Suffering from the blues of depression

Depression is an illness that should not be taken lightly.Many people suffer from depression without even knowing it and its effects. Interestingly enough, about 15 per cent of Concordia students suffer from depression as well. Could you be one of them?
It’s estimated that more than one million Canadians suffer from it each year. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates 17 million or more Americans suffer from depression annually. About one in twenty-five of these sufferers are under the age of 18 and one in seven women will experience depression in her lifetime. The dreaded d-word includes serious and long-term symptoms including a persistent sad or empty mood, fatigue, sleep disturbances, eating disruptions, feelings of guilt or worthlessness and thoughts of death or suicide. One can feel so hopeless and sad that there is no joy in living. Food, friends and family, sex, hobbies, and other forms of pleasure will no longer be appealing. Concentration on work or responsibilities may be difficult.
Often people think that what they experiencing is temporary and will go away. However, that is not always the case. “If you suspect [depression] in yourself, you’re noticing things that are out of the ordinary with you…. We are quite aware of ourselves and we must explore the symptoms of what isn’t right. It’s okay to talk about it,” says Nick Gazzola from Counseling and Development at Concordia University.
Major depression persists for two weeks or several months or even longer. Episodes of the illness can occur once but more commonly several times throughout one’s life. A woman’s lifetime risk for major depression ranges from 10 to 25 per cent compared with 5 to 12 per cent for men. Most people expereicne depression between the ages of 25 and 44 with the average age of onset being the mid-twenties. In recent decades, major depression has been developing earlier in life with the number of sufferers aged younger than 25 rising worldwide.
Biological factors are important in determining the cause of depression. Heredity plays a huge role since having a parent or close relative who suffers from depression makes it more likely for someone to suffer from the illness. The rate of depression among close relatives is 1.5 to three times than that of individuals with no family history of depression. In addition, low levels of certain brain chemicals such as seratonin can lead to depression. Also depressed people often show characteristic changes in their sleep patterns particularly entering REM or dream sleep much earlier than usual.
However, psychological factors are key as well. One cognitive and behavioral factor can be negative thinking about one’s self, environment, or future. This can cause one to reach faulty conclusions about one’s self worth. One cannot forget stress and life traumas though. Severe or unanticipated stress, major losses (e.g. the death of a loved one or a job loss), family or marital problems, a life transition (e.g. having a child), and chronic illness may trigger a first attack of depression.
Susceptibility to depression may be increased if one lacks stable and close relationships. Due to the fact that women are more prone to voice their emotions and feelings they are slightly better off than men. “There’s still a stigma against depression even though it’s less [severe],” points out Gazzola [Also] it is still believed that men ‘should’ keep these things to themselves since it is unmanly [not to].
“There still remains a mentality that only crazy people seek counseling. However, the people we see are not crazy, but just regular people who need help.” Sadly, only one of three people who are depressed seeks professional treatment.
Serious or prolonged periods of depression can breed negative results such as serious problems in functioning (e.g. marriage breakdown) or decreased resistance to disease and poor physical health. The most extreme result of depression is suicide.
After a person stops denying his or her depression, he or she can go about the path of self-help. Challenging and changing negative thinking is important for if one does not, the condition only worsens. Giving one’s self the permission to express emotions enables him or her to eventually get better. Having a support group of friends or family and keeping busy with positive and enjoyable activities are critical to one’s well being.
Since self-help approaches are not always enough, consulting a health professional is one’s next
option. Resources for treatment are readily available, they include a family doctor, a hotline or crisis line telephone service, a psychologist, psychiatrist or a college or university counseling center.
Can one lessen his or her chances of suffering from depression? Gazzola says that using one’s resources and the people around him or her is key. It is important to know what one can do as opposed to depressing one’s self further. Everyone is different and some things such as exercising or going to see a movie are helpful.
“[However], don’t be afraid to talk,” he stresses. “The worst thing is to isolate yourself. A lot of people contribute to their depression by depressing themselves.”

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