It’s time to break the stigma around depression. Depression is a serious condition that can affect your mood, thinking, and behaviour. For me, it came out of nowhere. It took a lot of time for me to recognise what it was and eventually reach out for help. I feared what it meant. I feared what other people would think of me and I was worried that I would not get better. Through being brave and listening to the surrounding professionals, I eventually got the help I so desperately needed. Because I attended therapy and due to my real lived experience, I discovered that these are the 5 effects of depression:
1. Depression affects how you feel, think, and behave.
Depression is a serious medical condition that affects how you feel, think, and behave. We can see even the brain of a depressed person under imaging to be different from that of a person who not depressed.
A PET scan can compare brain activity during periods of depression (left) with normal brain activity (right). An increase of blue and green colors, along with decreased white and yellow areas, shows decreased brain activity due to depression.https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/pet-scan/multimedia/-pet-scan-of-the-brain-for-depression/img-20007400
The way someone will feel, think and behave when they are depressed can vary from person to person, but will often include:
- Feeling sad or down
- Loss of interest in usual activities (work, hobbies)
- Sleeping more or less than normal (sleeping too little or too much)
I love going to the beach and I love a good dance class. I began to enjoy these less and less. Once I realised I was getting no joy at all out of these activities that I normally loved, it was a major sign that something was wrong.
2. Depression affects how you eat and sleep.
Depression can affect how you eat and sleep. Depression can make you lose your appetite, or it can make you overeat. Me, I could not eat many things at all. I constantly felt sick in my stomach, and the depression was so overbearing that I couldn’t stomach much food. Unfortunately, this caused me a lot of nausea and the stress of it all made me throw up. My psychologist told me at the time to just eat whatever I could keep down. This was so helpful. Even if it was something that I only normally ate as a treat. I removed the pressure of trying to watch everything I ate to make sure it was the right food and just focused on fueling my body. In turn, I could then think and feel better and eventually focus on healthy eating once again.
It may cause you to either sleep more or less than normal, and it can also cause you to wake up early in the morning or wake up in the middle of the night.
Harvard Medical School explains it in this way:
Sleep and mental health are closely connected. Sleep deprivation affects your psychological state and mental health. And those with mental health problems are more likely to have insomnia or other sleep disorders.https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/sleep-and-mental-health
The Columbia University Department of Psychiatry discusses mental health and sleep:
Those with mental health disorders are even more likely to experience chronic sleep problems and, in turn, these sleep problems are likely to exacerbate psychiatric symptoms and even increase risk for suicide.https://www.columbiapsychiatry.org/news/how-sleep-deprivation-affects-your-mental-health
3. Depression can make you feel like giving up.
When you’re depressed, it can be difficult to see the point of doing anything. You may feel like giving up and just staying in bed for days at a time. This feeling of hopelessness can affect every part of your life and make things seem more overwhelming than they actually are.
When I was depressed, I had completely given up on life. I was allowing my mind to get caught up in a spiral of disbelief and sadness. I had previously been such an optimistic person, so getting through challenges in life with a smile on my face was normally a breeze. This included even the hard ones, like heartbreaks, losing a job or friendships. Those past challenges were ones that I could see the benefit of. I believed in the challenge itself, making me stronger and more resilient. I believed that if I got through those things, I would become a better person.
With depression, however, I couldn’t think straight and just completely gave up. It was so out of character for me. This then showed the depth of the illness I was suffering from. I had completely changed. Depression is a terrible illness and one that we should seek treatment for straight away. I am glad that I did. I am now happy, healed and live a well-balanced life full of joy and optimism once again.
4. The effects of depression on thinking can be mild or severe.
Depression can make it hard to concentrate, remember things, and think clearly. Depression makes it difficult to solve problems or make decisions. It affects your ability to learn and use new information. If you have depression, you might find yourself thinking about death a lot and having negative thoughts about yourself.
The Well Clinic describes it like this:
Loss of concentration is a symptom of depression. It can also become part of a negative feedback cycle in which losing focus makes depression worse.
Concentration requires that you want to reach a goal that you believe is worth achieving. Depression interferes with this.https://wellsanfrancisco.com/how-depression-can-lead-to-loss-of-concentration/
5. Depression makes it hard to get motivated.
Depression can make it hard to stay motivated. However, there are ways to help motivate yourself when you’re feeling depressed and unmotivated.
One way is by learning about the benefits of staying active and exercising regularly. It not only gives us energy, but it also helps our minds feel more clear and focused. This, in turn, helps us look at our feelings of hopelessness and sadness in a more positive light. It allows us to think a little differently about the situation and possibly find a solution to any unresolved issues exasperating the depression. Another strategy is by planning: before giving up on an activity or task because of a lack of interest in doing them (or even before starting), ask yourself what steps need completing for those things to happen. This will help keep your mind focused on the result instead of just thinking about how boring or overwhelming something might seem at first glance.
Psych Central helps us understand this even further:
At the heart of motivation is cognitive control, which is your ability to direct emotional and cognitive systems towards a goal or reward.
Someone with high cognitive control might find it easier to motivate themselves to accomplish a goal, while someone with lower cognitive control may find it challenging to visualize and create an action plan to reach a goal.
A 2019 study demonstrated that depression might interfere with cognitive control, which means that experiencing depression may make it more difficult to fully focus on pursuing a goal.https://psychcentral.com/depression/tips-for-finding-motivation-when-youre-depressed#depression-and-motivation
In addition to the five effects of depression listed above, it is important to note that some other symptoms may occur as well. Of course, these symptoms will depend greatly on the severity of the depression itself, but most people who experience depression report experiencing some or all of them.
It’s important to also remember that everyone is different and there are different treatments available for all of us. To find out which treatment plan is best for you, visit your doctor or other qualified health professional. There is help available, so please remember that you are never alone. You deserve to feel happy, healthy, and loved.