May is Mental Health Awareness Month and so this month we join Mental Health America in spreading the word that mental health is something everyone should care about.
This is the first blog post in a series designed to help people have a better understanding of some of the most common mental health issues.
This week I’ll be sharing some facts on depression.
Depression is so often misunderstood. It’s a real illness. People with depression are NOT weak or crazy.
Depression is more than ordinary sadness. Everyone experiences sadness in reaction to painful circumstances. Depression is an illness caused by an imbalance in neurotransmitters that play an important function in regulating your mood.
Some depression facts:
- 80% of depression sufferers do not receive treatment. The reasons for this are variable, including stigma, lack of exposure to screening or treatment, or a medical professional’s failure to adequately understand the symptoms.
- Depressed people might not look depressed. People can seem cheerful and “together”, and still be struggling with symptoms. We are caught by surprise when a celebrity commits suicide: “But they seemed like they had everything. “ For many reasons, depressed people may not show their struggle.
- Depression is a leading cause of disability. According to the national institutes of health (NIH) and the world health organization (WHO), depression is debilitating. It affects decision making and makes everything a monumental effort. Further, it is a leading reason for calling in sick to work.
- Exercise is an antidepressant. Endorphins that are released from at least 30 minutes of daily physical activity make you feel better.
- Recent research in gastroenterology indicates that there may be a link between the brain, the central nervous system, depression, and “good bacteria” in the gut. Emerging research suggests that a diet that includes probiotics may help manage depression.
- Depression is not just “in your head.” It can cause headaches, stomach problems, body tension, insomnia, and shortness of breath, according to the national Institute of mental health (NIMH).
- Depression tricks your brain. Your mind can distort your thinking when you are depressed. Working with a professional or checking in with a trusted friend can help with these glitches in thinking.
- J. K. Rowling based the Dementors, horrifying creatures from the Harry Potter series, on her own experience with depression. These creatures suck all the warmth and happiness out of any wizard within 100 meters, an apt metaphor for depression.
- Depression can make people seem selfish. It’s hard to think about other people and their needs when you are wrapped in a fog of sadness. Getting help is important for yourself, and for others in your life.
- Persistent irritability can be a symptom of depression, especially in children and teens. If things are constantly annoying you, or you’re lashing out or withdrawing from people in your life, you may actually be suffering from depression.
- Depression is hard on your loved ones. Some people may distance themselves from a depressed person because they feel helpless or pulled into the pain. Others might feel that you don’t care about them.
- Depression is often experienced as anxiety. You may have to see a psychotherapist or psychiatrist to get an accurate diagnosis.
- Depression can have different triggers. People going through a stressful life event, past episodes of depression, or close family members who have suffered depression are more at risk.
- Medical problems, including diabetes, heart disease, and chronic pain, can trigger depression.
- Warming up can help you feel better. Exposure to heat can reduce symptoms. More research is needed, but a warm bath or shower, hot tubs and saunas are ways to help take care of yourself.
- Though many people take antidepressants, psychotherapy and other treatment modalities, including cognitive behavioral strategies, mindfulness, and TMS can play a very important part in alleviating symptoms.