Does depression hurt, mom?

 “Does depression hurt, mom?”

By Tammy Dramstad, MSW, CSW-PIP, QMHP, Clinical Director of CCS

Recently, my youngest son asked me the question, “does depression hurt?” Without much thought I quickly answered “yes, depression hurts.”  What I was not prepared for was the question that came next “Where does depression hurt?”

Depression is often an undertreated disorder occurring in both males and females.  Current research demonstrates that anywhere from 20 to 40 percent of the population will experience a depressive episode at some point in their life.  Depression can be a normal part of life, as no life is free of unpleasant feelings or losses.  However, if your depression has persisted for more than 2 weeks, and is not associated with bereavement or loss it may be time to seek advice from a Counseling agency or physician nearest you.

Not everyone experiences depression in the same way.  Not everyone “hurts” in the same way.  Men may report feeling irritable and angry. Women tend to report feeling a sadness that does not go away; or they may experience episodes of crying or tearfulness that does not go away.  Individuals may experience a lack of pleasure in activities that they once enjoyed such as going to the movies, gardening or riding bike.  Physical activities may take “too much energy to do.”  Individuals may notice either appetite loss or increase.  Sleep disturbances such as too much sleep or not enough may be present.  Many individuals report feeling agitated, restless, or a sense that they are moving in slow motion. Individuals may describe a sense of worthlessness, hopelessness or excessive guilt for things that are often beyond their control.  Concentration and focus can be impaired either at home, work or in any other area of their life.  It may be difficult to make decisions, often putting them on the back burner.  Individuals may also experience recurrent thoughts of death, feeling that they have no way out.  One client in particular explained his depression metaphorically stating “I was in a long tunnel and I saw a light and for a brief moment felt hope, until I saw the light was a train coming at me.”  At the most severe end individuals may consider suicide and develop a plan.  As you can see depressive symptoms can be felt in profound and different ways by the individual struggling with them.

Males, more often than females will avoid seeking treatment as they will often prescribe to the viewpoint “if I seek help it is a sign that I am weak or something is wrong with me.”  Women often feel that they should be able to balance everything leaving them feeling guilty if they seek help.  Counseling agencies have been charged with the stance of fighting the stigma associated with people avoiding seeking help for depression.  Education is paramount in helping individuals feel comfortable in seeking information and treatment for their symptoms.  Depression is treated in many different ways including: 1) teaching cognitive and behavioral strategies to lesson depressive symptoms 2) anti-depressants may be prescribed by your physician or psychiatrist 3) relaxation and stress management may be taught 4) talk therapy or 5) a combination of the above.  With treatment many individuals report a lessoning of symptoms in 2 weeks, however, response times certainly can vary.

So, in response to the question “does depression hurt?” the answer is “yes” though the “where” is more challenging to explain.  Depression can hurt in ways that lead to profound impairment in our social, emotional, and occupational life.  Depression can be felt at our very core leading to difficulties in even completing the most basic tasks.  Without help depression can become a chronic condition making it harder to treat.  I encourage anyone who may experience any or all of the symptoms listed above to seek treatment.  Enlist your support system to help you advocate for yourself.  Depression is a treatable condition.  For further information or support please contact your local mental health, counseling agency or physician’s office.



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