Christian Counselor Spokane
The word depression typically holds a negative stigma and you might even be thinking to yourself, “I’m fine and there is no way I am depressed.”
That thought could be true, but it is important to understand what depression is, who it can affect and how, and the impact it can have on different relationships in your life.
What is Depression?
Depression is a common but serious mood disorder that affects how you think, feel and, react in daily situations. Did you know that depression is one of the most common mental health disorders in the U.S.?
While depression can occur at any age, it generally begins in adulthood. It can also accompany different medical conditions such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and Parkinson’s. There are also some prescription medications that can cause side effects that could contribute to depressive symptoms.
Seasonal Affective Disorder
Depression is categorized by types, but one of the most common in the Inland Northwest (INW) is called seasonal affective disorder. This type usually occurs during the winter months when there is less natural sunlight.
In the INW, it is the most common type because winter can last anywhere from 4-7 months, depending on when it begins in our area. Seasonal depression starts to lift during spring and summer when there is more abundant natural sunlight.Have you ever felt withdrawn, excessively sleepy, or even gained weight during the winter months? If the answer is yes, then this type of depression could be impacting your life and is more likely to return every year.
When you think about depression, certain symptoms or signs may initially cross your mind: sadness, low energy, and even thoughts of death. The most commonly known symptoms for depression are typically experienced more frequently by women.
Women are nearly twice as likely to be diagnosed with depression than men. Did you know that depression affects men and women differently?
Let’s explore how depression affects women and men by breaking down the symptoms by group.
Women and Depression
Depression symptoms in women are typically displayed as the following:
- Ongoing feelings of sadness, worthlessness, guilt, or hopelessness (most common)
- Loss of interest or pleasure in things you once enjoyed
- Changes in sleep habits such as sleeping too much, not being able to fall asleep, and even trouble staying asleep
- Changes in energy level or fatigue
- Unexplained physical symptoms such as aches, cramps, headaches, and digestive problems
- Difficulty concentrating or remembering
- Feeling that life is not worth living or thinking about what the world would be like without you in it
There are different causes for the onset of depression in women:
- Premenstrual problems
- Perinatal and postpartum
- Perimenopause and menopause
- Life circumstances and culture
Women are more likely to develop depression after puberty due to significant hormone changes. During puberty, females can experience conflict with parents, and even increased pressure to succeed in life. This is also the time when premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) could emerge. Most people think that PMDD is just “extreme PMS,” but it is displayed as severe and disabling symptoms that disrupt school, jobs, relationships, and even other areas of their lives.
Depression during pregnancy could be exacerbated by events such as miscarriage, unwanted or unintended pregnancy, and even reducing or stopping the use of prescription antidepressant medications. According to the Mayo Clinic (2019), “postpartum depression is a serious medical condition requiring prompt treatment and it occurs in about 10 to 15 percent of women.”
Men and Depression
Have you had someone say that you might be depressed but you know that you are not feeling “typical” depression symptoms? Men typically experience depression different from women and they are generally less likely to recognize, talk about, and seek treatment for depression than women.
Mental health symptoms in men sometimes appear to be physical issues such as a racing heart, tightening chest, ongoing headaches, or digestive issues.
According to NIMH, “many men are more likely to see their doctor about physical symptoms than emotional symptoms.” The most common symptoms are being very tired, irritable, having difficulty sleeping, and experiencing a loss of interest in work, family, or activities.
Other symptoms typically displayed include:
- Anger or aggressiveness
- Feeling anxious, restless, or “on edge”
- Sexual desire or performance problems
- Feeling sad, empty, flat, or hopeless
- Problems concentrating or remembering details
- Overeating or not wanting to eat
- Suicidal thoughts or attempts
- Physical aches/pains, headaches, cramps, digestive problems
- Engaging in high-risk activities
- Use of alcohol or drugs
- Withdrawing from family or friends
- Inability to meet responsibilities of work, caring for family, or other important activities
There are different causes for depression but they typically fall into one of three categories: genetic, environmental, or illness. If there is a family history of depression you might be more likely to develop depression.
If you are experiencing financial problems, grief, relationship problems, major life changes, problems at work, or any stressful situation it may trigger depressive symptoms. There are also certain illnesses that are linked to depression, such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease, or Parkinson’s disease.
