Everyone gets the blues on occasion but when your mood affects your ability to function, you may be suffering from clinical depression, a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest.
The term “depression” has become common in mainstream society and may be classified as:
Regardless of your level of depression, it is important to recognize the signs and ask for help to avoid spiraling out of control. Often those with severe depression have trouble doing normal day-to-day activities, and can feel as if life isn't worth living. Depression isn't a sign of weakness nor can you simply "snap out" of it.
An estimated 300 million people worldwide are diagnosed with some level of depression which can occur regardless of age, ethnic background, education, and social position. A family history of mental illness, high stress environments, and drinking or taking drugs while pregnant are some of the known causes of major depression. Other factors may include financial stress, death of a loved one, divorce, abuse, trauma, and a brain imbalance.
Severe Depression Symptoms
Severe depression is a mental illness that can impact productivity, self-esteem and performance. The most noticeable signs are extreme sadness, feelings of hopelessness, loss of interest in activities, excessive mood swings, reckless behavior, isolation, acting out, and suicidal thoughts.
Insomnia along with trouble concentrating can also be signs of depression and leave you feeling both emotionally and physically drained. If you are having trouble sleeping, you may want to try limiting your caffeine to the morning only and take an over the counter sleep aid 30-minutes prior to bedtime. If these natural remedies don’t cure your insomnia, consult with your doctor or a sleep specialist.
Serious Depression Treatment
If you are suffering with severe depression, don’t ignore it. Instead, it is important that you talk to someone about your feelings as soon as possible. If you are not comfortable talking with someone you know, there are many mental health organizations that provide confidential hotlines and peer counseling. You may also want to find a psychiatrist who can provide you with a proper diagnosis and treatment options.
Most healthcare professionals agree that therapy or counseling along with proper medication can be very effective in managing moderate and severe depression. If untreated, depression can lead to other mental health conditions. Along with substance disorders, depression is the most prevalent diagnoses among suicide victims.
If you or a loved one has suicidal thoughts, call 911 or the National Suicide Lifeline at 1-800-TALK (1-800-273-8255) for help.
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Many of us feel lonely from time to time and these short-term feelings should’t lead to long-term mental health issues. However, the impact of the Coronavirus and the need to self-isolate from family, friends, and others to avoid spreading the virus has been emotionally challenging on all of us --- both mentally and physically.
According to psychologists, loneliness is the state of distress or discomfort that results when one perceives a gap between one’s desires for social connection and the actual experience of it. Even those who are surrounded by others throughout the day can experience feelings of loneliness.
People who live alone or with minimal human contact are more likely to develop a mental health condition, experience cognitive decline, and have shorter life spans. On the other hand, those who are socially connected or part of a community tend to have more moments of happiness and live longer.
Loneliness does not discriminate. It affects people of all ages and both men and women equally. So what can you do if you are experiencing short or long-term feelings of loneliness?
Dr. Vivek Murphy, former U.S. Surgeon General believes that building a sense of community now, even with the constraints of social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic is key to mental wellness. He recommends that we spend some time every day reaching out to people in our lives for just 15 minutes a day
"In the short term, that 15 minutes could have a significant impact on your mood," says Murphy. "When done consistently over time, it can be a lifeline that connects you to the outside world."
To get the full health benefit, Murphy recommends avoiding the desire to multitask when connecting with others and to focus on the interaction.
"One of the greatest gifts we can give other people is the gift of our full attention," notes Murphy. "It's not always what we say. It's about our ability to listen, and that has a powerful impact on our connection."
During the pandemic, mental health experts are encouraging the public to find new ways to feel connected such as joining a local chat group, or starting one yourself. Volunteering is also a good way to stay connected --- whether it’s delivering food to those in need or offering to help a neighbor with yard work while do so at least 6 feet apart.
"Service can be a powerful antidote to loneliness," explains Murphy. "One of the things that's powerful about service is it shifts the focus from us to other people, while reaffirming that we have value to bring to the world."
Speaking of value, you already know how good exercise is for your physical health. But you might be surprised to know that exercise is also good for your mental health. Studies show that exercise can be as effective as talk therapy and medication for treating mild to moderate depression. You can also exercise with a group while social distancing to combat feeling lonely.
Finally, having an animal companion has been scientifically proven reduce loneliness and reduce stress in humans. Along with being man's best friend, dogs are well-known to have multiple mental health benefits including boosting self-esteem and improving social connections. However, before you decide to get a dog, you should consider other animal companions based on your living situation, work life, and financial resources. Cats, rabbits, birds, and hamsters are also known for providing companionship, lowering blood pressure, stress and anxiety.
If you are struggling with a mental health condition please talk to a friend or mental health professional. There is no shame in mental illness. To hear others talk about their own experiences with mental illness, check out our podcast, Speaking Candidly with Candace here on our website, and every other Wednesday on Google and Apple podcasts.