Do I Have Depression? Depression Explained

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Do I have depression? That was the question I googled daily for weeks. My co-workers were all lining up to get this amazing medication that brings sunshine instead of black clouds.

I wanted sunshine too.

But is that what they got? I know I didn’t. People want to know how depression happens, and they believe the “professionals” who tell them all they need are pills and things will get better.

I have my own opinions about how people get depressed and how to fix it. But let’s talk depression basics first.

Hello and welcome to Fearlessly Holistic

My name is Irma and I want to share my journey to improved health by eating whole foods, moving my body and eliminating stress as much as possible.

It is my hope to inspire you to make daily changes.

Why? Because eating fresh, seasonal food and getting some sunshine is the best way to increase longevity. But you do not want just a long life.

You want a quality long life.

My blog posts are my opinion and the results of things that I have tried that either worked for me or didn’t. My opinions are for informational purposes only and are not intended as medical advice.
Medical advice should always be obtained from a qualified medical professional for any health conditions or symptoms associated with them. As well, there may be affiliate links in this post. Read more here.

 

*NOTE* If you are having problems and think that you may harm yourself or others please call 911 and ask to be directed to a mental health professional. Over-the-phone, online, and email counseling options are available to most people.

 

Why Is Everyone Depressed These Days?

The dictionary defines depression as: “feelings of severe despondency and dejection”.

Despondency is defined as “a state of low spirits caused by loss of hope or courage”.

Dejection is defined as “a sad and depressed state; low spirits”.

So a person with depression has a low mood and may feel hopeless about life.

  • Do you know someone who has depression?
  • Have you or someone in your family been diagnosed with depression?
  • Is it just feeling sad all the time?
  • Why can’t people just snap out of it?

Even if we are dealing with depression in ourselves or our families, we may not know what it really is.

Depression is said to be the most widespread mental disorder. It affects women far more than men, and is particularly prevalent in teens.

Do I Have Depression?
PIN IT!! Do I Have Depression?

What Causes Depression?

There are various opinions on what causes depression, and even the role of brain chemicals is debated.

Generally, though, depression can be separated into two categories: circumstantial and clinical.

Circumstantial depression refers to feelings surrounding an event, such as

  • A death in the family
  • Having to sell one’s house and move.
  • Kids having trouble with friends at school
  • The elderly in a nursing home

Circumstantial depression is also highly individualized, meaning different people react differently in similar circumstances.

Clinical depression defies circumstances and the depressed person may feel more depressed because he or she can’t find a reason for such dreadful feelings.

Clinical depression may baffle those around the patient, too, because they can’t understand how a person could be depressed when his or her life seems to be going fine.

This lack of understanding may make the patient’s depression worse.

Some people get depression after an accident, like a car or workplace accident.

Head injuries can often cause long term depression. A friend of mine slipped on some ice and banged the back of head. She said she didn’t feel right in head for many years after.

I think in that case (head injury) the appropriate treatment is medication.

In my case, my depression was caused by, and exacerbated by, multiple circumstances. It started with work problems, and was made worse by a family death and then changing cities (and jobs).

I did one of those online tests that rates your stress, like this one from The American Institute of Stress.

My score was over 300. I knew I needed help.

In case you are not sure whether I am qualified to talk depression, I believe I am.

I was on anti-depressants for over six years. They did not help, and made some things much worse.

I believe that medication for garden-variety depression is unnecessary and usually unwarranted.

A patient cured is a customer lost.
Sad but true. Cartoon by Dan Piraro from Bizarro comics.

You feel great for a couple of weeks…then you don’t. They call that the “honeymoon” period. Then it wears off.

So you go back to your doctor for a check up and you get a new prescription. And then another one after that.

If you have to keep going back to a doctor for new meds because the old ones don’t work anymore…that’s BS, not help.

I’ve tried 6 different brands of these pills, and none helped.

It took me a couple of years to wean off of those drugs, which is a side-effect they don’t tell you when they hand you your samples.

I was also prescribed sleeping pills. They left a metallic taste, and were super hard to quit. It took a further six months to wean off of those pills.

Quitting these medications brought anxiety and panic disorder to the surface (the anti depressants may have been masking these issues).

From start to finish, I had depression for almost 15 years.

I don’t get depressed, or have anxiety or panic disorder anymore.

Myths About Depression

There are a lot of myths surrounding depression that, when explained, help people better understand the illness. For example:

Isn’t depression just self-pity?

Depressed people may seem to be “wallowing” in their sadness, but it’s not willful self-pity. It’s a true medical illness, sources point out, that should be treated as such.

Medication for depression is overkill, and just treats the symptoms

For those on the outside, so to speak, medication can seem like putting a Band-Aid on a massive wound.

But often, medication is what the patient needs to feel good enough to seek help for the underlying problem.

