“It’s like I’m lying in my bed looking out the window watching life go by, and I can’t even muster the energy to get off the bed.”
This quote has stuck with me over the years; it was from someone who struggled with major depressive disorder for decades. It was both eye-opening and terrifying to me: eye-opening in the sense that I had always associated depression with sadness and terrifying in the sense that this disorder could really become paralyzing.
Major depression can affect up to 25% of all adults at some point in their lifetime. It affects many teens as well but is often undiagnosed.
If you think you or a friend might be struggling with depression, here are some signs to look for:
- Feeling tired all of the time
- Feeling bad about yourself or guilty for no reason
- Unable to focus or concentrate
- Not sleeping or sleeping excessively
- Not enjoying things as much as you used to
- Feeling like you’re moving slower than you want to
- Thoughts of suicide or hurting yourself
- Losing or gaining weight quickly
Taken alone, we have probably experienced one or more of these throughout our lives; however, if you start to experience any of these on a recurrent basis or a combination of these, it may be a sign that something is wrong.
The problem with depression, and many other illnesses for that matter, is that we put up blinders and block out the reality of what we are experiencing. When I was in the midst of a particularly bad depressive episode I probably experienced every symptom above, but I thought nothing about it at the time. To me depression was sadness, and if I wasn’t sad I wasn’t depressed.
Depression showed itself through poor self-esteem, feelings of guilt, struggling to concentrate in class, and thoughts of hurting myself. Because of the “fog” of depression, I just wasn’t putting anything together, and I handled it through avoidance and isolation. As you can guess, that did nothing to help me. I chose the bumpier road of denial and self-destructive behaviors. While I came out on the other end okay, too many others do not.
The wonderful thing (yes, every cloud has a silver lining) is that major depressive disorder is considered highly treatable. Talking to a professional to get some perspective can do wonders. Medications that have few side effects can help significantly. In harder to treat cases there are options like transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and electroconvulsive therapy. There are many ways you can get help.
If you notice these behaviors in your friends and they are lasting more than a few days, encourage them to talk to the school counselor (DON’T DIAGNOSE THEM!). If you see these in yourself you should do the same. Err on the side of caution; don’t let it fester. Depression thrives on our inaction, so the best thing we can do to combat it early on is to reach out and get a checkup.
For more information, or to learn about the various types of depression, please visit any of the following sites:
Written by: Steve Smith, MS, LCPC, CRADC, LPHA, Director, Aspen Counseling and Consulting and Rosecrance Berry Campus