It’s April in New York City, and most of the country, which means many things are just around the corner, i.e. summer Friday’s at work, weekends spent on the beach with family and friends, longer days of sunlight, warmer weather, and upcoming vacations just to name a few. While these are terrific things to look forward to, many people around this time begin to notice they are not quite as “happy” as their friends and family around them. “What does that mean?” “Am I depressed?” What you may have written off as seasonal affective disorder, or low feelings in mood from the lack of sunlight and Vitamin D during the winter months, may be lingering symptoms of depression. You may be asking yourself at this point, “How do I know if I have depression or I am just sad?” or “How do I get better?” Both of these questions I would like to address in this article.
But what is depression, anyway?
Depression is a painful, complex diagnosis that, according to the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance and the National Institute of Mental Health affects 14.8 million Americans each year (6.7% of the U.S. population 18 years and older). Additionally, depression impacts women more often than men. This issue may have less to do with men not feeling depressed, but a failure to report due to social stigmas, rules surrounding men expressing emotions, and the differences of how depression manifests within the men. While depression impacts a large percentage of our U.S. population, it is important to understand what are the symptoms. These feelings and experiences may look like any of the following:
- Sadness, despair, sense of loss
- Apathy, indifference, low or no motivation
- Inability to experience excitement or pleasure across all spheres of one’s life
- Low self esteem, lack of confidence
- Irritability, easy frustration, anger
- Feelings of guilty, self-blame, self-hatred
- Feelings of hopelessness and/or helplessness
While these symptoms represent the most common experiences, this list only highlights a few of the many symptoms of depression. Depression is complex, painful, and difficult to recover from without the right knowledge and support. While many of us may experience one or more of these symptoms on any given day, it is also important to highlight how clinical depression differs from general sadness:
- More intensely painful
- Lasts longer
- Interferes with day-to-day functioning
- Destructive emotions
- Interferes with one’s social interactions, behavior, thinking, and biological functioning.
While gaining help is not simply a one size fits all process, there are many forms of treatment that is evidence and best practice approaches. I will walk through several of the modalities that are highly recommended.
There are loads of texts published today on the topic of depression and cognitive behavioral techniques individuals can challenge their thinking, depression, and feelings to self help. While some of these books may not be helpful for everyone, they can be very insightful components to any of the following treatment modalities.
The treatment of depression through prescription anti-depressants can be highly effective. Many anti-depressants are also known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI). There are dozens of SSRI’s prescribed today, including Paxil, Prozac, and Zoloft Medication, SSRIs and the like, are particularly important if your depression feels biological, not stemming from anything acute or chronic within your environment.
If you are able to identify with these issues of clinical depression or you know someone who does, the most effective treatment for clinical depression is seeking a mental health provider for support. This may take the form of psychiatrists (MD - both medication able and non-medical psychotherapist), Clinical Social Workers (LCSW or LMSW), Marriage Family Therapist (LMFT), or Mental Health Counselors (LMHC). These professionals are specific to NY state and may vary if you live in other states.
Preston, John. You Can Beat Depression: A Guide to Recovery. San Luis Obispo, CA: Impact, 1989. Print.