I’m sure I’m going to get some slack for this post…it is what it is. This post is meant to start a conversation but a conversation which should be had with your doctor and preferably with a psychiatrist AND a therapist. The latter two are entities which are often neglected and overlooked. Depression is in fact a disease what I will be discussing is the all to common way we use the term, “I’m depressed.”
This post is also not meant to be a diagnostic tool. This post is meant to cause discussion and hopefully cause some to look within at their lives and learn to control what they can, let go of what they cannot and as the Serenity Prayer states, “to learn to know the difference.”
True depression is no joke and should not ever be confused with the ups and down which are naturally occurring in life. There are stressors beyond our realm of control and there are those not only within our realm of control but often caused by our own actions such as posts we make on Facebook or the time we decided to drink too much and drive causing our arrest.
I’m depressed. I hear this stated several times each day, every day. Of course I’m a therapist and I’m supposed to hear this statement everyday. The problem is most people who make this statement are not depressed. Most aren’t even sad. They have on the other hand been perhaps dealt a bad hand but more than likely we simply haven’t received what we thought we were due.
I grew up in the sixties and don’t recall hearing this statement. To be fair, those individuals who were legitimately suffering from depression never told anyone and probably didn’t seek help. There certainly weren’t any television commercials touting the symptoms of depression and suggesting you go and see your doctor because you needed medication.
My dad was born in 1939. He was born with polio, retired for medical reasons in 1990 and today at the age of 76 is unable to walk. His legs will not support his weight and his only mode of transportation is a battery-powered scooter. I recall my dad telling me about a specific conversation his father had had with him. He said, “Don, you’re going to get up everyday and decide what kind of day you’re going to have and how you’re going to allow people to treat you. If you want to be treated like a victim then be a victim.” My father reminded me of this story when I complained about not wanting to go to school, how I was being bullied or the math test which I tried in vain to avoid.
Today we live in a society where the value system shared by many is one of complaining how bad my life is. There is no end to the support groups and self-help books which remind us how resilient we can be and how we all have the tools to be successful in life.
For my therapy career which has spanned almost 30-years, I have always referred to the self-help genre as “feel good” books. We purchase said books, read said books and we feel better…for anywhere from a few days to a few months. Because we usually change nothing but expect miracles to happen we are ultimately disappointed in the book and its author. We write a negative review on Amazon.com, tell others not to waste their money and go on feeling, in many cases sorry for ourselves. We visit our doctor and tell him/her we haven’t been sleeping/eating well and that we “feel depressed.” We leave the office with a prescription for a medication which often not only has side effects but does not work effectively because we do not have a true diagnosis of depression.
What is depression? Below are the symptoms of depression:
Sadness or depressed mood most of the day or almost every day
Loss of enjoyment in things that were once pleasurable
Major change in weight (gain or loss of more than 5% of weight within a month) or appetite
Insomnia or excessive sleep almost every day
Physical restlessness or sense of being rundown that is noticeable by others
Fatigue or loss of energy almost every day
Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness or excessive guilt almost every day
Problems with concentration or making decisions almost every day
Recurring thoughts of death or suicide, suicide plan, or suicide attempt
Five (or more) of the following symptoms have been present during the same 2-week period and represent a change from previous functioning; at least one of the symptoms is either (1) depressed mood or (2) loss of interest or pleasure.
If you have any of these symptoms, schedule an appointment with your doctor AND a therapist. It’s important to address any underlying causes of depression. In future posts I’ll cover Adjustment Disorders and Major Depression.