Depression is a complicated and mysterious mental health disorder that affects the lives of over 16 million American adults every year. In some cases, the onset of a depressive episode can be linked to distressing life events, such as the loss of a job, divorce, death of a loved one, or the diagnosis of a serious medical condition.
However, it’s just as likely a possibility that depression will appear with no particular rhyme or reason. One day you may be feeling completely normal, but the next you suddenly just don’t feel like yourself and have nothing to point toward in terms of why you feel so lethargic and sad. While science is yet to pinpoint the exact cause of depression, mental health professionals have identified certain factors that are involved with developing and treating this disorder.
What Does It Mean To Have Crippling Depression?
Depression is a fairly common mental health issue, but there are some cases where it can be especially debilitating and can prevent people from completing simple daily tasks such as working, eating, and sleeping.
These intense experiences are often referred to as being “crippling” and thus the name is born. However, the clinical term for severe depression is major depressive disorder and other words like “debilitating”, “overwhelming” and “devastating” can be used to describe the experience. People that suffer from major depressive disorder often struggle with the ability to function in daily life. Without help, this condition can persist, and worsen, for months or even years.
This type of depression is more than “a case of the blues” and it’s not something you can “snap out of” either. Depression may require long-term treatment in the form of medication, psychotherapy, or both. Nearly one in ten people that suffer from depression commit suicide, so if you think you may be suffering from crippling depression then you should seek help immediately.
What Are the Symptoms of Depression?
The symptoms of depression will usually appear as a cluster of behaviors and physical symptoms that will endure for more than two weeks. When the symptoms persist for that long then it may be a good idea to see a doctor in order to rule out any potential medical issue that could be causing the symptoms. Some of the most common symptoms of major depression include:
- Low mood, persistent sadness, feelings of hopelessness, and despair
- Persistent and intense feelings of anger, frustration, or irritability
- Thoughts of death or suicide
- Sleep disturbances, sleeping too much, or bouts of insomnia
- Pessimism and hopelessness
- Feelings of guilt and worthlessness
- Apathy, a general lack of interest in activities or people, withdrawing from social events
- Difficulty working your job
- Severe fatigue
- Poor personal hygiene
- Severe mood swings and wild shifts in temperament
- Overeating or losing appetite
- Noticeable change in weight, gaining or losing
- Difficulty concentrating, focusing, remembering details, and making decisions
- Frequent headaches, migraines, backaches, or cramps
- Digestive problems
Do I Have Depression?
While a self-test for depression is not an official diagnosis, it can help you to decide if you should talk to a mental health professional and seek potential treatment. If the answer is “yes” to four or more of the following questions, you should schedule an appointment to speak with a professional as soon as you can:
- Do you often have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep?
- Do you often sleep for more than 10 or 12 hours a day or sleep for most of the day?
- Have you lost interest in the hobbies, activities, and people that used to bring you joy and excitement?
- Have you missed work more than once in the past month because of fatigue or pain?
- Are you more irritable and easily upset in the last few days or weeks?
- Have you had thoughts involving self-harm or suicide?
- Has your appetite unexpectedly increased or decreased?
- Are there days when you feel as if you just don’t have the energy to possibly do the things you need to do?
Are There Treatments for Depression?
One of the brighter points of depression being so common is that there are plenty of treatments that have been developed. Since so many people have experienced these intense feelings and symptoms, mental health professionals have discovered several options for potential treatments. Some of the treatment options include:
More commonly known as talk therapy, psychotherapy is a very common treatment for depression. For people that experience crippling depression, seeing a therapist regularly can be a positive catalyst for improvement.
Therapists are able to help their clients learn how to adjust to stressors in their lives and how to respond or react to various situations in ways that produce healthier emotions. Some of the more specific methods of psychotherapy that is used to treat depression are:
- Cognitive Therapy. The core principle of cognitive therapy is the idea that thoughts can affect emotions. For example, if someone chooses to look at the silver lining in every experience, they are much more likely to feel better as opposed to someone who focuses on the negative aspects. Negative thinking patterns and thoughts can contribute to and exacerbate depression. It can be very difficult to feel good if you are constantly stuck in a persistent loop of negative thoughts. Cognitive therapy helps people to learn how to identify common patterns of negative thinking, known as cognitive distortions, and how to turn these negative thoughts into more positive ones, thus improving their mood. This method of therapy is usually short-term and focusing on goals. The sessions are structured with a specific plan for each session and typically last between six weeks and four months.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: Similar to cognitive therapy, this method focuses on addressing both the negative thought patterns and the behaviors that contribute to crippling depression. A therapist will often have their client keep a journal and track the events of the week and any self-defeating or negative reactions to the events. Habitual negative responses to events, known as automatic negative reactions, are one example of the pattern of thinking that will be addressed over the course of cognitive-behavioral therapy. Other responses that are often addressed are all-or-nothing thinking and overgeneralization. Once the client has learned how to recognize their response patterns, they will work with the therapist to learn new ways of thinking and responding to events and situations in their daily lives. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is typically brief and goal-oriented. The sessions are highly structured and usually involved between five and 20 sessions to address specific concerns.
- Dialectical Behavior Therapy: While similar to cognitive behavioral therapy, this method differs in that it asks the clients suffering from depression to acknowledge and accept their negative thoughts and behaviors. Through the practice of validation, the clients will come to terms with their negative emotions, learn ways to cope with stress, and regulate their reactions to it. This type of therapy also incorporates the practice of mindfulness from Buddhist traditions and informs crisis coaching, in which an individual may call their therapist to receive guidance on how to handle difficult situations. As the client continues to practice these new skills, they will eventually become much better equipped to handle challenging situations all by themselves.
- Psychodynamic Therapy: Otherwise known as psychoanalytic therapy, this method of treatment assumes that depression can occur as the result of unresolved, usually unconscious, conflicts that most likely originated during childhood. The goals of this therapy are for the client to become more aware of their range of emotions, including troubling and contradictory ones, and to help the client to more effectively bear these feelings and put them in perspective. Unlike some of the other treatments, psychodynamic therapy tends to be much less structured and lasts much longer. This approach can be useful for finding connections in past experiences and understanding how those events could be contributing to the feelings of depression.
Antidepressants are often prescribed to people dealing with major depressive disorder and other forms of depression. These drugs are designed to help regulate and balance the hormones, chemicals, and neurotransmitters found in the brain that contribute to mental and emotional health. Antidepressants are one of the most common treatments for depressions but they are generally not as effective as forms of therapy. They may also come with a long list of side effects that may include:
- Blurred vision
- Dry mouth
- Sexual dysfunction
- Sleep disturbance
- Weight gain
Suffering from depression can have a devastating effect on a person’s life and can be largely uncontrollable. If you or anyone you know experiences depression, it’s important to consider seeking help to deal with it before it becomes much worse
While there are no proven cures for depression, there are plenty of options available to help treat it. Talking with a mental health professional is arguably the best way to treat depression, but there are plenty of available medications that can help as well.
Depression is a very serious issue and affects millions of people so if you think you may be depressed, it’s important to seek help sooner rather than later. In the case of emergencies, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24 hours every day and is reached at 800-273-8255.