Bullies can be cruel and leave us feeling crummy about ourselves. They somehow find our insecurities and use them against us. They can be relentless and wear you down to the point that you try to avoid them, yet they constantly haunt your thoughts.
A bully can leave you feeling exhausted, hopeless, and maybe even believing the things they tell you. That is also how I describe depression. It is the bully within.
What Is Depression?
Depression is like having a bully within your brain. It whispers negative thoughts and reminds you of past regrets or mistakes. It can leave you feeling empty, hopeless, or numb. You lose interest in the things you used to enjoy, because that bully is lurking there taking the joy and anticipation away that you used to experience.
Some individuals with depression prefer to be asleep and escape their daily existence. It might leave you feeling guilty or worthless. You might feel anxious or irritable. That very organ – the brain – that we use to make decisions is impacted by depression, making it difficult to concentrate or think clearly, or it can be overwhelmed by simple choices.
Imagine what it would be like to carry that around with you every day and not be able to escape it. This sometimes even leads to people feeling the world would be better off without them, and they begin to have thoughts of death and suicide.
Common Signs of Depression
Depression can often sneak up on people and they don’t even realize what they are experiencing. A few early-warning signs might include the following:
- Feeling worthless
- Low energy or lack of motivation
- Lack of interest
- Rumination of dark, sad thoughts
- Inability to concentrate
- Bleak, negative attitude
- Physical aches and pains
- Feeling guilty or ashamed
When depression strikes, the depressed person is usually not the only one it impacts. Often family, friends, even coworkers might feel the impact. Families often want to know, “How can I help my loved one?”
An individual’s support network can play a vital part in their recovery from depression. Here are some tips for friends and family members to help the person with depression:
- Ask what your loved one or friend needs.
- Don’t try to solve the problem on your own; the individual needs professional help. (You wouldn’t try to treat your friend’s diabetes or heart disease on your own.)
- Take good care of yourself, too. Join a caregivers’ support group or see a therapist. There is a real risk of caregiver burnout.
- Take threats seriously. Suicide is a real risk of depression. Call a suicide hotline or emergency services.
How Can Depression Be Treated?
Depression is much more than sadness. Depression is a real illness. People who are depressed can’t just “pull themselves together” or “snap out of it.” We wouldn’t tell someone with a broken leg to “just walk it off.” It is a real illness that impacts the brain.
It takes time and treatment. Seek professional treatment and support through a therapist. A therapist will be able to pinpoint the exact cause of depression. The cause is often a combination of factors such as life events, brain chemistry, and personal factors (family history, medical event) which form that perfect storm.
Depression looks different in different individuals. Sometimes it just springs up out of the blue or after a life event. The person may appear to be high-functioning on the outside (successful career, high achiever) yet on the inside they are feeling apathetic, hopeless, alone, and stuck. Maybe the person is suddenly acting unmotivated, scattered, excessively sleeping, and irritable.
The good news is there are many effective treatments available for depression. It is often most effective to use a combination of approaches, and your therapist might recommend treatment involving medicine and therapy at the same time.
Some effective approaches include the following:
- Talk therapy, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Psychodynamic Therapy, or Interpersonal Therapy.
- Psychotropic medications, such as SSRIs and tricyclic antidepressants.
- Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT), which is typically used on people who are treatment-resistant and have not responded to medications or talk therapy.
Seek Help from an Experienced Therapist in Atlanta
Maya Angelou once said, “The real difficulty is to overcome how you think abut yourself.” This is very true when dealing with depression. How is one to overcome this when it is the brain that we need to impact? How do we even begin to work on that bully?
A mental health professional is the support needed. A therapist will work with the individual to identify negative self-talk, address cognitive distortions, identify triggers, build a support network, identify unmet human needs, and recognize individual strengths. Depression loves to be kept a secret because this helps keep it strong. It is the same with a bully.
Having professional support, talking about it, and creating strategies to overcome it can all be accomplished with a therapist and a network of supportive friends. One in five adults experience psychiatric disorders, with anxiety and depression being the most common.
Depression might tell you that you are alone, there is no hope and no way out. As a therapist, I want to let you know that is not true. I want to share my favorite quote:
“Hope” is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all. – Emily Dickinson
There is hope, and I’m here for you on this journey to help guide you forward towards your goals. I will hold that hope for you until you are ready to reclaim and own it for yourself.
Neitcha Thomsen, LCSW, CCATP