The Vocabulary of War: Be Clear About Your Words
Learning how to fight depression involves getting a crystal-clear picture of the battle lines. While there are many types and varieties of depression, they all fall into one of two large categories. The first kind of depression is what most people mean when they say something like, “I was so depressed yesterday…I got stopped for speeding.” Feeling sad or blue is a normal part of life. It is also normal to bounce back relatively quickly. The second type of depression is a medical condition because the brain actually undergoes a change in which it loses the ability to bounce back quickly. This is sometimes referred to as clinical depression or major depressive disorder. If you are reading this and wonder how to fight depression, you are most likely concerned about the second type. It’s important to be clear about which kind of depression you are targeting. In this article the word depression refers to the various types of depression that fall into the second large category.
How to Fight Depression by Dividing the Signs and Symptoms of Depression into 3 Main Groups
The first order of business in learning how to fight depression is to learn how clinical depression operates. This begins with learning to recognize the signs and symptoms of depression. There are two important questions to ask. First, what are the signs and symptoms of depression? Second, when do the signs and symptoms of depression become a clinical condition that needs medical treatment and/or therapy?
So one of the first steps in learning how to fight depression is to have a list of the signs and symptoms of depression and to understand what they mean. The list has 9 symptoms. The first five are the obvious physical signs and symptoms of depression: (1) Significant change in weight not due to dieting (weight gain or loss of more than 5% of body weight in a month); (2) Sleep problems nearly every day (excessive sleeping or insomnia); (3) Agitation (irritable attitude and physical tension) or marked slowing of one’s thoughts and actions (e.g., much more difficulty getting started on something than usual); (4) Fatigue or loss of energy every day; (5) Diminished ability to think or concentrate or indecisiveness, nearly every day.
The second set of signs and symptoms of depression have more to do with a person’s subjective experience. They are: (6) Feelings of worthlessness or excessive (or inappropriate) guilt nearly every day; (7) Sad mood most of the day, nearly every day; (8) Noticeable loss of interest or pleasure in nearly all activities most of every day. This set of symptoms poses the frustrating challenge of how to fight depression when it is something so vague as a mood and difficult to measure.
One of the Signs and Symptoms of Depression Requires Special Handling
The third group is really just one symptom in a class of it’s own. If a person is having thoughts about death that keep returning, this is almost certainly an indicator of clinical depression, whether or not the person can recognize any other signs and symptoms of depression. But what does mean to have thoughts about death? Recurrent thoughts and images of death (not just fear of dying), recurring thoughts about suicide, or a suicidal gesture (deliberate carelessness in dangerous situations) or an attempt, or specific plans. While this is the most dangerous of the signs and symptoms of depression, it’s often one of the first to disappear as soon as a person catches a vision of genuine hope for the future.
How to Fight Depression When Self Help is Not the Answer
If you have recurring thoughts about death it’s important that you consult with a mental health professional and not try to go the self help route by yourself. Why? Think of it this way. Your wouldn’t be having suicidal thoughts if your weren’t truly stuck in some way. Now, think about it. If you are stuck enough to have recurring thoughts about death, what are the odds that you are going to “unstuck” enough to pull yourself out simply by your own effort? It has nothing to do with how strong you are as a person. If fact, I often find that the strongest people have real trouble with this concept because they can’t stand the feeling of being helpless. Also, we all have a tendency to become overly attached to our expectations about how life must be. I can drive around town waiting for the magic day when I will have a lot of time to fix the brakes myself, or I can do the smart thing and contact someone who knows what they are doing.
It’s About Perspective and Not Strength
If self help is not how to fight depression when your are suicidal, and it’s not because of being weak, what is the reason? It’s really about perspective and not whether or not you are strong or weak. Depression skews one’s perspective so that you channel what little energy you have in the wrong direction. It’s as if you’ve fallen in a pit that has a clear path to safety, but you are wearing dark glasses with distorted lenses that simply will not let you see the hope and opportunity that is right in front of you.
How to Fight Depression by Understanding the Degree of Difficulty
While learning how to fight depression is not so much about OUR strength, it is very much about the strength and intensity of the depression. How many of the signs and symptoms of depression have to be present for it to be considered “clinical.” For the signs and symptoms of depression to be a clinical condition two important criteria must both be true and 5 out of 9 signs and symptoms of depression must be present. Specifically, Major Depressive Disorder, is usually defined as a combination of any five of the following signs and symptoms of depression that persist for more than 2 weeks. For the signs and symptoms of depression to have clinical significance these two important criteria must both be true: (1) The signs and symptoms of depression last for several days (at least 2 weeks); (2) Depression symptoms become disruptive to major areas of a person’s life; and depression symptons negatively and noticeably impact relationships, work, or school.
These steps for how to fight depression are simply the starting place. Once you know your enemy it’s crucial to learn the tools and techniques of attacking depression wisely and armed with the right information about the enemy you are fighting.