Balancing Your Life | Depression
Feeling Out of Balance? Feeling Anxious?
What causes depression? Many things may "set the stage" or predispose one for depression. Some of the most significant things include your background, the skills and beliefs you use to cope with change, any biological vulnerabilities you may have, including genetic predisposition, hormonal imbalances, or other serious physical problems. In many cases depression occurs without any external factors whatever, being induced solely by chemical factors. The loss of personal worth and self-esteem is the most common immediate cause of depression. External events such as the breakup of a friendship or romance, divorce/family separation, death, or stress may trigger depression. Internally, psychological factors such as lack of coping skills, unrealistic standards and assumptions, or the feeling of not getting enough love from parents or significant others can also cause depression. In some cases, multiple causes may be tightly related, creating a downward spiral.
What is depression?
Regardless of the cause, the common denominator of depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain. In simple terms, the "feel good" chemicals are either depleted by overwork or not adequately manufactured because of our gene pool. Depression can come in "all shapes and sizes" from a mild funk to clinical depression. Everyone gets down sometimes. Depression may be a problem when it lasts consistently for two weeks or more. Some types of depression are:
Depression - depressed or irritable mood, or loss of interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities, and associated symptoms for at least two weeks. The symptoms represent a change from normal functioning, and occur for most of the day, every day. (See below for a list of symptoms.)
Manic Depression (bi-polar disorder) - strong mood swings from despair to euphoria with no significant stimulus.
Dysthymia - a long term low level funk which depletes energy and relationships.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) - depression that appears connected to the seasons and seasonal changes.
What are the symptoms of depression?
Two things seem to typify depression: a deep sense of sadness, and/or apathy, and a lack of interest in things you used to enjoy. Other symptoms may include: a change in appetite, weight loss or gain; lack of energy, fatigue; change in sleep patterns; problems with concentration and decision making; feelings of excessive or inappropriate guilt, worthlessness, or hopelessness; worry; restlessness; headaches; stomach aches; sexual problems; and thoughts of death and suicide or attempted suicide.
What can I do about depression?
Treatments for depression include medication , cognitive therapy, and combinations of the two. The recent explosion in psychiatric drug research has produced many new and promising treatments with fewer and less severe side effects. The first step in dealing with depression is to speak to a professional who can help determine your range of options, and the most appropriate treatment(s). Positive self talk, diet, exercise, journaling, counseling, healthy thinking, and a strong personal support network are helpful in preventing and moderating bouts of depression.
Help me, I think I'm depressed!
If you have experienced two or more symptoms for two or more weeks, you may contact the Counseling Services at 898-2670 to schedule a confidential appointment with a counselor. If you are suffering with compelling thoughts of suicide and/or making plans to commit suicide, please get help now. If you cannot reach the Counseling Services, you may contact the Counseling Services Crisis Team at 893-0770.
Am I depressed, or am I anxious?
Depression and anxiety often overlap considerably, and are often difficult to differentiate. The area of overlap generally consists of negative emotions (feeling "stressed", upset, etc.) There are two specific ways to differentiate between anxiety and depression, but these are not foolproof. First, depressed people very often cease to enjoy things that formerly brought them pleasure, while anxious people rarely do this. Second, anxious people often experience hyperarousal, that is their body reacts as if they were fearful (heart palpitations, shortness of breath, break out in a sweat, feelings of choking, numbness, etc.); depressed people rarely do this. However, if one is both anxious and depressed, these symptoms may be experienced simultaneously.
What are the symptoms for anxiety?
Anxiety is formally defined as unrealistic or excessive worry about two or more life circumstances for six months or longer, in which one is worried or anxious more days than not. This anxiousness may be expressed as worry about academic, social, or athletic performance. The following specific symptoms are often present: trembling or feeling shaky; muscle tension; restlessness; shortness of breath or smothering sensations; palpitations or accelerated heart rate; sweaty hands; dry mouth; dizziness; nausea, diarrhea, abdominal distress; hot flashes or chills; frequent urination; trouble swallowing/lump in the throat; feeling on edge; exaggerated startle response; difficulty concentrating; trouble going to sleep/staying asleep; irritability.
How do I find out if I'm depressed or anxious?
If you think you may be depressed or anxious, you can make an appointment at Counseling Services for a brief assessment (at no cost to you). Based on the results of the assessment, you and a counselor can then explore options available to you.