“I’m depressed” is a common metaphor for “I’m having a bad week.” Which is unfortunate because it makes light of the 19 million Americans who really have depression — who have been diagnosed with major depressive disorder and experience despair as their everyday normal.
May being Mental Health Month, this is a good time to brush up on depression as a mental health issue—especially if your own “being depressed” may go deeper than a temporary bad mood.
How to Tell Real Depression from a Blue Mood
While a depressed mood usually clears up on its own, medical depression drags on for weeks or months, with or without a person’s having anything to be depressed about. (Stress or trauma may trigger depression, but true depression has biological factors and outlasts “depressing” circumstances.)
If you think “depressed” feelings may indicate a bigger problem, screen yourself with the following questionnaire. Not everyone with depression has every symptom listed, but if even a few persist more than two weeks, clinical depression is a likely factor.
- Have I lost interest in favorite activities?
- Are goals falling by the wayside because I no longer see any purpose in them?
- Do I struggle to concentrate, keep up routine tasks or control my temper?
- Have my eating or sleeping habits changed?
- Do I feel tired without obvious cause?
- Do I have unexplained aches and pains?
- Does everything I accomplish seem useless or deficient?
- Has “Everything just keeps getting worse” become an everyday thought for me?
- Am I becoming dangerously reckless and thinking, “Who cares if I get hurt?”
- Have I thought about committing suicide?
- Has anyone in my family struggled with depression, suicidal impulses or drug addiction?
- Am I “self-medicating” my depression with alcohol or other drugs? Are there signs that the drug use is getting out of control?
Depression, Addiction and What to Do
Because it often seems a quick fix for down-in-the-dumps feelings, the self-medicating approach is popular—and dangerous. Of people with major depressive disorder, one in three also have addiction disorder. Each disorder makes the other worse, and both must be treated together for effective recovery.
If you have these symptoms with or without drug abuse, get professional treatment. If you have a mood disorder co-occurring with addiction disorder, find a detox center that specifically treats for “dual diagnosis.” Get a physical checkup, too: purely physical problems can contribute to mental and behavioral problems, and vice versa.
You do need medical treatment. Depression is not something anyone can “just snap out of,” so don’t let pride keep you from getting help. However, there are things you can do to improve your chances of recovering and staying depression-free.
- Avoid stressing yourself with overwork
- Get regular exercise—preferably outdoors for extra health benefits
- Eat a healthy diet with lots of lean protein, whole grains and fresh produce
- Go easy on caffeine- and sugar-heavy foods
- Consider going alcohol-free, even if alcoholism wasn’t a factor in your depression
- Spend time with positive people who share your interests and believe in you
- Join a depression and/or sobriety support group (your treatment center may sponsor one)
- Stay focused on your strengths and on healthy goals
And finally, never get too busy to stay in the habit of enjoying life!
Getting Help for Your Mental Health
Whether you can’t summon the will to get out of bed, or are functioning “normally” but under an invisible cloud of despair, one symptom of clinical depression is giving up hope that things will ever get better. Take courage: they can. Millions of people have learned to manage depression and live happy, fulfilling lives.
Don’t try to power through on your own: professional help from a licensed therapist is the best treatment. If you’re an 18–25-year-old male and have substance abuse problems compounding your depression, Spearhead Lodge’s dual diagnosis program employs a skilled team of clinicians and addiction experts to ensure you get all the treatment you need. Contact us today to learn more.