistic to achieve on a daily basis;
- seek out and spend time with trustworthy people who will listen and support;
- reach out to others to minimise isolation;
- be patient, self-compassionate and focus on self-care
- resist making big life decisions (marriage, divorce or job changes) or discuss any big steps with someone who can offer an objective opinion;
- educate yourself about depression in order to better understand it;
- combine physical activity with meditation to increase attention span and concentration (see study).
A hopeful and empowering view
Even in the depths of the suffering that it causes, depression may also serve a positive purpose in our personal evolution. Because depression naturally creates isolation, it can become the source of insight, self-discovery and meaningful self-awareness.
Paul Andrews, an evolutionary psychologist at McMaster University in Canada suggests that depression may serve as “an adaptation for analysing complex problems.” He proposes that taking time for reflection can offer both resolution and new directions of triggering situations.
By going into the underworld of depression and exiting through the wound, the journey to self-awareness can begin ~ unknown