Depression can have a profound impact on a person’s psyche as their mind slowly cascades down a slippery slope towards irrationality. It can cause them to lose all sense of hope, enjoyment, and excitement in life. Activities that usually bring joy and vitality begin to feel unappealing and pointless. Family members and loved ones that normally bring happiness may instead be seen as a burden due to the corrupt lens that they are being viewed from. Life, as it is known, changes dramatically.
If a person uses some of the following sentences, then they may possibly be experiencing a state of depression: “I wouldn’t get out of bed if it weren’t for my cats.” “I go to bed, but I don’t really sleep.” “What I eat has no taste.” “I am useless. What good can I do anyway.” “I have no use for my children.” “I don’t remember how long I haven’t communicated with my wife.” “Nobody calls me, and I don’t want to talk to anyone anyway.” “I could not be a good person so far. I don’t think I’ll be of any use in the future, either.” “Everything around me seems to be bleak and dark.” “Everything I used to like, that I thought made me happy, is meaningless now.” “My feelings seem to be taken away.” “I want to move, but I feel like I don’t have the energy.” “I’m distracted, it’s like a battlefield in my head.” “Sometimes I ask myself why I live.”
What is depression?
Depression is a common psychiatric disorder that is often characterized by a sense of incapacity that affects not only the individual but their whole family and even has effects on their broader societies. Throughout daily life, we often hear the phrase “I am depressed.” However, depression is not an illness that can be “entered” and “exited” so easily; it is a disorder that needs to be diagnosed by experts. It is normal for us to undergo mood swings throughout our days, and these differing experiences of sadness, sorrow, or lack of excitement do not necessarily qualify as depression. It is important for us to do our best to understand ourselves and our emotions, specifically what causes us to feel unwell and to learn from these mood swings.
Nowadays, there is a perception as if life should always be experienced in joy and that emotions such as sadness and sorrow are completely pointless and should be avoided at all costs. However, people mature when they face difficulties and can learn to confront their problems, instead of running away from them, as they endure hardship. In fact, most of the time, we discover different aspects and abilities about ourselves during such periods.
Am I depressed?
It is most important to first and foremost state that any person seeking to learn if they do or do not have depression should consult a physician for a professional diagnosis. In order to be diagnosed with depression, a depressive mood and the inability to enjoy life must have been present for more than 15 days. Furthermore, at least four of the below symptoms should coexist:
- feeling of worthlessness and guilt
- lack of energy, tiredness
- sleep disturbance (decrease or increase)
- appetite disturbance (decrease or increase)
- concentration disorder
- loss of interest
- recurrent thoughts of death
Just as depression worsens the course of chronic diseases, chronic diseases also make it difficult to treat depression. It should be investigated whether an organic disease accompanies the symptoms at the diagnosis stage. For this purpose, thyroid function tests should be performed and anemia, vitamin B12 and D levels should be checked. Any diseases or problems related to the body should be treated simultaneously.
Causes of depression
Modern science has not yet been able to fully explain the mechanism by which depression occurs. The general view is that it is related to the molecules that are involved with communication between cells in the brain. Biologically, differences in the levels of molecules such as serotonin and noradrenaline change our perceptions. In addition, the finding that depression in first-degree relatives triples the risk of disease suggests that depression may have a genetic basis. Not being able to think properly, and exposure to intense stress, can also lead to depression.
Factors that facilitate the development of depression vary. It has been found that twice as many women compared to men are afflicted. Among risk groups are being in the middle age group; not being married (depression rates are higher among widows, the divorced, and singles); having a low income; alcohol or substance addiction; and chronic illness.
Medication and psychotherapy options are available as the current treatment options for depression. For an effective recovery, both approaches should be used together. Depression is a disease and medication must be used in its treatment; therefore, the initial depression diagnosis means that the decision has already been made to start taking medication. Liver and kidney function tests should be done before a patient begins using medication.
Patients should be advised that drug treatment will take a long time and it may take up to six weeks before the actual effect is noticed. This time is necessary for the adaptation of our brain cells. As the drug starts to produce visible benefit, the person may opt to stop taking the drug thinking that they are out of depression and that the drug is no longer needed. Discontinuing drug treatment leads to the continuation of the disease and therefore causes further despair.
Since depression does not start in only a few days, treatment should not take place in a short time either. Depression is shaped in relation to the perceptions, interpretations, and relationships of the person’s environment, and its treatment is a comprehensive process. Since the decision to start treatment is made by the doctor and the patient together, the decision to discontinue the drug should be taken together as well. Psychotherapy is an important stage that contributes to the healing process. In addition to this therapy, the patient is taught the methods of how to cope with the illness to prevent recurrence of it.
It is necessary to think of stress as a microbe entering our body. Even though we try not to get sick, our immune systems and bodies are renewed and become more resistant to different seasonal diseases two or three times a year. We do not say we should not get sick, as we consider disease conditions such as a sore throat, ear infection, and flu to be normal. However, we generally do not want to be exposed to stress and we do not tolerate the changes that stress will make in our body and the effects that it will have on our outlook on life.
Things to keep in mind
- Depression should be diagnosed by a doctor.
- You should be prepared for a long treatment process.
- Serious life decisions should be postponed until after treatment ends (such as undergoing a divorce, job change, moving).
- Comparing your quality of life to the life of others should be avoided.
- Physical exercise, like walking, is necessary, a balanced diet should be kept, attention should be paid to maintain adequate and quality sleep, and a regulated lifestyle should be adopted.
- Listening to soothing music and reading books 15-20 minutes before bedtime can be helpful.
- As we go to bed, statements of determination, like “I will take this small step tomorrow” should be repeated. Such conditioning can help strengthen our willpower and win the war against depression.
Depression should not be feared. Every small step taken in the treatment process will positively grow gradually. Not rushing through treatment is very important, as the process is more of a marathon than it is a sprint.
As with any illness, it is important to follow the advice of a specialist. These doctors will give their patients legitimate advice that help to turn the patient away from exaggeration and understatements and more towards balance, appreciation, and gratitude. Evaluating a problem as a means of test from God and knowing that the world is not a place of taste and remuneration, will change our view towards life. This perspective will also make a difference in our reactions towards all of our problems.
Spirituality has the potential to aid people in their fight against depression and grappling with life can bring great psychological duress upon a person. Human beings are able to “read” and understand, to a degree, our changing universe and the events that come into existence. Contemplating and striving to understand the comprehensive rules that exist in the universe can allow us to develop an appreciation for existence through a believer’s lens. This appreciation can lead us to a greater sense of harmony and purpose in life, and the simple fact of having a solid foundation that we feel comfortable with can bring great tranquility to people whose minds are more concerned with the questions regarding life, creation, and the universe. We may instead feel lost, purposeless, demotivated, and more concerned with trivial worldly matters without this knowledge.