Understanding Depression

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, an estimated 16 million adults had at least one depressive episode last year. Yet this data only includes those who sought treatment. In actuality, the number may be quite higher. For being an illness that touches so many people, why is depression not talked about more frequently in our society?

Mallory Adams, LPC-CR, is a clinical therapist at Harbor Behaviorial Health who’s working to change that. “As a clinical therapist, one of my roles is to promote awareness and break down stigma associated with mental illness,” she says.

Here are some basic questions about depression, answered by Adams:

Who is affected by depression?

Depression does not discriminate. It’s an illness that affects a wide range of populations despite age, gender, and socioeconomic status. Triggering life events such as a major loss or trauma may worsen symptoms of depression. Depression may also seem to slowly “sneak up” on a person over time. It is worth noting that certain populations are known to be of higher risk for depression such as elderly people and women. Certain factors may be taken into consideration when working with these populations such as stage of life transitions, access to services, problems related to physical health and financial stress.

How do I know if I am depressed or someone I know is depressed?

Depression is not something to be taken lightly. In fact, it often feels anything but “light”. Working with clients, I often use this analogy: Depression is like trying to complete your day-to-day tasks while carrying a refrigerator on your back. What I am referring to is feeling a lack of motivation, loss of energy and overall decreased pleasure that a person with depression is likely to experience. Other signs to look for might include: Withdrawal from friends and family, tearfulness or feeling sad for more days than not, fluctuations in weight (e.g. losing or gaining unexpected weight), sleeping too much or not enough, irritability, and negative impact on social or occupational roles and relationships.

Are depression and anxiety related?

Life can be stressful at times. Everything from financial instability to chronic pain to job-related stress and raising a family has the potential to get you down once in a while. Some amount of stress is to be expected in everyday life, but when stressors like these begin to feel overwhelming and unmanageable, it can add to underlying feelings of depression and even present itself in symptoms of anxiety. In fact, anxiety and depression often go hand in hand. It is important to note that in addition to the symptoms described above, a person might also be experiencing feelings of panic, worry and general unease when struggling with depression as well as anxiety. 

How do I get help?

Taking that first step toward getting help is often a difficult one for many. You may think you are the only person struggling with this and that no one will understand your story. Please know that this is not true. If you or someone you know might be struggling with depression, it is never too late to seek out help. Sharing your story with a mental health professional or medical professional has the potential to start the path to your recovery and the chance to be in control of your depression.

Visit Harbor Behavioral Health’s website to learn more about services for people living with depression. Do you have a question about depression? Leave your question in the comments below.