By Ernst Lamothe Jr.
Depression is a topic that is hard for many to understand, difficult for sufferers to cope with and often something challenging to talk about. Whether it’s because of the various misconceptions or the complexity of the subject, too often depression gets misdiagnosed or ignored. Making matters worse, 2020 has offered a consistent plate of unpredictability, tragedy and anxiety that has led to an increase in reported depression cases.
“It’s important to shed light on mental health and depression,” said Laura Jowly, outpatient behavioral health manager at Clifton Springs Hospital and Clinic. “We’re living in a time now with the pandemic and everything else is going on where people are struggling and learning how to deal with everything. That’s why we can’t be afraid to talk about depression openly.”
Mental health experts view trauma as any event or circumstances where an individual experiences overwhelming or life-changing feelings. It can have physiological, social and spiritual impact.
Jowly discusses five aspects of depression that people should know.
1. Watch the symptoms
Although depression symptoms may vary in intensity or frequency, there are a few warning signs of which people should be aware. A person may feel sadness, tearfulness, emptiness or hopelessness. There are times with angry outbursts, irritability or frustration, even over small matters. When depression hits, there is a loss of interest or pleasure in most or all normal activities, sleep disturbances, including insomnia or sleeping too much and reduced appetite and weight loss or increased cravings for food and weight gain. There can be feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixating on past failures or self-blame.
“You have to watch if you’re feeling large bouts of hopelessness, having a difficult time sleeping for long periods of time and you stop enjoying the activities that used to give you so much joy,” said Jowly.
2. Difficult talking about it
There is still a stigma about people expressing their inner thoughts about their depression. Some people will simply call it the blues or dismiss it as something that can easily be solved with a nap or vacation. However, it goes deeper than that. And because of the layers associated with depression and the backlash from family and friends, sometimes people decide to keep that part of their lives to themselves.
“Even though I do think the stigma of depression is decreasing, you still have stereotypes of people who need mental health services,” said Jowly. “Some people resist getting the help they need because of that stigma. We all need coping mechanisms for issues we deal in life.”
3. COVID-19 and depression
This pandemic is currently having an impact on the way people live and navigate the world. It is also causing a great deal of terror, despair and even grief given the enormous and yet rising death toll. It can impact a person’s sense of control, encroaching on the comfort zones and requiring them to adjust to continually fluid situations. Being quarantined at home for months during this year has also had an impact.
“A lot of people felt isolated at first with the stay-at-home order,” said Jowly. “Even when things start opening back up you have the whole social distancing as well as limiting the number of people who can be together, which also affects people and can make them feel isolated. We need a support network in life to function and when you have to be away from those important people anxiety can arise.”
4. Depression and addiction
“They can go hand-in-hand. There are people who have done well with medication for their depression,” said Jowly. “But there are others who when prescribed certain drugs for depression it led them to other drugs and over dependency on them.”
5. Depression looks different
Exposure to and living through traumatic events has the strong potential to shape a person’s belief, knock us off our equilibrium and rock a person to their core at a fundamental level. That is why reaching out to a psychological expert is important.
“People feel like there’s one type of image for those who are dealing with depression,” said Jowly. “It’s a stereotype of someone who is homeless, who looks disheveled and living under a bridge. That’s the problem with depression; it doesn’t just have one face. There are so many people who you would never think who are battling with this. Even worse, they feel like they have to fight the battle within because they don’t feel comfortable talking to people about it. We are very good as human beings at convincing ourselves and others that we’re doing well even when we’re not.”