The passing of legendary actor Robin Williams has prompted the world to take a step back on evaluating and understanding depression. The stigma that depression results in someone being completely removed from society, appearing sad and distraught, or turning to substance to appease the mental illness is one that is detrimental to you and your loved ones. Fact of the matter is, depression affects a large majority of the population, especially in the United States. Being depressed isn’t anything to be ashamed of. It’s a mental illness caused by chemical imbalances, not a side effect of ungratefulness. There are plenty of medications, holistic and otherwise, that can help you or your loved one get back on track to living the most healthy, fulfilling and purpose-driven life possible.
Depression is not: synonymous with sadness, a mental or physical weakness, something caused by one or two events, a result of mental fabrication, or a diagnoses that lands you in an institute or on medication forever. Once you’ve discovered you are depressed, the road to happiness is one mile closer.
Here are five ways to spot depression in yourself or a loved one, and what to do to get help.
1. Loss of interest and pleasure in normal activities
Loss of interest or pleasure in the finer things in life, including sex, is a tell-tell sign of depression. Although many of us lose interest when tragic events occur, a lingering feeling of emptiness and lack of excitability is more a symptom of a medically treatable illness than just “going through the motions.”
2. Decreased concentration and ability to focus
Don’t let the pictures fool you – they themselves stigmatize depression as a “sadness disease”. Truth is, when you notice you’re being distracted by things you can’t necessarily describe and you have trouble doing your daily duties and completing work, it could be attributed to a larger problem. We tend to dismiss feeling distracted as a side effect of today’s society – but there’s a huge difference between allowing yourself to get sucked into social media and not being able to get anything accomplished.
3. Insomnia, early morning wakefulness, excessive sleeping
Again, the difference between needing a cup of coffee and sleeping in till noon every day could be seen as a mere misunderstanding you have with your sleep cycle. People in a healthy mental state are able to correct their sleeping issues naturally by adhering to a schedule and rising the moment the alarm goes off. If you have the drowsy, “I’d rather be sleeping”, and lethargic feeling 60 percent of your waking days, it’s time to talk to someone about it. People think it’s laziness – it’s really the defeat of facing each day.
4. Overeating or appetite loss
Ah, food. It’s a natural medicine that soothes the soul. Overeating consistently, however, is a sign of utilizing food to ease your mind and satisfy insatiable cravings for who-knows-what. Loss of appetite, on the other hand, is another coping mechanism. Extreme outliers on either side of the spectrum are equally as dangerous, and these ill-habits can lead to many other health problems.
5. Suicidal thoughts and attempting suicide
This symptom is the sign of mental illness. No matter how difficult life gets, feeling this way is not your fault, but is a result of major depression or other mental illnesses that require a physician’s and psychologist’s counseling immediately. Life is hard, and everyone has struggles, but this is never, ever the answer.
If you believe you or a loved one is experiencing any of the above symptoms, depending on the severity, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or schedule an appointment with your primary care doctor. If you cannot schedule the appointment for them, talk about it, openly. The problem with our idea of depression is that it’s a crippling disease.
It doesn’t have to be. Once you’ve been diagnosed there are several ways to help you live again. I know the feeling, I’ve been there – sometimes, I’m still there, but my doctors, family and friends have taken me a long way from the bottom to living again.
Written by someone with depression. Medical information sourced from WebMD.