Depression goes by many names: sadness, irritability, worthlessness, guilt, hopelessness and anger. However it is known, it is an unwelcome, often unexpected part of one's life. While we all experience these feelings from time to time, it’s when they begin to bother us for weeks or months at a time that we sense it may be wise to seek help. Depression can interfere with our relationships, job performance, energy, creativity, and the ability to actively pursue and work towards our goals.
More than 5% of adults in America experience depression at any given time, and most experts agree that rates of depression are increasing worldwide. If left untreated, symptoms of depression can increase and become prolonged. The earlier you seek treatment, the better the odds that you’ll recover fully.
Depression can also take different forms in different people: Some people experience chronic, low-level depression over the course of years, while other people experience acute bouts of depression at specific times, such as during certain seasons or after the birth of a child. For yet others, depression can be paired with very excitable or “manic” moods, as with the case of bipolar disorder. Depression can also often occur alongside other illnesses or health issues, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, eating disorders, or substance use, to name just a few.
Depression may stem from a variety of factors. It often develops when we spend a great deal of energy thinking about the past. This generally takes the form of wishing a past outcome could have been different and questioning why you acted or failed to act in a certain way. Depression may also stem from our difficulty accepting the current circumstances in our lives. Feelings such as guilt, shame, resentment, and regret often accompany these thinking patterns.
Another powerful component of depression is experiencing loss. All of us will experience loss and pain in our lives. No one is immune to this harsh reality. However, how we relate to our pain (being critical of yourself or being dismissive) will have a big impact on how we cope.