Society has made great strides with mental disorders. A century ago, people ended up in asylums or put away by relatives. The cruelty suffered by those with any perceivable mental illness caused many members of society, from all stations, to hide their suffering. This led to increases in crime and drug addictions, which continued to fuel the mental health stigma fires.
Do I Suffer from Depression?
Having emotional reactions to life events is perfectly normal, and although it may seem that the feelings last forever, they normally don't. However, if you find that you still feel so sad or anxious about the same thing for several months afterward that you no longer function normally and lose interest in things you once loved, it may be time to consult a professional.
People who have major depression often feel sad, hopeless and may be tearful. They may have difficulty performing day-to-day functions and lose interest in things they once enjoyed. They may experience weight loss or gain and/or may have thoughts of self-harm.
Clinical depression goes beyond the realm of regular sadness. People who suffer from clinical depression often feel emotionally numb and empty. Every speed bump they encounter in life feels like a monumental crisis that they won't be able to handle. People often construe this as "melodramatic" or "attention seeking," but it is a valid illness, and rarely just disappears on its own.
Why Do I Have Depression?
Traumatic or stressful events can lead to depression. There may also be a genetic component. More women than men are diagnosed with depression, though this may be because men don't seek treatment as often.
How Do I Know if I'm Depressed? Is There A Depression Test I Can Take?
Although only a licensed mental health professional can give you the official diagnosis, you can take an online depression quiz (and answer honestly!). Please keep in mind: while online quizzes and advice can be helpful, you should use them only as stepping stones to begin discussing your mental health with a professional. They should never be used to replace professional diagnosis or treatment. If you have symptoms of depression, consult a professional at once.
What Kind of Depression Do I Have?
Once a doctor establishes whether you do, in fact, suffer from clinical depression, the next step is to determine which specific kind of depression you have. This is a necessary step to ensure that you receive the proper treatment.
Do I Have Bipolar Depression?
People who suffer from bipolar disorder go through periods of high, manic energy (anxiety, restlessness, etc.) as well as low, depressed phases, which affects their ability to function.
Once called "manic-depression", bipolar disorder involves both manic and depressed periods. Bipolar disorder can be difficult to diagnose because many people experience good days, even amid a crisis or stressful period in their lives. People with other types of depression may also feel extra energy from time to time or have days where they almost feel like their old selves. However, for a person with bipolar disorder, their "manic" periods usually bring insomnia, abnormal chatty behavior, and intense irritability. They may have what doctors call "racing thoughts," which basically means that their mind jumps from one train of thought to another at a rate that is outside of their control. They may even behave inappropriately in social situations due to the poor judgment that often comes with bipolar manic periods.
Do I Have An Anxiety Disorder?
It's important to remember that, like depression, anxiety disorder is a clinical mental condition. Feeling overwhelmed by work or stressed about a sudden temporary financial strain doesn't necessarily mean you have an anxiety disorder. Those issues can lead to anxiety, and if the symptoms linger after the stressful situation resolves, it may be time to discuss it with a licensed mental health professional.
Some anxiety disorder symptoms are similar to those of depression. Therefore, you should always receive a proper diagnosis from a licensed mental health professional.
What to Do if You Are Depressed
Getting the appropriate help is most important. The sooner you seek that help and begin treatment, the sooner you can begin feeling like yourself again.
Be sure to reach out to your friends and family. One fear for people is that their loved ones won't understand. You will need to explain it to them. Invite your spouse or a sibling to an appointment with you and allow your doctor or therapist to help you describe your condition and the plans for your treatment. Having depression is nothing to be ashamed of.
Also, seek out support groups. If you're uncomfortable with sitting in a room full of strangers discussing depression or anxiety, look for groups and chatrooms online. Another crucial step in successful treatment is realizing that you are not weird or crazy for feeling the way you do. Feeling the love and support of people who suffer from these illnesses just like you and truly understand your struggle is therapeutic. It's always nice to know we are not alone.
Another important note: never be afraid to tell your doctor or therapist if your medication or treatment plan needs adjusting. It's important to your success reaching your goals.
There is no reason to feel embarrassed if you think you may have depression or anxiety. Not everyone will understand what you are going through at first, and that is normal. Remember, they may need time to adjust just like you. Your loved ones will do their best to support you, but they need your patience and guidance just as much as you need theirs. Voice your needs and concerns, and allow them to do the same. Lean on those who want to help you.