“I have crippling depression” What is it and what can I do?
How Does “I Have Crippling Depression” Feel?
Are you going through your days with feelings of hopelessness, increased irritability, trouble concentrating or sleeping, and an overwhelming feeling of sadness – or alternatively, an overall loss of feeling? You may think to yourself; I have crippling depression. Technically what you may be experiencing is major depression.
Depression is more than just a passing phase of sadness or low mood. There are a few different types of depression characterised by different symptoms. The most common types are major depression, bipolar disorder, seasonal affective disorder (SAD), chronic depression, and perinatal depression. It’s important to understand the differences between these different types of depression and the ways in which they can affect people.
Major depression is also known as major depressive disorder, clinical depression, or sometimes simply as “depression”. If you are thinking to yourself, I have crippling depression, major depressive disorder may be to blame. The main characteristics of clinical depression include low mood and a loss of interest and pleasure in activities that one used to enjoy. People who experience major depression may have reoccurring thoughts about death or suicide. These symptoms must be experienced at minimum over a two-week period. The symptoms are experienced most, if not all days of the week. Someone may have one episode of major depression, while others may have the symptoms for many months or years.
Bipolar disorder, or manic depression, consists of two distinct symptoms. Mania, where the mood is overly happy, and depression, where one will feel extremely low. There will also be periods of normal mood in between these two extremes. The experience of mania can vary in intensity. Symptoms of mania can include having lots of energy, having trouble concentrating, talking fast, and needing very little sleep. At its higher intensities the person experiencing mania may lose touch with reality and experience psychosis. This may involve auditory or visual hallucinations or having delusions.
Seasonal Affective Disorder
Seasonal affective disorder is sometimes also called seasonal depression and occurs in relation to certain seasons or weather patterns. In general people who experience seasonal depression experience it during the winter months. Because of this correlation seasonal affective disorder is thought to be related to the lower levels of light exposure people get during winter. Seasonal depression is diagnosed more commonly in countries within the Northern hemisphere that have a colder climate and experience shorter days with less light exposure. Symptoms of seasonal depression include overeating, excessive sleeping, lack of energy, and low mood.
Also known as persistent depressive disorder, chronic depression is only diagnosed after the symptoms have been present for two years or more. The symptoms of chronic depression are very similar to major depression but often feel like a milder version of major depression. However, chronic depression can still greatly impact daily functioning. People may also experience bouts of major depression while having chronic depression.
This form of depression has the same symptoms as major depression however the onset is during pregnancy (known as the antenatal or prenatal period), or in the first year after the baby’s birth (known as postnatal period). Women are at an increased risk of experiencing depression during and after pregnancy due to hormonal factors and the major changes that are occurring at this time physically, emotionally, and relationship wise. Up to 80 percent of women experience the “baby blues” in the first few days following birth. However, perinatal depression is different to this and lasts longer. It can also affect the bonding experience with the newborn child, and the mother’s relationship with her partner and other family members.
Many studies have shown that there are certain lifestyle factors that can increase the chances of experiencing depression and worsening its effects. Physical health is an important component of mental health as people who are not physically healthy are at a higher risk for developing mental illnesses. If you already have depression, it can be harder to overcome and break away from your symptoms if you are participating in unhealthy lifestyle choices. Having unhealthy lifestyle choices can also work against any treatment that you may be having to combat your depression. Factors that can contribute to, and worsen depression include things such as having a poor diet, lack of sleep, abusing drugs or alcohol.
Stress is also a major factor that can contribute to and worsen depression. Things such as relationship problems, being overworked, having a high-pressure job, and lack of leisure time can also contribute to high levels of stress. Some amount of stress is helpful and actually necessary for us. However, when the stress is continual the body’s tissues become used to the stress hormones. When this happens the parts of the brain that control the stress response (and its shut off) can become damaged.
Multiple studies have shown that inflammation caused by stress can cause depression. This happens because pro-inflammatory proteins can cause an imbalance of chemicals within the brain. When this happens, the imbalance skews the chemicals to shift into having a more negative bias. This constant communication of a more negative bias can cause symptoms of depression.
As depression usually has a biochemical element to it, it can’t be cured altogether with quick fixes and easy techniques. However, there are many therapist-approved tips that you can keep in mind to change some of the behavioural factors that come along with experiencing depression.
Revisit a Happy Memory
Many times, when someone is experiencing depression, a painful memory (or many) may be playing over and over again in a somewhat endless loop. To counteract this, whenever you feel yourself ruminating over sad or unhelpful thoughts think about a memory that brings back feelings of happiness. Think about this memory in a great level of depth to really visualize it. Think about what you were doing, who you are with, what you were wearing, what the environment was like around you, and specifically how you felt. This can give you a well needed boost of positivity and joy.
When you are experiencing depression, it can be hard to feel as though you have the energy to do anything. Spontaneous walks around the block or trips to go visit friends may not happen when all you feel like doing is laying on the couch and watching Netflix. Making plans can help keep you accountable and will also serve the purpose of making you feel fulfilled within yourself once you completed them. The plans could be as small as making a to do list for the day, so you have a set list of tasks you want to complete. Or this could involve something on a larger scale like booking a concert or planning a holiday for the future. Research has shown that the enjoyment of planning a trip, and the anticipation that comes along with it, actually outweighs the enjoyment of the experience you have on the trip itself. This gives you something to look forward to and stops you thinking that nothing good will ever happen.
It has been said countless times – humans are social creatures. It’s important to not generalise this too far and say that we all thrive off social connection because this is not always the case. Some people are extroverts, and some are introverts, and this will decide our needs for human interaction. However, even if you do enjoy spending time with yourself, talking or doing activities with one or two trusted friends and family members can bring you out of your bubble and lift your spirits. If you have depression, it can also be helpful to talk to a psychologist or therapist who can help you unpick the thoughts you may not wish to share with your social circle.
The good news is that there are ways to help improve depression. If you take the above steps into account, as well as talking to your doctor about your symptoms, you will no longer have to continue thinking “I have crippling depression” and instead you will begin to believe, “I am in control of my depression”.
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