Trying to describe depression is like trying to describe ice cream to someone who has never tasted anything sweet. Even if they could understand a little bit, they quickly show you that they don’t. Their unhelpful pleas to “snap out of it” is proof that they have no idea what they are talking about.
Being depressed can be a feeling of apathy. The things you found interesting are no longer interesting. It can also cause feelings of worthlessness and pessimism. For some people, it can be a debilitating illness that causes you to spend your life under the darkness of warm covers. If you don’t have a partner or caregiver, depression could actually lead to homelessness. Many of the homeless you see in your cities are usually dealing with some form of mental illness. Yes, they may suffer from some form of substance abuse, but that is just a symptom of a deeper issue. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), depression is the leading cause of disability with around 300 million people suffering from it worldwide.
What Causes Depression?
For a long time, it was believed that depression is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. That may be true, but it is a lot more complicated than that. There are millions and billions of chemicals in your brain that can affect your mood. The Journal of Neuroscience found that women who had a smaller hippocampus, a brain structure embedded in the temporal lobe, were more likely to suffer from depression. Stress suppresses the production of new neurons in the hippocampus which may also contribute to the size. Current antidepressants boost the concentration of neurotransmitters. However, scientists are considering shifting research to antidepressants that would help the brain generate new neurons since new neurons improve mood in humans. These future antidepressants will help people feel better much quicker than traditional antidepressants.
Genetically vulnerable people are also susceptible to depression. Your genes create proteins necessary for biological processes. Throughout your life, different genes turn on and off. If the wrong genes are off, it can cause problems. Any stress you face can trigger depression due to the wrong genes being turned off. Depression and bipolar disorder do run in families. Because dozens of genes can affect a person’s susceptibility to depression, scientists are trying to figure out what those genes are.
Temperament can be determined by genetics as well as life experiences. You can make better choices in life by first studying how you behave in certain situations. Your worldview may also influence your behavior and can also have a hand in why you are depressed. However, therapy and medication can help adjust your temperament and worldview so you are in a healthier place. Chronic stress may also leave your body in overdrive, and it can change your brain. Early loss and trauma can also trigger depression. Women abused physically or sexually as children were found to have higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
Seasonal affective disorder starts in Fall and wanes around Springtime when there is less sunlight. It may leave you feeling depressed and lethargic. Doctors recommend outdoor exercise during daylight hours for those dealing with this disorder. Light therapy can also help. Be careful with light therapy as it may come with its own issues. Medical problems, like thyroid hormone imbalances and heart disease, may also trigger depression.
Medication and therapy are great ways to deal with depression. However, there are other things you can do in addition to that. When you are depressed, you may feel like you can’t accomplish anything. This may cause your days to lump together and cause you to feel even worse about yourself. Starting a routine can help you get back on track. Write out the goals you want to accomplish and pick a simple task you can do every day that will help you reach your goal. Your goal could be something as simple as showering every day. Once you feel a little better, add something a little more challenging. Exercise is known to boost endorphins. If you have problems leaving your home, maybe that can be your next goal. Try a walk around the neighborhood, or bike to your favorite coffee shop. Make that something you do every day or every other day. Taking care of your nutrition may also help with depression. Foods with omega-3 fatty acids, like salmon and tuna, can improve your mood. Also, foods that contain folic acid, like spinach and avocado, can also help you feel better.
Building a sleep routine is also important when it comes to depression. If you don’t sleep enough, it can worsen your mood. Make a goal to get up and go to bed at the same time every day. Try not to nap during the day. Remove your phone, computer, and television from your bedroom. You should also have a work routine. Maybe you are not ready for full-time work or school. Try part-time. Do volunteer work. Doing something during the day will give you a feeling of accomplishment. Challenge negative thoughts. If you are tearing yourself down and making yourself feel bad, use logic. Is it really true that no one likes you or cares about you? This exercise can be a great way to get your negative thoughts under control.
Add fun to your life. When you are depressed, you are stuck in a rut. Try learning a new language or a new sport. Challenging ourselves increases the level of dopamine in the brain, which can help us feel good. You can also try doing the things you used to do before you were depressed. Meet your friends for dinner. Go to the movies. It may feel like a chore, and you will have to force yourself to go. In time, it may feel fun again. If it doesn’t, just try something else.