Depression is one of the most common mental illnesses diagnosed in the world. Some research suggests that depression is on the rise here in the United States and even more so now with the conditions surrounding the pandemic. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the U.S. is the third highest country for depressive disorders and there are over 264 million people suffering from depression worldwide. Depression is also one of the main causes of disability globally.
So why are we seeing so many more people living with depression, even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic? Some researchers suggest that we are not doing enough of the things we used to do prior to an advanced technological age, including: spending time outdoors, getting enough vitamin D, socializing, exercising, and eating a nutritious, balanced diet. Often when people are suffering with depression, the opposite of those things listed prior are things the person may be struggling with such as: isolating, sleeping more, poor appetite or overeating, and lethargic behaviors.
Other depressive symptoms may include a loss of interest in things the person used to enjoy, feelings of guilt or low self-worth, poor concentration, feeling tired often, and disruption in sleep and or appetite.
The truth is, causes for depression can vary. If you have a family history of depression, you could be at risk of developing depression. Those who have experienced major life changes, trauma or stress may also be at risk of developing depression. Depression can come to anyone, and no one is immune.
Persons who live with depression can’t simply “snap out of it” and it may involve more than just being sad. Depression is an overwhelming state of being in which the individual living with it may feel powerless and the idea of being motivated to do anything can feel like an impossibility. A person with depression may work hard at, and feel it exhausting, trying to act “normal” or happy around others. Levels of depression can vary from person to person. Some living with depression can have their highpoints or moods that look like someone else’s low mood, and this can vary with each individual.
Often persons living with depression benefit well from having a positive support network and individual counseling. Medication management is also a common form of treatment to help with symptoms of depression. Some persons living with depression require both counseling and medication management to keep it under control. Not knowing how to live with depression may feel daunting for the individual and their loved ones. Fortunately, there are resources for support.
If you find yourself experiencing any of the following signs of depression, please seek medical attention right away:
• depressed/ down mood most of the day
• decreased interest or pleasure in activities that you used to enjoy
• difficulty sleeping or sleeping more than usual
• feeling tired and less energetic
• feeling worthless or excessively guilty
• difficulty concentrating more than usual
• thoughts of death, suicide, or harming others
If you or someone you know is experiencing depression that interferes with daily living, seeing a primary care physician and/or a mental health professional in your area is recommended. Reaching out to a professional can be a great way to help address and explore further options to address depression.
Daniel Park is an LCSW, native to Idaho and has worked in mental health for over 10 years. He got his bachelor’s and master’s degree at Boise State University.