What Is Living With Depression Like?
By: Stephanie Kirby
Updated February 28, 2020
Medically Reviewed By: Lauren Guilbeault
You may be wondering what depression is like because you're wondering if you have symptoms of it yourself. Or, you may be wondering what living with depression is like because you have a loved one that is depressed. It's helpful for everyone to understand the symptoms of depression and what to do when you find yourself diagnosed with it.
What Is Depression?
The National Alliance on Mental Illness says on their website, "Depressive disorder, frequently referred to simply as depression, is more than just feeling sad or going through a rough patch. It's a serious mental health condition that requires understanding and medical care. Left untreated, depression can be devastating for those who have it and their families."
Many people think of depression as just feeling sad or down, but as you can see, it's a lot more than that. When someone is depressed, they may struggle with feeling hopeless, worthless, lonely, and unmotivated. Some people, especially men, also feel extreme levels of anger and irritability. Depression can bring a variety of strong and difficult emotions.
It's estimated that around 7% of the US population struggles with depression. Some people only have one episode in their lifetime, and others experienced it regularly. Episodes of depression can last from just a couple of months to years if left untreated.
The symptoms of depression can vary from one person to the next. But, here's a list of the common symptoms:
- Changes in appetite
- Changes in sleep habits
- Withdrawal from family and friends along with hobbies
- Feeling empty
- Feeling hopeless
- Difficulty concentrating and lack of motivation
- Suicidal Thoughts
- Physical pain and digestive problems
Depression is not something that should be taken lightly.
It can be a very difficult thing to understand. Many people think that depression is simply in someone's head and that they could just choose to stop feeling bad. But it doesn't work like that. People that are depressed do not want to be feeling the way that they are.
Depression is a medical diagnosis in the same way diabetes, cancer, and heart disease or medical diagnosis. A person does not choose to be depressed the same way a person does not choose to have any other medical disease or condition.
It's also important to understand too that there are treatments available for depression, just like there are treatments for other medical conditions. There is no reason for someone that is living with depression to continue to suffer silently.
Explaining Depression To Others
Depression can be a difficult thing to explain to others. The stigma that surrounds mental health has made it hard for people to admit to themselves and others that they're struggling. If you think like this, then you may think that it shows weakness, but that is not true.
First, understand that you don't need to explain your depression to everyone. If they're people they don't need to know about it; you don't have to share it with them. However, don't avoid sharing it just because you feel bad about it. It's important that people that have been diagnosed with depression are willing to talk about and share their stories with others. This will go a long way in helping to end the stigma around depression.
When you're talking to people in your life about depression to help them understand, there are few key things that you can let them know. The first is that there's a difference between what you know to be true and what you feel. You can let them know that you may know that there is nothing to feel bad about, but you keep feeling that anyway.
It's also important to let them know that you may feel exhausted even though you haven't done anything. This makes decision making very difficult because you don't feel like you have the energy to do it and you might not care about the decisions like you used to.
It's also important to let your loved one know that you in no way think that they are responsible for your depression. It may be hard for you to understand at the moment, but those that are close to you, like a spouse, may feel that they are somehow responsible for it or that there's something that they should be able to do to make you feel better. Let them know that you're not looking for them to fix you; you just want them to simply be there as a listening ear or even just to quietly sit by your side.
How To Live With Depression
The good news is, depression is very treatable. If you find yourself living with depression, there is hope, and things will get better. The important thing is to educate yourself on the type of available treatments.
Because there are so many different types of treatment, many people find that they do best with using a combination of treatments to treat their depression.
Many people believe that antidepressants are the only form of treatment available. But that's not true. There are many types of therapy, including cognitive behavioral therapy that are effective at helping patients learn how to overcome depression. However, many people do experience benefits from taking antidepressants. When paired with other forms of treatment such as therapy, antidepressants can become a temporary solution instead of long-term.
When taking antidepressants, it's important to understand the side effects that can come with them. Sometimes it can take making multiple adjustments to the type of antidepressant that you're on or the dosage of it. Side effects can include worsening depression and suicidal thoughts, so it's very important that you pay attention to how you feel when you start to take a new medication.
If you find that you are continuing to struggle and don't notice any positive changes from being on antidepressants, then it's important that you talk to your doctor to adjust.
When you're living with depression, it's easy to forget about taking care of yourself. However, this is a time when you need to be concerned about self-care as much as ever. When you're feeling unmotivated and down, it's easy just to stop paying attention to your eating habits, your sleeping habits, and other personal areas of your life.
However, these are the areas that can help you to keep going while you seek help for your depression. They are also areas that if you can get under control can help stop you from going into depression when you are starting to struggle.
Many people experience a change of appetite when they are having symptoms of depression. For some, this means eating too much, and for others, it means not eating enough. If you are struggling to have an appetite, make sure that you're at least eating small meals throughout the day. You may not feel like eating, but it's important for your body and your mind to get the fuel that they need.
If you find that you are eating too much because you are depressed, look for other things to do to meet the emotional needs that you have. Instead of turning to food, try distracting your mind by participating in an activity or make sure that you're choosing fruits and vegetables and drinking plenty of water.
You may feel like wanting to sleep all day when you're depressed, but don't give in to that feeling. It's important to try to keep your sleep schedule as normal as possible. Make sure that you get up around the same time every morning and that you go to sleep around the same time each night. This helps your body to create a routine.
It's also helpful to make sure that you're doing things like taking a shower, brushing your teeth, making your bed, and doing the dishes. While these things can be mundane and may seem very obvious and normal things to do, when you are depressed, it doesn't always feel that way. However, these are all simple things that if you can choose to do them, can help boost your mood a little while you're depressed. It will give you a sense of accomplishment, knowing that you have completed these things.
If you're living with depression, meeting regularly with a therapist can be very helpful. They can teach you coping skill and talk to you about the symptoms that are experiencing. They can also help you pinpoint where your depression is coming from if it's from genetics or past experience in your life and how to work through that. However, not all depression is from a traumatic event, and a therapist can help you know how to proceed forward with your symptoms.
You can find a local therapist in your area, a support group, and even online therapy to help you learn how to live with depression.
Remember, that depression is a treatable disorder, so there is no need to suffer silently.
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