We've Gotta Have it
5 Things I Now Know About Depression
It's common to deny what you're feeling and think it's not that bad. But the world can change when you get help for depression
We all get sad from time to time, but that feeling eventually goes away. Depression is different. No matter how much you want to feel better, it isn’t something that you can make disappear.
It doesn’t just go away.
But there are ways to manage it. Fortunately, effective treatments for depression like therapy, medication, and exercise can help.
It’s normal to feel down occasionally, but if you’re sad most of the time and it impacts your daily life, you may have clinical depression.
My first bout of depression came after the birth of my third child. I was 37 years old. What started as the baby blues engulfed me and became a major depressive episode, requiring therapy and eventually antidepressant medication. Looking back on my other two births, I realized that I also experienced depression then. But I was younger, in my early twenties, and I didn’t realize what it was.
Mental health problems affect everyone. One in six people will experience depression at some time in their life. Even if you haven’t suffered from depression, you most likely know someone who has. Here are some facts about depression that everyone should know.
Depression Is a Real Medical Condition
It’s normal to be sad when we go through hard times. Usually, though, the sadness subsides with a little time. Depression is different — it is a mood disorder that may cause severe symptoms that can greatly affect many aspects of your life: how you feel, think, and handle such basic activities as sleeping, eating, or working.
It often takes more than a “good attitude” toward life’s ups and downs to overcome depression.
You Are Not Alone
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, about 21 million American adults — 8.4% of the population — had at least one major depressive episode in 2020.
Globally, it is estimated that 5.0% of adults suffer from depression, making it the leading cause of disability worldwide.
Women Are at a Higher Risk of Developing Depression
The prevalence of major depressive episodes in 2020 was higher among adult females (10.5%) compared to males (6.2%).
Women may have different types of depression depending on their stage of life. Dramatic physical and hormonal changes are associated with the the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, the postpartum period, and perimenopause. Information from the Mayo Clinic states that depression in women may rise during early menopause and after menopause — both times when estrogen levels are significantly reduced — and affects each woman differently. Not every woman who is depressed experiences every symptom. Some women experience only a few symptoms. Others have many. The severity and frequency of symptoms, and how long they last, will vary depending on the individual. It’s important to be aware of the symptoms of depression.
Your Childhood May Predispose You To Depression
Studies suggest that exposure to ACEs is associated with increased risk of depressive disorders for decades after their occurrence.
Depression Is Not a One-Size-Fits-All Diagnosis
There are many different types of depression. The four most common forms are:
Major Depressive Disorder (feeling very depressed every day)
Bipolar Disorder (manic-depressive disease, causes highs and lows)
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD; depression emerges as days shorten in the fall and winter)
According to The National Alliance on Mental Illness, most people with depression need treatment to feel better. Here are four proven options to explore:
Medications including antidepressants are a key part in treating depression. You might not respond to the first treatment. Be patient. Sometimes it may take a little longer to find the proper medication that works for you.
Psychotherapy offers people the opportunity to identify the factors that contribute to their depression and to deal effectively with the psychological, behavioral, interpersonal, and situational causes.
Regular Exercise may help ease depression and anxiety. When you exercise, feel-good endorphins and other natural brain chemicals that can enhance your sense of well-being are released. It also takes your mind off worries so you can get away from the cycle of negative thoughts that feed depression and anxiety.
Doing 30 minutes or more of exercise a day for three to five days a week may significantly improve depression or anxiety symptoms. But smaller amounts of physical activity — as little as 10 to 15 minutes at a time — may make a difference.
Light therapy is a way to treat seasonal affective disorder (SAD) by exposure to light. SAD is a type of depression that occurs at a certain time each year, usually in the fall or winter. The artificial light (called light therapy box) is thought to affect brain chemicals linked to mood and sleep, easing SAD. It mimics natural outdoor light and works on your biological clock by aligning your brain’s circadian rhythm, along with regulating the hormone melatonin.
I denied my feelings before I was diagnosed with depression 26 years ago. I found out that it doesn’t go away on its own; it only deepens. I listened to others around me and eventually sought therapy and went on medication. I am so glad I did. We don’t need to suffer.
Taking care of our mental well-being is essential to our overall well-being and vital to our physical health.
To learn more about Depression, check out these resources:
Susan Frances Morris is the author of The Sensitive One, a memoir dealing with childhood trauma, abuse, health, and healing. She was raised in Springfield, Massachusetts, the second oldest of seven siblings (with two sets of twins). She holds a bachelor’s degree in nursing and was a practicing nurse from 1989 to 2011, primarily in women’s health.