What that means is that while you are feeling good during that honeymoon period on medication, you may seek and find lasting help.

FYI: Anti-depressants are meant to be short term help, not a long term solution. However Big Pharma don’t get rich if you are “cured”…(see cartoon above).

Depression is not a “real” illness

Actually, it is; brain imaging studies have revealed how the actual chemical imbalances occur in the brain of a depressed person.

*Note* These imbalances do not have to be permanent.

It is considered physiological, even if the cause is circumstantial – the chemical imbalance may still be present regardless of the depression’s origin.

Other Factors

Depression can be affected not only by circumstances; genetics, personality, psychology, and biology may also play a role.

Women are far more likely to be diagnosed with depression, indicating possible hormonal factors.

(Personally, I think women get more depression because we tend to prioritize others over ourselves. I’m not saying that we should, only that we do. If this sounds like you, consider starting a self-care routine).

Men, on the other hand, are more likely to succeed in suicide as a result of depression than women, although more women than men attempt suicide, sources report.

I personally believe that my depression was merely an inability to cope with my circumstances.

Once I started down the path to “taking care of business”, my depression went away.

I understand that many people do require medication, but I think those pills keep people from learning how to better cope with their situations.

Depression as a Symptom – What Your Depression Could Be Telling You

*Please take this section with a grain of salt. While depression may be indicative of health issues, most people will not have any of these health issues when depressed. This is informational only*

Woman walking in the woods, looking downDepression itself is a disorder with its own set of symptoms; but depression can also be a symptom in and of itself.

There are various health and lifestyle issues of which depression is an indication or “side effect.”

Cancerous Tumors

A recent study using laboratory rats indicated that tumors can have psychological effects as well as physiological ones – and that’s not just depression over the knowledge or diagnosis of the cancerous tumor.

According to the study, the tumor itself may generate chemicals that induce depression. These chemicals then make their way to the brain where they affect those areas responsible for emotions.

Also, tumors may inhibit the production of corticosterone, which is a stress hormone that decreases the effects of other depression-causing substances.

This study indicates that cancerous tumors can physically trigger depression; thus, depression may be a symptom of the presence of cancer.

Thyroid Problems

Hypothyroidism, or an under-active thyroid, may cause depression, sources say. Depression and hypothyroidism also share a number of symptoms, such as:

  • Fatigue
  • Weight gain
  • Weakness
  • Menstrual irregularities

Depression is included in the list of symptoms for hypothyroidism.

If the main thing you seem to be struggling with is depression, your doctor may prescribe antidepressants and not consider your thyroid.

If depression is accompanied by any of the following symptoms, you may want to talk to your doctor about having your thyroid function tested.

  • Dry, flaky skin
  • Hoarseness and/or difficulty speaking
  • Discomfort on swallowing (the thyroid is located on the front of the throat)
  • Thinning hair
  • Inability to tolerate cold, or feeling cold all the time
  • Joint pain

Please note that the above symptoms also indicate a lack of nutrients in the diet.

Switching to a diet with more fresh, whole foods and quality, pastured meats can improve multiple health issues.

Stress

Too much stress may lead to depression, sources warn. “Stress” is such a generalized term, and seems to be common to everyone.

Many people who feel depressed may not think to look to their lifestyle as the possible culprit. In other words, stress has become the new norm.

I believe that we would have far less stress if we would just sort through our issues more often.

Not dealing with problems, like hating your job or having an annoying neighbor, means that you can’t file that issue away as “done”.

I think of my brain as a giant filing cabinet, with “to-do” items laying around the cabinet, waiting to be dealt with and filed. If you don’t deal with them, eventually you can no longer get into the cabinet.

That was my depression…unfinished paperwork! And I had all of the following symptoms:

Some signs that your depression may be due to stress include:

  • Nightmares and/or sleep disturbances
  • Inability to sleep
  • Irritability
  • Isolation and withdrawal
  • A sense of regret or guilt
  • Feeling overwhelmed

Pregnancy

Even before you know you’re pregnant, depression can present itself as the hormonal changes begin to take place in your body.

Depression may not be the first sign, but it could be one of the early signs that you are pregnant.

This is especially important to note for women who may seek treatment for depression without considering the possibility of pregnancy.

Be aware that antidepressants have been implicated in birth defects and other problems in pregnancy.

If there’s any possibility that you may be pregnant, make sure you tell your doctor when you go in for treatment or help with your depression.

The Dangers of Depression

Names for Depression
Names for Depression

There are definite dangers associated with depression.

It can affect nearly all ages, with some groups and demographics being more susceptible than others (women are more likely to develop depression than men, for example, and teens are said to be more prone to depression than adults).

Medications can also present their own list of risky side effects.

Watch for these depression side-effects if you know someone who seems depressed.

Suicide

This may be the “ultimate” danger associated with depression – it’s considered by many to be the most extreme manifestation of the disorder.

