Definition of Depression
Depression is a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act. Fortunately, it is also treatable. Depression causes feelings of sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed. It can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems and can decrease a person’s ability to function at work and at home.
How Depression is Diagnosed
Major Depressive Disorder requires two or more major depressive episodes.Diagnostic criteria: Depressed mood and/or loss of interest or pleasure in life activities for at least 2 weeks and at least five of the following symptoms that cause clinically significant impairment in social, work, or other important areas of functioning almost every day.
- Depressed mood most of the day.
- Diminished interest or pleasure in all or most activities.
- Significant unintentional weight loss or gain.
- Insomnia or sleeping too much
- psychomotor retardation noticed by others.
- Fatigue or loss of energy
- Feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt
- Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness
- Recurrent thoughts of death
It doesn’t take much to let a friend who’s struggling with depression know you’re here for them:
Small gestures like handwritten notes, or sending an e-card or paper card can help. When I am depressed or having a hard time, my fiance goes out of her way to do small things to make me feel better. Recently, she made me a sock monkey and sent me a care package with a photo, a card, a sock monkey, and a necklace she had gotten me. You would be AMAZED over how much that meant to me.
A phone call can help bring a person out of isolation, which is important to people who are depressed because they tend to isolate and stay to themselves and stay in their own heads. I don’t know if you’ve ever had one of those days where you get distant and wrapped up in yourself. When I’m sad, Kyla always tries to call me on Snapchat to voice chat and I have found that it makes me feel not-so-alone.
Encouragement to get help is something that is important too. Don’t make them feel like they are crazy, but do talk to them out of concern. When Kyla is upset or feeling a certain way, I try to tell her to talk to her counselor about it. Counseling can be hard on people though and I know from experience that it can cause un-needed anxiety and actually be more detrimental to the client, especially if they feel that the person they see is just doing it for the pocket change.
Being a good listener or a shoulder to cry on is also helpful. Sometimes people don’t want your advice, they want you to listen to them, which is the basis of psychotherapy developed by Sigmund Freud.
Remembering to give them space is another thing. Depending on whether your friend or loved one is an introvert or extravert, they might need more space than not. This doesn’t mean letting them isolate, rather it means not being suffocating.
Do NOT by ANY means say any of the following to someone who is depressed:
- “Snap out of it.”
- “It’s just a phase.”
- “You are being a big baby.”
- “You are seeking attention.”
- “Stop being dramatic.”
- “You have so much to be happy about.”
It is important to understand what depression is to be able to help someone who is suffering from it. There are a lot of misconceptions and ideas out there that instead of helping someone deal with depression, actually may be detrimental to them and yourself. When a family member or friend suffers from depression, your support and encouragement can play an important role in his or her recovery.