Mental Health Highlight: Depression

Mental Health Highlight: Depression

For Mental Health Month, we wanted to highlight a few different mental health conditions that you have probably heard of, but may have questions about. Last week we talked about anxiety disorders. This week, we’re talking about depression.

Woman looks into the distance

What is depression?

Everyone experiences low or sad moods from time to time. Difficult and stressful situations in life cause feelings of loneliness, sadness, or fear. These reactions are all normal. However, when someone is diagnosed with depression, their low moods are often more severe, and tend to be more persistent.

Depressive disorders are a commonly diagnosed mental illness and can affect anyone. They often occur at the same time as other mental health disorders, like anxiety disorders. There are several different types of depressive disorders, each with its own set of symptoms. The most commonly diagnosed type of depression is major depressive disorder.

How common is depression?

Depression can cause you to isolate and withdraw from your environment. Although it may feel like it, you are not alone if you’re dealing with depression. According to Mental Health America, over 16 million American adults experience depression each year, making it one of the most common mental health conditions.

What are the signs of depression?

Depression can vary in severity, and everyone experiences symptoms differently. Some signs to look for with depression include:

  • Feeling tired more often than usual
  • Changes in sleeping patterns: sleeping too much, not enough, or poor sleep quality
  • An increase or decrease in your weight, or changes in appetite
  • Difficulty focusing or paying attention
  • Physical symptoms like aches and pains
  • Snapping at others, or feeling more irritable or having a shorter temper
  • Feeling anxious or worried
  • Increased use of alcohol
  • Having a hard time or feeling overwhelmed by making decisions
  • Not keeping up with hygiene or self-care habits

What different treatments are available for depression?

Depression is a very treatable mental illness and there are a variety of different types of treatment. Most often, therapy (including cognitive behavioral therapy), medication, or a combination of the two are used to treat depression. While not treatments in and of themselves, some people find self-help methods like meditation or exercise to be helpful in managing some of the symptoms of depression.

Pacifica has a number of tools based on CBT that can be helpful with managing symptoms of depression. One option is to use the Goals tool in Pacifica for a treatment called behavioral activation. Depression often makes people withdraw from their surroundings and stop engaging in daily activities. Behavioral activation aims to help those dealing with depression by getting them active and engaged with life again. By participating in pleasant experiences for self care, social activity and interaction, and experiences of mastery, or day to day activities, people feel a sense of accomplishment and reward by completing tasks. Using Pacifica’s Goals tool to build lists of tasks for behavioral activation can help keep track of what you need to do, help you reflect on the progress you’ve made, and help identify patterns in your mood associated with completing daily challenges.

How can I help someone struggling with depression?

When a loved one is struggling with depression, it can be difficult to know what to do. While there is no one size fits all advice for how to help someone, often the best thing you can do is to be present and supportive without being overbearing. Oftentimes those experiencing depression don’t feel like engaging socially, although sometimes it can be helpful for them. Although it may feel difficult not to ‘do something’ about someone’s depression, sometimes the best way to help is to simply be there. Offer your company, but don’t force a conversation. Offer a listening ear if they’d like to talk, or simply let them know that you’re there for them if they need you. If you’re still not sure what to do to help, the easiest thing to is to ask.

Have another question about depression? Call in to our podcast, “Your Mind Matters” and ask! Call (415) 855-0553 and leave us a message with your question.