Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Spotlight on depression

Today I want to provide a bite-sized description of what depression looks like in the hope that it fills in some gaps for people. While there is no replacement for expert medical advice on this subject, my aim here is to assist those who would like to have a firmer grasp of how depression looks and feels.

The first thing to say is that depression is a mood disorder. In other words, it is a condition that messes with how one feels: it puts one's feelings into disorder.

We all feel sad and down from time to time. For most people these feelings resolve naturally in the space of a few hours or days following a setback. For the depressed person, feelings of sadness negatively affect his or her ability to cope with setbacks, maintain a healthy level of self-esteem, and/or handle the relationships in his or her life.

When I was unwell with depression my ability to concentrate diminished and I could not study or work to the level I had become used to. I became withdrawn from friends that I was usually in touch with. My sense of self-worth also suffered. Some common elements of my experience included:
  • a lack of "colour" in life
  • no energy
  • no laughter, no sensations of excitement
  • an absence of feelings of hope about the future
  • strong feelings of isolation even (or indeed especially when) in a crowded room
When I trained to teach high school students about mental health through a program run by the Black Dog Institute, our recommendation to students was that if they noticed some of the signs like the ones I mentioned above over a stretch of two weeks or longer, it is important they raise this with someone they trust.

I have no doubt the same two week rule is a good one for adults too. Being in this situation does not necessarily mean you are experiencing depression, but there is no downside to having an honest conversation with someone who cares about you. As the saying goes, "two heads are better than one". It has been my experience that this is especially true when it comes to mental health issues.

Continuing with my theme of having a video accompaniment, here is one for anyone who likes acoustic guitar music