By Sebhat Ayele MCCJ
This year, Leadership Magazine introduced a new column: “Manage your Emotions”. The last issue dealt with Stress and in this issue, our topic of contention is “Depression” also one of the common negative emotions that haunt human beings for different reasons. The same general principles that were proposed on how to deal with Stress can also work for depression. But the core principle is: “How you Feel – Is Up To you”. Depression can be alleviated if one feeds the brain with positive and realistic thoughts.
What is Depression?
Francis Bacon, an English philosopher of the 16th century says: “it is a miserable state of mind, to have few things to desire, and many things to fear”. This is the cream of depression. According to modern Clinical Psychologists, depression is: “Depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest”. Also called major depressive disorder or clinical depression, it affects how one feels, thinks and behaves and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems. One may have trouble doing normal day-to-day activities, and sometimes may feel as if life isn’t worth living.
If one fails an important examination, loses a loved one or a job, or gets dumped in a relationship, it is normal to feel depressed. But if he/she remains depressed for more than two weeks, long after the event has passed, then he/she may have a common clinical disorder called depression. Clinical depression, also called major depressive disorder, is characterized by a sad or blue mood that affects nearly every aspect of everyday life: family and social relationships, work or school performance, even the desire to do simple things such as exercise or go out with friends.
According to the clinical psychologist McKay and Dinkmeyer, like any other negative emotion, depression is a widespread mental health condition. If one wants to face it, the person should be ready to make changes in the way one perceives and judges reality. There are two major classifications of depression: biological which affects body chemistry and which may require medication. The second is psychological which is based on emotional factors. As it will be illustrated later, the symptoms may be slightly different. In any case, either way, depression is a serious emotional disorder. When one believes and feels that he/she is inadequate and without value, that is life threatening, therefore hopeless; then it is clear that one is immersed in the unpleasant feeling of depression.
What causes depression?
Like most mental disorders, the causes of depression are largely unknown. Researchers and clinicians theorize that depression is the result of three related factors – biological, psychological and social. No doctor can tell you how much of any single factor is contributing to the diagnosis of depression within an individual. For some people, the biological factors, such as genetics, may be stronger than the other two. For others, it may be caused mainly by a psychological issue, such as one’s personality or way of coping with stress.
Theories about biological causes include ideas such as there is a chemical imbalance in the brain, or that some people carry a genetic predisposition to depression based upon certain genes inherited from one’s parents. Theories about psychological causes include ideas such as there is an internal dialogue that reinforces our negative beliefs about ourselves or our abilities, or that some people never learn adequate coping skills as they are growing up. Theories about social causes include ideas such as a person may have had difficulty establishing social skills in childhood, or have few or no friends or family connections as an adult.
But depression, even though it often feels like it for a person who is depressed, is not the end of the world. It is one of the most well-understood and readily treated and treatable mental disorders. Learning more about this issue is an important and courageous first step toward ending feelings of sadness and depression.
What are some of the Risk Factors for Depression?
A risk factor is something that may increase your chances of getting depression or another condition. The risk factors for depression include: Having previous episodes of depression or another mental disorder: such as anxiety, a sleep disorder, or a personality disorder. Another risk factor can be any life-changing or stressful event in your life including both negative ones: such as the death of a loved one, or positive ones, such as the birth of a child or a wedding. Most experts believe that a family history of depression or some other mental disorders within your family is a very probable risk factor.
From the psychological point of view, low self-esteem or having no or few friends is also a powerful risk factor can easily cause depression.
Human beings are created to be social. One should depend on others for many reasons. When low self-esteem creeps in, relationship in social life is paralyzed and psychological feelings of unworthiness dominate. Emotions are also strongly affected when feelings of helplessness dominate either due to poverty or lack of capacity to perform some duty. One can easily be depressed as if life is out of control.
Symptoms of Depression
Depression is much more than just a bad mood, though. Countless people in the throes of depression often feel worthless, lack any appetite, withdraw from friends and family, have difficulty sleeping, and can become agitated or lethargic. Most worrisome of all, people who are depressed can often run a high risk of suicide.
A person who suffers from a major depressive disorder either has a depressed mood or a loss of interest or pleasure in daily activities consistently for at least a 2 week period. This mood change affects a person across all aspects of their life – social, work, school and such.
Clinical depression is characterized by the presence of the majority of these symptoms in a person, experienced nearly every day:
Depressed mood most of the day, as indicated by either the person’s own feeling e.g., feeling sad or empty or as observed by others as tearful. In children and adolescents, however this may be characterized as an irritable mood. One of the characteristic symptoms of depression is markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities most of the day. Significant loss or gain of weight is also another symptom of depression. Depression can induce the person to either high or low appetite, which are opposite tendencies.
Other symptoms are: lack of sleep or sleeping too much; agitation (Can’t sit still) or difficulty with physical movement (sedentary); fatigue or loss of energy; diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness, etc. Depressed people show recurrent thoughts of death, recurrent suicidal thought without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt or a specific plan for committing suicide.
Healing oneself from depression
As described in the last topic of Stress, it is very important to change ones thinking to change and challenge negative thoughts. That is why authors constantly underline “How You Feel – Is Up To You”. Hence unless one is trained to feed the brain with positive thoughts here and now, things will not change much. According to our experts McKay and Dinkmeyer, other exercises than help to deal with depression are:
• Accept the fact that you are depressed and begin to catch yourself with your negative thoughts.
• Realize you choose your negative thoughts based on “shoulds”, “musts” and “don’ts”. Gradually replace them with softer imperatives which are realistic.
• Ask yourself: “what am I thinking and saying to myself?” Then ask: “what can I tell myself to help me feel better?”
• Do what you fear to do. Gradually you will gain self-confidence.
Last but not least, as acknowledged at the beginning of the feature “Manage Your Emotions”, faith has an important factor to heal depression. Regaining ones trust in God and seeking for His light is extremely healing. Faith and trust in God means changing our negative feelings to positive feelings. As Jesus said in Mt. 11:28: “Come to me, all of you who are weary and over-burdened, and I will give you rest!”
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