Dealing with Depression What is Depression?
| Why does someone become depressed?
| Symptoms of Depression
| What should I do if I feel depressed?
| What else can help reduce Depression?
What is Depression?
All of us have felt "down" or discouraged at times throughout our life. It is normal and expected to have variations in moods over time and even day-to-day. However, depression is a significant disturbance in mood which persists for a minimum of two weeks at a time. Depression can affect people of all ages, including children and elderly adults, though the mean age. Depression may range from mild to severe depending upon the associated symptoms and the extent the condition interferes with everyday functioning. In milder forms, depressed moods are usually brief and may have little effect on everyday activities. Moderate to severe depression includes symptoms that are more intense, last longer, and tend to interfere more with school, work and social functioning.
Why does someone become depressed?
Depression is a medical illness which can be caused by a variety of factors, including biological, genetic, psychological or environmental factors. Depression affects approximately 15 million Americans every year and is a leading cause of suicide. Sometimes, people may be able to identify common triggers for depression, such as:
- transitioning and adjusting to a new environment,
- academic stress and difficulties,
- conflict or emotional distress in relationships (e.g. family, roommates),
- the loss of a significant relationship (e.g. break up; death), or
- concerns about the future
Although depression may initially begin as a reaction to an event or situation, it is a serious disorder that requires treatment. These mood concerns can occur without identifiable causes. Depression is NOT a result of a personal failure, lack of will power or laziness.
Symptoms of Depression
Depressive symptoms are a significant change in the person’s functioning. Symptoms include:
- Feelings of sadness or emptiness
- Disinterest in activities you previously enjoyed (e.g. isolating from others)
- Feeling worthless, excessively guilty, or hopeless
- Low self esteem
- Lack of motivation
- Disruptions in sleeping habits (e.g. insomnia, excessively sleeping)
- Disruptions in eating habits or weight (e.g. decrease in appetite or significant weight gain)
- Recurrent thoughts of suicide or death
- Difficulty concentrating
- Frequently crying
- Physical ailments nonresponsive to treatment (e.g. chronic pain, digestive problems)
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What should I do if I feel depressed?
There are many resources available to help with depression symptoms, including self help materials, counseling, and medication options. However, without treatment, depression symptoms will usually reoccur and increase in severity over time. Treatments for depression are very effective so it is important to seek help early before symptoms continue to worsen. If depression has persisted for months, if it is significantly interfering with your life, or you have any thoughts of harming yourself or others, you are encouraged to contact the CWC.
Utilize some of the CWC resources aimed to reduce symptoms:
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What else can help reduce Depression?
Try some of these techniques and coping skills to begin to reduce your symptoms. Pick one to experiment with for a week to give yourself enough time to begin to see positive changes:
- Talk to someone. There are significant benefits you feel socially connected to others. This emotional support is linked to the following: increased self esteem, sense of belonging, and ability to cope, and decrease in loneliness.
- Studies have shown the negative effects of loneliness include: increased risk for mortality, sleep problems, anxiety and tension, and weaker immune systems.
- Connect with peers online at forums for depression, such as Beyond Blue
- Take care of your body. Eat healthy meals and get a good night’s rest every day.
- Regularly exercise, particularly cardiovascular activity (for more information, read Spark by John J. Ratey, MD).
- Create balance in your day. Include activities every day in which you gain a sense of Achievement, Connection with Others and Enjoyment. Use the ACE log PDF.
- Practice gratitude. Gratitude is strongly associated with greater happiness. For a week, keep a gratitude journal and write down three things every day
- Change your thinking habits as they can either positively or negatively affect your behaviors, emotions and physiological reactions. Be diligent in reframing negative thinking, you are changing a pattern that has been in place for a long time.
- Learn about common thinking errors to recognize when a thought is unhelpful (link: http://www.getselfhelp.co.uk/unhelpful.htm)
- Create and recite positive affirmations (pdf link).
- Practice self-compassion. Being kind to yourself rather than critical.
- Schedule time to do something fun every day. People usually find they enjoy the activity, even if they did not anticipate they would.
- Go for a walk.
- Cook a new recipe.
- Invite a friend to lunch.
- Sit outside in the sun.
- Get involved in free activities on campus.
- Go swimming on campus (http://www.recsports.ufl.edu/aquatics/pool-hours-and-locations) or at Lake Wauburg (http://www.recsports.ufl.edu/lake-wauburg)
- Get involved on campus (https://www.studentinvolvement.ufl.edu)
- Visit the Butterfly Rainforest (Museum of Natural History) (link: http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu) or the Harn Museum of Art (link: http://www.harn.ufl.edu)
- GatorNights events every Friday (https://www.union.ufl.edu/ProgramsArtsLeisure/GatorNights)
- Read a self help book.
- Feeling Good by David Burns, MD
- The Mindful Way through Depression by Mark Williams, DPhil, John Teasdale, PhD, Zindel Segal, PhD and Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD
- The Depression Cure by Stephen Ilardi, PhD
- An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness by Kay Redfield Jamison, PhD
- Happy for No Reason by Marci Shimoff
- For more techniques, check this document out: Maintaining_the_Balance.pdf.
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