It is more than just a bad day or a bad week. It is more than just the reality of an unforgiving world. Depression is a health crisis that is sweeping the nation, not because it is new, but because we are finally paying attention. 

Depression is often a term used too lightly, understating the meaning of this impending mental illness to cope with the uncomfortable reality of suffering from something you can not see. However, the stigma surrounding mental illness is finally being lifted, and new doors are opening for the millions of people who are suffering to get the help that they need. 

To lend a hand in the battle against depression, we would like to offer some insight on ways to recognize depression in yourself and others so that you can be proactive in dealing with this intricate illness. 

Symptoms

Depression can take a toll on a number of things that make up your overall mental wellbeing. Taking note of how each of the following may be affected will help you recognize signs of depression. Most of us will experience symptoms related to our: 

  • Mood: Such as anger, aggressiveness, irritability, anxiousness, restlessness
  • Emotional well-being: Such as feeling empty, sad, anxious, or hopeless
  • Behavior: Such as loss of interest, no longer finding pleasure in favorite activities, withdrawing from social engagement, feeling tired easily, thoughts of suicide, drinking excessively, using drugs, engaging in high-risk activities
  • Sexual interest: such as reduced sexual desire, lack of sexual performance
  • Cognitive abilities: such as inability to concentrate, difficulty completing tasks, delayed responses during conversations
  • Sleep patterns: such as insomnia, restless sleep, excessive sleepiness, not sleeping through the night
  • Physical well-being: such as fatigue, pains, headache, digestive problems decreased energy, changes in appetite, weight changes, increased cramps

Paying attention to how the mind and body are responding to the world in the variety of ways listed above is a big step in identifying one who is suffering from depression, bringing them one step closer to the help they need. 

Causes

Understanding what causes us to experience symptoms of depression is another great tool to have. There are a number of common causes of depression that apply to the vast majority of those who are suffering, such as: 

  • Family history: You’re at a higher risk for developing depression if you have a family history of depression or another mood disorder.
  • Early childhood trauma: Some events affect the way your body reacts to fear and stressful situations.
  • Brain structure: There’s a greater risk for depression if the frontal lobe of your brain is less active. However, scientists don’t know if this happens before or after the onset of depressive symptoms.
  • Medical conditions: Certain conditions may put you at higher risk, such as chronic illness, insomnia, chronic pain, or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
  • Drug use: A history of drug or alcohol misuse can affect your risk.

Recognizing what these causes are and how they can attribute to the onset of depression will help you to better understand the illness itself. Being able to identify a root cause of the problem allows you to address the problem at the source, rather than having to take a more ambiguous approach to the treatment process. 

Treatments  

Just like the mind itself, depression is a fairly complex illness that often requires an intricate treatment process. Unlike other illnesses like a common cold or a broken bone that has a singular solution, depression can be treated in a variety of ways, and oftentimes treatment for one person may not be the same for another. However, with some guidance and understanding, the mountain that depression may appear to be will begin to shrink to a molehill. 

Treatments for depression often manifest into some combination of medical treatments and lifestyle therapies. For example, a prescribed antidepressant from a doctor combined with a healthier diet and routine exercise, or attending a weekly counseling session may be all it takes to pull the mind out of its depressive state. Alternatively, others may find treatments such as light therapy, or simple supplements such as omega-3s, or essential oils may be their fastest road to wellness. 

No matter the treatment process, depression is an illness that requires you to become more aware of who you are. It is an illness that requires effort from both you and your health care provider to identify and take action. It begs for you to listen to your own mind and body, and discover what it is lacking. At its core, depression is the result of a missing piece, an empty part of you that needs attention. Understanding what it is that is missing, and taking action to fill that void is the best way to combat a depressive state. 

What you can do

If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of depression, take action by starting a dialogue, with a goal of bringing the conversation to a healthcare provider. It may be difficult for someone suffering to face depression head-on, as it is an illness that compromises both your motivation and judgment, however, the first step is the first conversation. 

Depression is a persistent and unforgiving mental illness. It is unwavering and forever invasive on the minds of those who suffer, and has devastated the lives of far too many to be ignored any longer. 

It is time to recognize depression, it is time to start the conversation, and it is time to take action and help those who desperately need it to find peace in their minds and joy in their lives.