Depressed people may convince themselves that they just aren’t worth enough to live, or that their friends and family will be better off without them. Warning signs of suicide include:

  • Preoccupation with death – person constantly talks about death or conducts extensive research into the afterlife, methods of suicide, and other related subjects
  • Gathering belongings and giving them away
  • Cleaning out and “getting things in order” for no apparent reason
  • Continual speaking about death, the afterlife, or other similar things

Loss of Job and Income

Depression can be debilitating … trust me on this. It is mentally crippling and once you stop making decisions, it feels impossible to even make small decisions.

I remember being so overwhelmed that I would sneak over to a local gas station convenience store, late in the evening, to buy food for my kids lunch. Shopping at a large grocery store was out of the question.

My anxiety about being around crowds made leaving my home almost unbearable.

The depressed person feels worthless and unmotivated, and may call in sick frequently or not show up for work (me).

They may be late or be unable to face difficulties during the workday (me).

Depression can cause a person to be indecisive and unable to concentrate, which could be extremely dangerous in certain types of work (me).

Losing a job may then exacerbate the person’s depression. The loss of income could affect the amount of medical attention and medication he or she is able to afford.

Medications

While medication can save lives, it can also pose serious and/or dangerous side effects.

Antidepressants tend to have fewer side effects than SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), but antidepressants may, ironically, induce suicidal thoughts.

Several years ago, a popular antidepressant was called on the carpet for indirectly causing the actual suicides of many people who took it. SSRIs may cause bad headaches, temporary or chronic diarrhea, insomnia, nausea, and/or nervousness and agitation.

There are a lot of side-effects to these medications. Personally, I think they are crap.

I can say that because none of ones that I took helped me…at all.

And the side effects made me feel worse about myself. One of my prescriptions gave me wild mood swings and I was really horrible to people. I still feel bad about that.

In addition to depression drugs, many doctors prescribe sleeping pills, uppers, and other drugs that piggy-back off of each other. It’s a cocktail of weird chemicals on top of an inability to cope. #wrongapproach

Self-Neglect

Depressed people have a tendency to neglect their own health and care.

They may not have the energy or focus to keep their homes clean, eat well, or care for their body. Because of this self-neglect, depressed individuals may be more susceptible to illness.

I can relate that because we ate a lot of fast or convenience food while I was recovering.

Depression In Children

Many people wonder if kids can really get depressed. But experts and pediatricians point out that children really can get depressed, and may be afflicted with the true illness of depression.

What Causes Kids to Succumb to Depression?

As in adults, depression may have multiple causes or one cause that varies among individuals.

  • Children may have inherited a tendency toward depression; a trigger may cause it to surface.
  • Children can become depressed during a divorce or separation
  • Bullying at school is a big reason for depression in children.
  • A child with a tendency toward perfectionism may be more prone to depression due to perceived failures.

Warning signs of depression in kids.

Parents should be vigilant for any talk about suicide or morbid fascination with death.

Pay attention to any television and movies that are watched multiple times on subjects like suicide or death. Yes, lot’s of TV and movies discuss death but we’re talking about chronically watching a disturbing show over and over.

  • Sleep disturbances or changes in sleep habits
  • Sudden increase or decrease in appetite
  • Angry outbursts and/or irritability
  • Lack of interest in social activities or friends
  • “Touchy” about perceived rejection

Understanding Depression In Teens

In the case of teens, adults may attribute symptoms of depression to normal teen emotional swings. This age group is considered particularly prone to depression.

This may be due in part to the hormonal upheavals that occur during the teen years.

It’s easy for adults to take this information and think “it’s just hormones” and not look further.

Experts agree that depression, regardless of its cause, is something that should be addressed and treated.

  • Teens also deal with bullying at school. “Harmless” teasing may not be harmless to them.
  • They may be experiencing their first crush, or rejection from the opposite sex.
  • Maybe nothing is particularly wrong in the teen’s life, but his or her brain just seems to run in a depressed mode.
  • Teens are very prone to self-esteem issues. Help them to gain some “wins” by giving them things to do that they can successfully complete.
Do Not Disturb
Do Not Disturb

Some of the signs of depression in teens are like those in children and some are different.

As with children, parents of teens should be keenly aware of any indications of suicidal thoughts.

  • Weight loss or gain
  • Over-exercise and/or obsessive dieting
  • Binge eating
  • Angry outbursts/yelling at parents
  • Withdrawal from social activities and family

Signs and Symptoms of Depression

How do you know when you’re just having a hard time and are stressed out, or if it’s something more serious? When is it clinical depression?

I had to fight my way out of my depression. It took several years, and a few different self-help programs, but I did it.

I will straight up tell you that at the core of my depression was a hatred of my job.

However, whenever I tried to talk to friends and family I got the “you are so lucky to have a full-time job with benefits in this economy” speech.

