Is it Just Stress OR Is It Depression?

by stresswinner on December 23, 2009

“Everyone is a moon and has a dark side which he never shows to anybody”. (Mark Twain)

Are you feeling anxious, on edge – and yet tired all the time, waking early, feeling as if you haven’t slept? Do you no longer enjoy things which used to be fun? If so, you may not be just ‘stressed’ but suffering from a common, sometimes disabling illness – Depression.

Other symptoms of depression include:

• Loss of concentration and memory
• Feeling sad and down for no reason
• Significant change in appetite or weight
• Chronic pain
• Loss of interest in sex, or even in just being around people
• Excessive use of alcohol
• Feeling like a failure
• Having no hope for the future – and possibly thoughts of suicide.

Most of us occasionally have symptoms like this, but in depressive illness at least five major symptoms are present most of each day for longer than 2 months. Depressive illness is often not diagnosed because sadness and crying are not always the main complaints. In children signs of depression include losing interest in school or hobbies, sleeping poorly, and complaining of head and stomach aches In the elderly, depression may present as pain, increased confusion or alcohol abuse.

Depression is more than normal sadness after a loss, it’s a physical condition in which low levels of the chemicals serotonin and nor-epinephrine interfere with the function of the ‘mood centre’ of the brain. It’s associated with other disorders such as PMS, fibromyalgia, migraine, panic disorder and obsessional worrying. It also plays a major role in many other illnesses, including heart attacks, obesity and chronic pain.

Severe depression is like a grey fog blanketing one’s life, sapping energy, taking away joy, and making it very difficult to function normally for any length of time. You can’t just ‘pull yourself together’ or ‘snap out of it’.

Causes vary and are often combined. Bouts of severe depression or just chronic dissatisfaction and pessimism often run in families. Deeply buried, painful emotions such as anger, fear or guilt, and childhood abuse or neglect may set the stage, stress overload can set it off and it’s more common if you are poor, in a job that seems meaningless or have a chronic illness. Women suffer depression more than men, possibly because of hormones and brain chemistry, burning out from a constant ‘caregiver’ role in life, or holding anger inside.

If you feel stressed and are not coping well, tell your doctor about all your symptoms because once diagnosed, 85% of depression responds well to treatment, with a combination of:

* Counselling to help change distorted, negative thinking and identify hidden emotions such as anger and guilt
* Antidepressant drugs which help normalize the brain chemistry, improving sleep and increasing energy and motivation.
* Activity – such as exercise
* Some herbal remedies, acupuncture and meditation may help.

The big danger in depression is suicide. It’s vital to get expert help if you are experiencing feelings of isolation, loss of hope for the future, or intense, recurrent suicidal thoughts. Remember, depression is not a sign of weakness or insanity – in fact taking the steps needed to recover may well give us an opportunity to grow stronger and eventually have a happier, more fulfilling life.

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