A normal life is always a balance of happiness and sadness. According to the traditional Chinese principle of Yin Yang, darkness completes the light. To be complete, we have to accept the opposite, or dark, side of our lives. According to this theory, being sad at times is normal. It happens to all of us on a regular basis, but for most of us, it passes after a while. Sadness becomes a problem when it becomes more severe than simply “feeling blue”. The problems come when sad feelings interfere with our daily life, and don’t go away. When that happens, it’s time to assess yourself and seek help, before it overwhelms your life.
In clinical terms, depression is known as Major Depressive Disorder. If symptoms persist longer than normal, chances are good that you’re dealing with Major Depressive Disorder. The symptoms vary from person to person, but some of the signs are common. For example, some people might develop a defeated and pessimistic outlook towards life and feel hopeless about the future. Some may also consider themselves worthless and inferior to others. All of these are possible signs of Major Depressive Disorder.
Perhaps you feel like an entirely different person than you were six months ago, or you no longer love life, or you never feel happy. You have no desire to leave home or socialize with family or friends anymore and spend most of your time in your room sleeping or thinking. Maybe you no longer enjoy your hobbies and activities as you once did. Perhaps sex is no longer enjoyable for you. Perhaps you no longer care about your appearance and hygiene and don’t shower as much. Maybe you have trouble sleeping, are walking in your sleep or you are sleeping too much. Maybe you have lost or gained too much weight in the past few months and your eating habits have changed. All of these, too, are possible signs of major depressive disorder.
If you are becoming violent and anxious and want to break and tear things apart most of the time, or you have become intolerant, irritable and restless and you think people are getting on your nerves, you should seek help, because those who suffer from major depressive disorder often have a short temper.
If you blame yourself for everything that happens, or you dwell on and criticize yourself for every mistake and wrong decision you have ever made in your life, and if you think you are responsible for every negative consequence in your life, then you might be suffering from major depressive disorder and should have someone help you look at your life more realistically, such as examining your irrational black and white thinking and finding new ways to cope with life challenges.
If you are feeling lethargic and you think your level of energy is lower unlike before and every task you do makes you exhausted, then you must know it can possibly be a sign of ongoing depression.
If you are smoking excessively, drinking too much, engaging in irresponsible behavior or driving recklessly, this could be your unconscious strategy to fight the strain of major depressive disorder.
If you are forgetting things easily and finding difficulty in focusing or concentrating on petty issues in your life then it indicates that your major depressive disorder has affected your normal memory and cognition.
Major depressive disorder may also lead to physical symptoms, such as cramps, upset stomach, headaches and body pain, which may be psychologically driven, not physical. Sadly, because depression often leads to suicidal thoughts and attempts, it has driven many people to take their own lives as a release from what they see as a pointless life.
If you have any of these symptoms, don’t ignore them. You are not alone and there are many ways to overcome depression. Share your thoughts with your loved ones and seek help from a therapist and, if necessary, a psychiatrist. Try to participate in social activities. And most importantly, challenge your negative and irrational thought patterns. Your thoughts and perceptions are in your control. Use them positively and stay healthy.
Author Bio: This article was contributed by Dr. Tali Shenfield, a clinical psychologist from Toronto, Canada. You can follow her on Twitter at @DrShenfield