Bad Moods

by admin on July 27, 2009

Moods come and go but depression feels like it will never leave. Here are the main things one needs to know, it’s common, it can be serious, it has nothing to do with being “weak” and it’s treatable. Many people put off getting help and suffer needlessly. (Read that last part again.) There is a stigma everyone recognizes but still often perpetuate. People can have liver disease or heart disease but when the mind is involved we call it “mental illness”, not a brain disease even though some symptoms are physical and organic in origin.

Common is an array of painful emotions that can include feeling worthless, helpless, hopeless, guilty, ashamed, lonely, sad, dead or numb. Self doubt, low self-esteem or self-loathing are likewise typical. People are often more irritable and may lash out, or throw themselves into work or drink more. Sometimes anything anyone says can feel abrasive. Mornings are often worse. Worrying and anxiety are frequent, sometimes including a preoccupation with death or suicide. People have less energy, are unmotivated and have trouble enjoying things that should be pleasurable. Some withdraw, some lose or gain weight, many have difficulty concentrating or remembering things. Sleep patterns are disrupted, fatigue sets in, libido may decrease. Assorted pains, headaches, stomach upset and increased proneness to accidents occur and symptoms occur in various combinations. Depression can be mild, moderate or disabling and last for weeks, months or years.

In children and adolescents depression may present in other ways. Younger children may seem lethargic, cling to parents, refuse to go to school, pretend to be sick or worry about losing a parent. Older ones may get into trouble, withdraw, feel misunderstood or angry. They may become preoccupied with violence and “dark” thoughts, get into fights, engage in risky behavior or cutting or develop extreme eating patterns. Sometimes parents mistake symptoms for normal mood swings. It can be hard to tell, to know when things are serious. Untreated, depression in children can affect development including identity, social adjustment, academic or career functioning. Consultations don’t necessarily lead to a recommendation for treatment.

The current thinking is that most depression involves an interaction between psychological factors, biochemistry, genetic vulnerability and stress. You can help yourself through periods of mild depression by distracting yourself, exercising regularly, eating well, setting realistic goals, getting support and confiding in friends. Spend time with people and do not expect yourself to just “snap out of it”. Simply acknowledging depression and taking care of yourself in small ways can provide some relief. Depressed children may need more time with their parents, more structure and extra support.

Should things get worse or just not get better and daily functioning becomes a challenge consult a professional. A consultation is not a commitment to do anything but an opportunity to get information. Expertise is available from most psychologists, psychiatrists, clinical social workers and licensed professional counselors. Don’t assume that every therapist is equally knowledgeable about depression. If treatment is recommended it is usually psychotherapy and/or medication. Psychotherapy helps most people, has lasting benefits and may reduce the likelihood or severity of future episodes. Many physicians prescribe medications though I usually recommend psychiatrists. Medication does not address the psychological or “personal” aspect of problems. On the other hand, psychotherapy alone may be adequate or practical if one’s daily functioning is significantly impaired. Mind or brain? It works both ways.

Getting help can be a hard step to take. People feel they should be stronger, can’t afford it or don’t want to spend the money, don’t have time or don’t believe anyone can really help. There is often pride involved in bearing up under adversity. There is also a price for trying to just push through when an individual becomes a source of worry to others, when someone else bears the brunt of hurtful remarks or for a parent’s emotional withdrawal from a child. In the extreme, suicide creates massive problems for those left behind. Suffering for a cause sometimes makes sense. Depression is not a cause.

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