Couples and Depression
Intimate relationships are an important resource when dealing with depression, because they can help lower the rate of depression. When you hear the term “intimate relationship,” what is the first image that comes to mind? Did you see a married couple, a mother and child, two best friends, or maybe something different?
An intimate relationship is a type of relationship that involves physical or emotional intimacy. While this relationship is commonly referred to as a sexual relationship, it can also occur between friends or family members that have a strong attachment or bond.
You can also have an intimate relationship with God because intimacy is not spatial but relational. This intimacy usually occurs in situations where we need to trust Him the most but are afraid to allow him to know us at a deeper level. This article explains intimacy with God in further detail: https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/how-to-have-intimacy-with-god.
Depression is a master at distorting reality and your perception of life. This distortion can include the relationship with your partner and depict that connection in a more negative way. Open communication with your partner is one of the greatest tools you bring to your relationship. This allows for your partner to understand why you are feeling or behaving in a certain way, so they can determine how to support you and maintain the relationship.
Research shows that “wives are more likely than husbands to offer support to a depressed spouse” (Thomeer, Reczek, and Umberson, 2015). It also states that when a wife is depressed, they are more likely to try and shield their spouse from the stress their depression causes on them individually. It is important to understand how depression can impact your relationships and how to identify those moments.
Depression typically breeds self-doubt which can leave you feeling like you are worthless, defective, or even riddled with flaws. These distortions can impact how you see your partner or even how you think they see you.
It can also manifest as criticism by minimizing the positive and intensifying the negative. Here is an example: Your partner did not take out the trash today and instead of looking at the alternative, your depression tells you that your partner is inconsiderate and does not care about you or your feelings.
Depression can also create unrealistic expectations for you or your partner. By allowing unrealistic expectations to grow, it can cause dissatisfaction, disenchantment, or even feelings of failure about your relationship.
Treatment for Depression
Depression is most commonly treated through medication, therapy, or a combination of the two. This combination is referred to as collaborative care and it means that your health care provider and therapist create a collaborative relationship to ensure both physical and mental aspects are addressed and treated effectively.
The most common medication for treating depression is an antidepressant, and it is important to understand that those medications come with side effects.
Antidepressant side effects can include:
- Nausea or feeling sick to your stomach
- Difficulty sleeping and nervousness
- Agitation or restlessness
- Sexual problems
It is important to note that there is no “quick fix” for treating depression. Medication takes time to enter your system and generate what is called a therapeutic dose. Most antidepressants could take 2-4 weeks to reach a therapeutic dose.
As there are many different types of antidepressants, you might consider pharmacogenetic testing to determine which antidepressant would work best with your own chemical makeup. Here is an article for further information about pharmacogenetic testing: https://www.mayo.edu/research/centers-programs/center-individualized-medicine/patient-care/pharmacogenomics/drug-gene-testing.
Another option for treating depression is engaging in regular, consistent therapy. There are different types of therapy for treating depression but the most common are Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), interpersonal therapy (IPT) and problem-solving therapy (PST).
These therapeutic approaches are targeted to help you change negative thinking, work through relationships that may be triggering or exacerbating your depression, and improve your ability to cope with stressful experiences. Your therapist could utilize one or all of these approaches to help you take charge of your depression and begin to improve your quality of life.
You Are Not Alone
The most important thing to remember is that you are not alone. Depression is one of the most common mental illnesses in the country and everyone experiences these symptoms at some point in their life.
If you think you are experiencing depression or depression symptoms, I want to reassure you that you are NOT alone and we can take this journey together, side-by-side. You just have to be willing to take a stand, take charge of your life, and connect with someone who understands your struggles and can guide you. I hope that you feel you can reach out to me in your darkest times and allow me to walk with you toward a brighter life.
- Mayo Clinic (2019). Depression in Women: Understanding the gender gap. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/in-depth/depression/art-20047725
- National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) (2018). Depression. Retrieved from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/depression/index.shtml
- Tartakovsky, M., MS (2018). How Depression Damages Your Relationship & What You Can Do. Psych Central. Retrieved from https://psychcentral.com/blog/how-depression-damages-your-relationship-what-you-can-do/
“Agitated”, Courtesy of Melanie Brown, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Alone”, Courtesy of Emre Kuzu, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Barrier”, Courtesy of Eric Ward, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Support Note”, Courtesy of Allie Smith, Unsplash.com, CC0 License
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