Thanks to my well meaning friends, I stayed in a job I hated for far longer than I should have, because I felt trapped. No wonder I was depressed!

  • My friends told me I was crazy to want to live in the tropics.
  • I would be an irresponsible parent to pull my kid away from a good school to travel around the world.

Maybe it would have been crazy…and maybe it would have been great. I will never know.

What I do know is this: never take advice from people who do not have to live with the consequences.

And that includes you reading my advice. That’s the stuff that causes resentment and regret.

Here are some signs and symptoms of depression that can signal your need to see a doctor.

Morning Blues

According to medical sources, feeling particularly depressed in the morning is a sign that you may have depression.

Feeling sad all day is also part of depression, but the morning blues – perhaps making you just want to stay in or go back to bed – are particularly likely to be connected with depression.

Keep in mind that if you hate your job, you may feel like this every Monday morning, but feel fine on weekends. It could be job burnout.

Anger

Many people don’t realize that recent research points to a connection between anger and depression. Blowing up and yelling at people without being able to control it may signify depression.

If you are not taking care of things (i.e “filing”), you might be angry about the same issues over and over.

Irritability

Slightly different from anger, irritability is more about feeling snappish or easily frustrated and/or annoyed than angry blow-ups.

Irritability connected to depression may make you feel really on edge all the time.

Overwhelm

Do you find yourself wanting to give up because things seem like they’re just too much? Do you say, “I just can’t take anymore,” often?

Depression can make you feel overwhelmed and over-stressed even when your schedule is not terribly demanding. Even a simple request for you to do something may send you over the edge and make you feel super-stressed.

If your home is a mess, you might want to try de-cluttering for a small “win”.

I found this to be extremely helpful, because clutter represents an inability to “let go” of things.

If you watch “hoarder” TV shows, almost all of them starting hoarding after a traumatic situation. It was a coping mechanism; hoarding became something that they controlled in a world of chaos.

Feeling Inadequate

People with depression may constantly compare themselves to others.

As noted above, a not-too-demanding schedule may seem overwhelming to a depressed person, thus making the depressed person feel inadequate that he/she can’t handle a schedule that others seem to handle fine.

This sets up a cycle of feeling inadequate.

Insomnia or Excessive Sleepiness

Ironically, depression can cause some people to lose sleep, while it makes others want to sleep all the time (hypersomnia).

Again, and this is my opinion so take it with a grain of salt, I don’t think a cluttered mind can rest normally.

  • Declutter your home
  • Sort your important papers; shred or recycle the rest. Scan important paperwork and save to a USB drive so you can always find them.
  • Get rid of clothes you no longer wear. Consider creating a capsule wardrobe
  • Wash and vacuum your car. Empty your trunk of off-season stuff.
  • Buy a planner and keep track of your to-do list, making sure to check off things that you have completed. This gives you some small wins.

Lack of Interest

Are you just not interested in any outside activities? Are things you once looked forward to just burdensome things you have to trudge through and get done?

This may mean you have depression. Consider going to a park and walk around in nature. If you are near a river or lake, sit with your eyes closed and listen to water splashing on the shore. Listen for the sounds of birds or children playing. Tap into relaxation.

Ya, it sounds woo-woo, but humans are supposed to be outside working, not trapped in a cubicle with fake lighting. Try “earthing“.

Changes in Weight

In another irony of depression, both weight loss and weight gain may be symptoms of depression. Generally, if you gain or lose 5% or more of your body weight in a month, it may mean depression.

Keep in mind that sudden weight loss can indicate other health issues, like Type 1 diabetes (children and teens).

Indecision

Depression can make you feel like you can’t make a decision, even simple ones.

Your schedule just seems like gibberish when you look at it; you may not show up for things you have on your calendar or get dates wrong.

Everyone makes mistakes, of course, but if this is a chronic problem or you just can’t seem to get a handle on your schedule even when you sit down and try to figure out what to do and what to skip, it may mean depression.

Inability to Concentrate

Depressed people often have trouble concentrating and focusing. Your mind may wander, even to thoughts of death or suicide, and you may feel like you just can’t get it together.

“Brain fog” is also a symptom of poor diet, which is also a symptom of depression.

Conclusion

I hope that this post has been useful to you. If your life is anything like mine, you know people who are on depression medications. Compare any two depressed people and you will find multiple reasons for how they got depressed and their treatment plans.

This post is an introduction to one mental health issue. I will be posting articles about anxiety and panic disorder in the future.

In my next post, I will be talking treatments for depression, including natural treatments that you can implement even if you are taking prescription medications. Watch for that next week.

Holism targets overall wellness, and when we are well, we only get better with age.

Please share this post with anyone who can benefit from it. Sharing is caring!

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Until next time, here’s to our health!

-Irma

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