Some say that being sad can last for five days straight, whereas being happy can go away a lot faster than that. Even though we strive to be happy all the time, being sad is more natural to humans.
However, feeling down and blue is one thing, and not being able ever to feel good or happy is another. People need to start noticing the difference between being sad for a couple of days and being depressed. Keep reading to find out more.
How to define depression in a couple of words?
Nowadays, everyone talks about how you cannot be healthy on a physical level without having a healthy mind and vice-versa. When your body is sick, your mental abilities and mood are also affected. Let’s not forget that a healthy mind also makes the body healthy. The health of one affects and is also dependant on the other.
Having said that, it makes perfect sense that depression will alter your body and mind, impacting the way you deal with your life. Sometimes, we don’t even realize that we’re depressed. However, clinical depression can be a very lonely and confusing condition. It can also impact our lives dramatically.
What symptoms should worry you?
First of all, let’s highlight that depression isn’t a transient sadness. Naturally, we change our mood (not dramatically and instantly, though), and we experience both sadness or anxiety at different times in our life. But it would help if you worried when you’re always trying to remain positive and achieve pleasure from life.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders states that depression lasting for more than two weeks is defined as clinical depression. It affects both your professional and personal life, and the people around you too.
People who are dealing with depression will lose interest in their favorite activities. They tend to feel overly sad, guilty, and constantly tired. Typically, they will take steps to be away from friends and family members.
Here are some other symptoms that somebody with clinical depression may feel:
- Paralyzing indecision.
- Frequent crying.
- Loss of sex drive.
- Powerful feelings of detachment.
- Not wanting to carry out social or work responsibilities.
- Fixation on death and/or thoughts of suicide.
- Always feeling tired, exhausted, sleepy, and without any energy.
- Aches and pains, such as, for example, stomachaches or headaches, with no apparent reason or cause.
The National Institute of Mental Health states that more than 6% of adults in the U.S. are dealing with depression at any one time.
Are depression and substance abuse related in any way?
Depressive symptoms are often debilitating and overwhelming. It is not unusual for sufferers to feel that they can no longer cope. It’s pretty standard for people with depression also to develop an addiction to maybe drugs, alcohol, or another substance. Unfortunately, there’s a strong connection between substance abuse and depression.
Anyone dealing with depression will try to get some control over life or escape from it by using substances and alcohol. We say that when people do this, they are self-medicating or auto-medicating.
However, for individuals with depressive symptoms, alcohol or substance abuse is the last they need. Taking some kind of drug that a doctor has not prescribed is most likely to worsen their symptoms. Studies suggest that approximately 30% of people with addiction also experience depression.
If you are currently developing symptoms of depression, rather than trying to self-medicate with alcohol or recreational drugs, seek help from a healthcare professional. Initially, you could reach out to a family member or a close friend.
What does depression do to your body?
Depression is a mental condition that alters both the body and the mind. It’s not only the emotional symptoms that worry, but also the physical symptoms that affect people’s well-being. The condition can have a negative effect on various parts of the body:
The cardiovascular and immune system
Mental stress boosts the release of stress hormones, which narrow the blood vessels. It is not uncommon for cardiovascular illnesses such as hypertension (high blood pressure), elevated cholesterol levels, and diabetes type 2 to emerge.
The body’s immune system may also become weaker. Our immune system protects us from developing diseases or their complications. People with a strong immune system are less likely to suffer from the complications of flu, such as pneumonia, than their weaker counterparts.
Depression may negatively affect people’s digestive system. Typical signs and symptoms include:
- Overeating or binge eating.
- Not eating enough. Some sufferers may even develop signs of malnutrition.
- Stomachache and cramps.
- Bodyweight fluctuations.
Signs and symptoms do not have the same meaning. Patients experience/feel symptoms and describe them, while signs are detectable by other people too. A rash, for example, is a sign; we can all see it. A headache, on the other hand, is a symptom; we only become aware of it if the patient tells us.
In some cases, the harms to the individual’s digestive system can lead to chronic problems. In medicine, when something is chronic it means that it lasts for a long time, maybe the rest of the patient’s life. People who put on too much weight are at higher-than-normal risk of developing diabetes type 2.
Our mental and emotional state can undermine our ability to remember things, i.e., our memory. For people whose jobs rely heavily on good memory, the risk of being fired increases significantly.
If you notice that a friend or family member has some of the signs and symptoms of depression, including memory loss, try to persuade them to get professional help.
People dealing with depression will often develop sleep disorders and vice-versa. People who suffer from insonmia, for example, are ten times more likely to develop clinical depression than individuals with no sleeping disorder.
Depression may affect both types of insomnia:
- Sleep maintenance insomnia- staying asleep is difficult. This means that you have no problem falling asleep, but you wake up during the night and stay awake.
- Sleep onset insomnia- it’s difficult to fall asleep
Along with insomnia, people with depression experience sleepiness throughout the day. In some cases, if the patient’s sleep disorder is successfully treated, their depressive symptoms also disappear.
Can you cure depression?
If everything we’ve talked about sounds familiar to you, you should seek professional help ASAP. You can also start by adopting new and healthy habits in your life. When you care for your body, you will most likely experience mental benefits too.
It may sound redundant, but “mens sana in corpore sano” (Latin: a healthy mind in a healthy body) is 100% true. Here are the benefits of physical exercise:
- Exercise may improve your body image and self-esteem.
- It also raises body temperature, which soothes the central nervous system.
- Levels of immune system chemicals that aggravate depression decline.
- It releases endorphins, which are the natural hormones that boost our mood.
Exercising and eating nutritious and healthy foods are essential for everybody’s well-being, not only for patients with depression. Many alternative rehab programs focus on the importance of having a healthy diet and exercising.
Today, there are some very effective drugs that can help patients get better. Most studies have found that a combination of counseling and medication has the best outcome.
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