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  • Sara

Depression Recovery: Overcoming Stigma

Mental health is an important issue that often gets overlooked. In fact, it's estimated that as many as 1 in 5 adults in the United States suffers from some form of mental illness, yet many people don't seek help or treatment. This is because caring for one’s mind is still something that’s, unfortunately, largely stigmatized. Luckily, there has been some de-stigmatization amid the pandemic but, still, not everyone is willing or able to get treatment.

One of the most common mental health issues is depression. There are many different types of depression but they can all be equally difficult to live with. Depression can cause changes in sleep, appetite, energy level, mood, and concentration. It can also lead to physical problems such as headaches and chest pain. The various types of clinical depression include:

Major Depressive Disorder (MDD). This is the most common form of clinical depression. It is also one of the most severe diagnoses. MDD is chronic and comes with its own unique set of diagnostic criteria that allows a clinician to determine whether it’s present.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). This form of depression commonly impacts individuals who live in states where it gets cold and there is little sunlight in the winter. Scientists believe the lack of vitamin D exposure during these months leads to SAD. Interestingly enough, there have recently been studies showing that extreme heat can also lead to symptoms of depression.

Bipolar I, Bipolar II, Cyclothymic Disorder (these three separate disorders have overlapping symptoms, including depressive episodes). All of these are marked by extreme and obvious fluctuations in mood. Bipolar I involves manic episodes, in which an individual will have pressured speech and often be full of energy, share grandiose ideas, and be overly excited. These episodes are usually followed by depressive episodes. With Bipolar II, the individual has hypomanic episodes, which differ from full-blown mania although similar symptoms exist.

Persistent Depressive Disorder. Like MDD, persistent depressive disorder is chronic (as the name suggests) and difficult to treat.

Treatment Resistant Depression. This form of depression, as is evident by its name, is also one that doesn’t respond well to treatment.

Peripartum (Postpartum) Depression. Peripartum and Postpartum depression appear during and after pregnancy and are associated with a mother’s changing hormones. Often, symptoms will resolve with time, after a child is born.

Psychotic Depression. This severe form of depression involves psychotic episodes and often requires hospitalization.

Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD). PMDD occurs just prior to the start of a woman’s menstrual cycle. Symptoms reappear month after month and dissipate after menses.

Situational Depression. Situation depression can usually be resolved if an individual is able to leave or let go of the toxic circumstances they’re in.

Atypical Depression. An uncommon form of depression, atypical presents with symptoms not better suited for one of the other forms.

There are also many different treatment options available. It’s important to note that what works for one person may not work for another. For example, major depressive disorder is a serious condition that requires medication and/or therapy. On the other hand, milder forms of depression may be treated with self-care and lifestyle changes. There are aso peer and twelve-step groups, individual, family and couple’s therapy, medication, and more, if those suffering feel comfortable reaching out. Some self-care options include exercise, connecting with others and making time for activities a person enjoys. There is no one-size-fits-all approach, but either way, depression is highly treatable.

The movement to remove stigmatization needs to continue so the resources that are available are actually put to use. What’s more, depression can be dangerous if left untreated. Chronic low mood, fatigue and lethargy can lead to suicidal thoughts. Many people who experience these thoughts may be too scared or ashamed to reach out, and thus, it’s best to treat depression early on, before it gets to this point.

Remember, mental health is just as important as physical health. Imagine you are riding your bike down the road when you suddenly fall off and feel a sharp pain in your arm. You know you are hurt and call a friend to take you to the hospital where you are treated for your injuries. In that situation no one hesitated to ask for help or provide it. With serious physical injuries, most people seek treatment, but when hurting mentally, many refrain from telling anyone for fear of being judged.

The more you know about depression, the more you can understand how it affects others. If you yourself have been diagnosed, educating yourself on this mental illness can help you understand what you are going through, and how to best seek treatment. Treatment can seem scary when you are unsure about how others will react, but you have to remember that you should be your top priority.

Being aware of how you speak about depression is also important. Looking at the positive side of things can help take the stigma around depression away. Instead of discussing how depressed people are weak or lazy (common stereotypes), thinking of the condition as an uncontrollable chemical imbalance in the brain is a great place to start.

Most importantly, show your support to those around you with depression. Helping a depressed friend or family member with daily tasks, receiving treatment, or simply being there for them to talk to is so important. To help break the stigma, you don't need to do anything extraordinary. Listening to those who are suffering without rushing to judgment is all it takes to better understand depression and how to combat it.


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