Everyone gets the blues sometimes.
If you’re sad and empty, have trouble concentrating, eating, or sleeping for two weeks or more, you could have depression.
Depression is not a one-size-fits-all illness. It comes in many forms, each with slightly different symptoms.
Depression can be treated, usually with medicine, talk therapy, or both.
After years of living with various degrees of depression, trying different meds with horrible side effects, and therapies to little effect, I realize I just have functional depression.
It’s just a persistent melancholy or dysthymia that’s always in the background and I plug on, carry on, but sometimes I experience pits of despair that I struggle to pull out of and life gets really hard.
Depression feels different for everyone.
5 Lies Christians Tell About Mental Illness
- God won’t give you more than you can handle.
- Just pray and read the Bible more for healing.
- Mental illness is a sin, curse, or demon possession.
- If you loved Jesus more you would be happier and better.
- You can’t be a good Christian if you have a mental illness.
I’m sick and tired of hearing lies like these about mental illness from well-meaning people. You don’t hear things like this about people with physical illness. It’s not just from the proponents of prosperity gospel either. It’s dangerous to tell people that “it’s all in their head.”
We need to do better.
You may not realize some people have depression or other mental illnesses. It’s often not very obvious.
You won’t know I’m not sleeping or oversleeping, binging or abstaining from food, online shopping, gaming, social media…if I’m paranoid afraid that my spouse or kids will leave, get hurt, or die. When I’m overly irritable, people will just assume it’s PMS.
I may seem all smooth and serene, but it’s really that I feel dead inside this week, this month, this season. I’m really good at hiding it behind polite smiles and small talk. Since I am an introvert, you won’t know the difference between my normal and my down days.
Types of Depression
Major Depressive Disorder or Clinical Depression
To make a diagnosis, doctors look for at least five symptoms that affect how you feel, think, and behave, including:
- Loss of interest in activities
- Trouble making decisions
- Difficulty concentrating
- Suicidal thoughts or actions
- Changes in appetite
- Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
Persistent Depressive Disorder or Dysthymic Disorder or Dysthymia
If you’ve been feeling down for at least two years, you may have persistent depressive disorder. More women than men seem to have PDD. Kids and teens can have it, too. It makes them more irritable than depressed, and for them to have this diagnosis, their symptoms need to last only a year. I consider this functional depression. Melancholy.
Bipolar Disorder, used to be called Manic Depression
This features emotional high periods called mania and the lows of depression. These swings affect not only how you feel, but your behavior and judgment, too. This can cause problems with work, relationships, and day-to-day life. Suicidal thoughts and behaviors also are common with bipolar disorder.
Seasonal Affective Disorder
The dreary days of winter can be hard for those with seasonal affective disorder (SAD). These symptoms are the same as depression, but generally happen only when there’s less daylight. About 5% of adults in America have SAD. Treatments such as light therapy or medication can ease symptoms and they can also improve on their own when sunnier weather and season arrives.
Any of life’s unexpected curveballs can bring on extra stress. If it becomes difficult to move forward, you may have an adjustment disorder that can cause depression, anxiety, or both. You may hear this called “situational disorder or symptoms.” The symptoms can start within three months of a stressful event, and they’re usually gone about six months later, but they can last longer, depending on the cause. Usually, talk therapy is the recommended treatment. As a military spouse, I’ve absolutely seen adjustment disorder too often in my family and others.
This is a severe type of depression. Its symptoms include hallucinations and delusions. You may be agitated and be unable to relax. Your ability to think clearly or move normally may slow down dramatically. Psychotic depression usually requires a hospital stay.
Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder
Many women get the cramping and moodiness of premenstrual syndrome (PMS). If you have severe PMS that affects your job and relationships, you may have PMDD. Symptoms often start 7 to 10 days before your period and usually go away a few days after the period begins. If you think you have PMDD, see your doctor to help rule out other issues. I was just diagnosed with a uterine fibroid and I now have a Mirena IUD to shrink it.
Treatments can include:
- Lifestyle changes, such as diet and exercise
- Oral contraceptives or hormone therapy
Most mothers feel a little blue after their baby’s birth due to changing hormones and other factors. If those feelings become severe, you could have postpartum depression. Symptoms can creep in a few weeks after the baby’s birth or even up to a year later. Mood swings, difficulty bonding with your baby, changes in thoughts and behavior, and fears about your mothering are common. If you think you have more than the baby blues, see your doctor. Our culture is very hard on mothers and offers little support for new moms. I suffered terribly after having each of my four babies with no rest or support system. I had no recovery time. We need to do better.
Most forms of depression make you feel sad and empty. But if yours lifts briefly after good news or a positive experience, you may have atypical depression. A doctor can help clarify and distinguish this type. It isn’t rare, but its symptoms are a little different. Other than the temporary mood lift, you may:
- Have a bigger appetite
- Sleep ten or more hours a day
- Be especially sensitive to criticism.
- Get a heavy feeling in your arms and legs that is not because you’re tired
Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder
Although most children have temper tantrums, kids with this disorder are usually excessively irritable and have outbursts well beyond what’s expected. The previous diagnosis for some of these kids was pediatric bipolar disorder, but their symptoms do not always fit this description. It’s a good idea to observe your child in different environments and encourage children to take risks within a safety net so they learn appropriate boundaries and challenge their potential. Reach out to teachers and caregivers for assistance. A doctor can help distinguish this disorder from ADHD or other issues. Lifestyle changes may help.
Subsyndromal means that you may have some symptoms of a disorder, but not enough for a diagnosis. Subsyndromal depression means you have at least two symptoms, but fewer than the five necessary for your doctor to say you have a major depression disorder.
For you to get a diagnosis of this type of depression, your symptoms must affect your quality of life for at least two weeks. Doctors can help rule out any physical reasons for symptoms that may mimic depressive symptoms. Sometimes, there is a vitamin deficiency or other underlying cause.
For most people with depression, modern treatments work well to help you get your life back on track. But up to about a third of people with depression disorders need a little more help.
Doctors are looking at why some people respond well to treatment while others don’t. Some people may have success with their treatment for a little while then have it stop working.
Even if your depression is tougher to treat, you should keep seeing your doctor for assistance and solutions. I know it’s hard.
Do you know someone living with depression?
Check on your friends, family members, coworkers…anyone who you come in contact with on a regular basis.
Don’t just make assumptions. Don’t get your feelings hurt if they pull away.
Please don’t just vaguely say, “Let me know if you need anything.”
People with depression and other mental illnesses need a lot of things, but we will almost ask. We don’t think we deserve your attention. We don’t want to be a burden. We have learned that society doesn’t really care or want to help.
Please reach out.
Because I won’t.
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