By Nancy Black
Cher’s famous words to Nicolas Cage in the movie “Moonstruck” are classic. His character is telling hers how much he loves her, and she slaps him across the face and says, “Snap out of it!”
If only snapping out of it were that easy. You can’t just snap out of love. And, I have learned, you can’t just snap out of depression. Depression is a “real” disease, as if some diseases are fake. “A disease is a particular abnormal condition that negatively affects the structure or function of part or all of an organism, and that is not due to any external injury,” according to Wikipedia.
The National Institute of Mental Health (NIH) describes depression (major depressive disorder or clinical depression) as being very common. But it is also a very serious mood disorder. “It causes severe symptoms that affect how you feel, think and handle daily activities, such as sleeping, eating or working,” the NIH states.
A friend described their depression to me by saying it was like eating cold mashed potatoes all day every day. Nothing tastes good, nothing feels good, and social isolation is the only solution. Of course, being alone all the time makes them feel even more depressed.
Even if you’re not depressed all of the time, there is actually a type of depression that affects many of us. It’s called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD, sadly appropriate). It happens mainly in winter, when there is less light from the sun. Winter depression may include social withdrawal, weight gain and increased sleep. SAD usually lifts during the spring and summer months.
Depression, even the most severe cases, can be treated. The earlier treatment begins, the better. The NIH has a list of signs and symptoms to look for in yourself or a loved one:
If you have been experiencing some of the following signs and symptoms most of the day, nearly every day, for at least two weeks, you may be suffering from depression:
• Persistent sad, anxious or “empty” mood
• Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
• Feelings of guilt, worthlessness or helplessness
• Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities
• Decreased energy or fatigue
• Moving or talking more slowly
• Feeling restless or having trouble sitting still
• Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
• Difficulty sleeping, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
• Appetite and/or weight changes
• Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts
• Aches or pains, headaches, cramps or digestive problems without a clear physical cause and/or that do not ease even with treatment
If you feel, or know, you are depressed, please get professional medical help ASAP. Depression is treatable with medicines and therapy. There is hope. Do not give up on yourself. Doctors really do want to help. For more information, visit nimh.nih.gov.
Quick Tip: No two people are affected the same way by depression and there is no “one-size-fits-all” for treatment. It may take some trial and error to find the treatment that works best for you.