Depression is a serious mental illness caused by a combination of biological, psychological, and social distress. It’s not just a prolonged feeling of sadness, as it can change a person’s neural brain circuits.
The range of symptoms that come with depression can drastically change a person’s behavior. It can decrease energy levels, self-esteem levels, change sleep patterns, appetite, ability to concentrate, and even daily behavior. The symptoms of depression can deteriorate a person’s personal life, including relationships, as well as their professional career, so it’s critical to counteract these symptoms by recognizing them and treating them as soon as possible.
The following are some tips to recognizing, overcoming, and recovering from depression.
How Anxiety Can Play a Role in Depression
A common misconception about depression is that you cannot have both depression and anxiety at the same time. Many people believe you can’t have a mental disorder that causes fear of the future (anxiety) while also having a mental disorder that shuts you down and prevents you from being able to cope (depression).
But in all reality, anxiety, and depression can go hand in hand. Research has shown that 60-70% of people with depression suffer from anxiety, and 50% of those with chronic anxiety suffer from clinical symptoms of depression. There’s a term for the existence of both of these disorders in one person in the psych world, and it’s called comorbidity.
Researchers are beginning to conclude that depression and anxiety are actually two sides of the same disorder. These illnesses are so similar, in fact, that mental health professionals have difficulty distinguishing between the two. Depression and anxiety have a lot in common: both can be predicted by genetics, the neurobiology of the two are similar, and the psychological and biological natures are the same.
Anxiety is a reaction to life stressors, and depression is almost a step beyond that. It’s as if all of the anxiety builds up to a point where a person feels they can’t cope anymore, resulting in depression. This is why in most cases anxiety precedes depression.
One major similarity these two disorders share is that people who suffer from them tend to avoid coping with the things that scare or worry them. As a result, these sufferers are unable to develop the skills they need to cope, and the cycle of misery continues.
The onset of anxiety can be an indicator for looming symptoms of depression. Here are just a few signs of the presence of both anxiety and depression:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Sudden or extreme changes in mood
- Sleep troubles
- Changes in appetite
- Constant fear or worry
For more information on the symptoms of both anxiety and depression, check out this guide.
How to Defeat Depression
Being able to recognize the symptoms of depression at the onset is an incredibly important first step to overcoming it. Believe it or not, it’s easy for a person to be caught up in depression and isolate themselves without realizing they’re suffering from a depressive episode.
Here are some red flags to look out for when trying to determine whether or not you or someone you care about is experiencing depression:
- Withdrawal from social life
- Persistent aches and pains such as headaches, cramps, or digestive problems
- Persistent anxious, sad, or feelings of emptiness
- Thoughts or talk of suicide
- Loss of interest in activities that bring pleasure, including sex
- Fatigue and lacking in energy
Recognizing these signs are the first step to overcoming a depressive episode. Once depression is identified, it’s important to begin treating it right away to prevent the condition from getting worse.
Many people can treat their depression without seeking help from a mental health professional. Here are a few suggestions to ease those symptoms on your own:
- Distract yourself – One of the simplest ways to overcome depression is just by keeping busy and thereby distracting your mind from depressing thoughts.
- Challenge negative self-talk – The ideas that crop up as a result of depression are usually fear-based and not representative of reality. By acknowledging these thoughts as ones being produced by an unhealthy mind and reminding yourself not to take them so seriously, you can regain some critical perspective.
- Connect with others – Depression is in its nature an illness that isolates people from others. So it can often be difficult for a depressed person to reach out. But one of the all-around best ways to overcome depression is by feeling the support of others who care.
These are only a few tips for overcoming depression. For more suggestions, read 6 Steps to Beating Depression.
Keep in mind that there will be many cases when a depressed individual needs more treatment than what they can provide to themselves. A mental health professional will be able to determine what specific treatment is necessary, but the standard prescription is a combination of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and medication.
Recovering from Depression
When you’re coming out of a depressive episode, you may not even realize it at first. The healing from depression is a very gradual process so you can’t expect to feel better right away. In many cases, you can get back to a healthy mind as long as you’re patient with your recovery.
That being said, life after depression does not come without its challenges. In fact, if you’ve had a depressive episode you’re statistically more likely to experience another one. This is why it’s so important to instill practices in your life to prevent relapse later on.
Here are some tips for preventing the onset of depression in the future:
- Practice mindfulness – Depression is a mental illness that produces thoughts that mostly lie to you. These thoughts are negative and fear-based by nature, and they are often not set in reality. Mindfulness helps you center yourself so you can get the mental distance you need to recognize that these thoughts are not you.
- Self-care – Depression makes you neglectful of yourself. By stepping up to care for your body by eating healthily and exercising, you make a healthy mind. This makes it more difficult for depression to come back. Practice listening to what your body needs.
- Support, support, support – Don’t stop reaching out for help when the worst of your depression is over. Human connection is the best source of healing and also the best preventative medicine for depression. Isolating yourself is likely to cause a relapse.
Sometimes to fully recover from depression, it takes more effort than just mindfulness, self-care, and support. And in some cases, people live with depression for the rest of their lives. For more information on recovering from longer lasting depression, this article provides the information you need.
Remember that if you’ve been prescribed medication or therapy by a mental health professional, it’s important to continue your treatment until they recommend to ease back. Just like with prescribed antibiotics when you’re sick, you can begin to feel better before you’ve finished your full prescription, but if you quit right after you feel better, the illness can come back. Keep with your treatment until you’re explicitly told you can stop.
While depression can be a crippling mental illness and affects millions of people every year, it is possible to defeat it. If you are experiencing depression, it’s imperative for you to remember that you are not alone and that many of the thoughts you’re experiencing are lies from your depression.
For more resources, you can check out the linked articles in this guide. If you’re in need of immediate help or feel that you are in danger, call the US Suicide Hotline (1-800-784-2433) or NDMDA Depression Hotline (800-826-3632).