Am I Depressed?
You see them; your worst enemy. There is one thing about disliking someone, but you absolutely loathe this person. They make you struggle to get out of bed because you know you have to face them. It feels like they wipe away all the energy you have to give. You can’t focus because they seem to be everywhere. They are even staring right back at you in your mirror.
Depression is a complex disease. It makes you feel like the world and everyone you love are better off without you when that is simply not the case. Depression makes you tired and having productivity paralysis. You know you need to do something about your situation, but you don’t have the energy to fix it. It is like having heavy sandbags hanging on your back, and each time you have another idea of positive change, another sandbag is promptly added.
With the global pandemic, depression has become incredibly common. It affects 264 million people, and the numbers are steadily increasing. Depression can be temporary or chronic, created by genetics or situations. Most of the time, depression is caused by both.
Mental illnesses like depression can be similar to the never-ending matrix of interactions. Societal expectations driving a person’s self-esteem in a negative direction. Psychological predispositions such as abuse could have resulted in depression. Additionally, it could have been biological aspects such as their grandparents having depression that is now inherited. Depression can happen instantly through unexpected life events like the grief of losing a loved one, losing a job, or trauma. Depression is a never-ending loop. After all, you are stressed with depression because you feel like there is nowhere you can run, but then you feel depressed because you feel there is nowhere you can go. The loop never ends.
As with all mental illnesses, depression is on a spectrum with ranges of mild to severe. Depression affects a person’s life, whether it influences poor relationships or doing below average in work and school. Most severe cases of depression can lead to thoughts of suicide. Suicide is one of the leading causes of death in people who are 15-29 years old.
What does it feel like to have depression?
Depression is stereotypically seen by having symptoms of sadness or hopelessness that do not go away for an extended amount of time. What people do not expect are the physical and emotional side effects that develop when a person has depression, like:
- Increased sensitivity.
- Co-morbidity with anxiety.
- Loss or dwindling passion for doing the things you love, from hobbies and passions to intimacy, and even sex.
- Weight gain or loss.
- You feel like you are in a cyclical pattern of wrongdoings and can’t seem to see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel.
- Thoughts that consist of “I don’t want to be alive” and “I feel like I would be better off dead.” Self-harming behaviors may become more enticing.
Types of Depression
Major Depressive Disorder Episode
One of the more common disorders of about 16.7 million adults will have at least one major episode in a year. Major depressive disorder is estimated to last about three to four months.
Persistent depressive disorder or dysthymia
Chronic depression is called a persistent depressive disorder, or dysthymia, and is a consistent low-level feelings of depression that lasts for more than two years. It is not as severe, but it is painful because of its consistency. Women are more likely to have dysthymia than men, which happens in 1.5% of American adults. In line with depressive symptoms, you will have low self-esteem, feelings of hopelessness, and have a hard time having energy and making decisions.
Bipolar disorder or Manic-Depressive Disorder
Bipolar disorder affects genders equally, with a percentage of 2.8% of the American population. A large proportion of bipolar cases are classified as being severe. Like a never-ending rollercoaster, people with bipolar disorder can have highs called “being manic,”. When a person is manic, they are energetic, hyper-focused, very talkative, and more inclined for reckless behavior.
What goes up must come down. Bipolar disorder is classified in the same family as depression because after the manic phase is done, the person becomes depressed. It is a constant ebb and flow between high levels of energy to none at all.
Do you notice people seem to be a little gloomier in the winter months versus the summer? Seasonal depression can be one of the reasons for this phenomenon. It is a biological condition as vitamin D (from the sun) helps with our happiness levels.
Seasonal depression depends on the location the person lives, such as temperature and levels of precipitation. For example, those individuals who live closer to the North and South Pole are much more inclined to suffer from season depression than those who live closer to the equator.
Being pregnant is a very intense process as you are growing a human being. Chemicals and hormones are going haywire as you adjust to your new child, especially if this is your first time being a mother. 80% of new mothers will experience “baby blues” because of hormones creating mood changes, tiredness, and possible sadness. Baby blues’ symptoms will be gone in a week or so. There is a diagnosis where depression will begin to linger.
Postpartum depression can result from the changes in your family and schedule, especially your sleep schedule. You have a lot of pressure to ensure your new baby is set up for success, and you have worries, intrusive thoughts, and other negative thinking. If your baby blues do not pass after two weeks and you are beginning to have higher levels of depression severity, you may receive a diagnosis of postpartum depression.
New moms who have postpartum depression can feel guilt as they believe that the newborn phase is the happiest time of motherhood when they feel the opposite. Women should not feel alone during this time, as one in five mothers experience minor depressive episode. Surprisingly, fathers can also experience postpartum depression. To help protect you, your family, and new baby, it is necessary to self-evaluate to get a formal diagnosis and help.
Delusions, hallucinations, and other similar symptoms can be classified as psychotic depression. 25% of individuals with psychotic depression will need to be hospitalized as the paranoia can make them hurt themselves or others.
Where do I get tested?
If you feel unsure of the conditions stated previously, the PHQ-9 is a great starting point to analyze if you might have depression. Trained healthcare professionals created PHQ-9 to screen for possible depression.
PHQ-9 evaluates a person’s two-week span with nine questions. It should only take the user about five to ten minutes to complete. We will be going through the questions, but questions assess how the client has slept in the past two weeks, energy and appetite levels, and other emotional feelings related to depression. You will score the PHQ-9 by how frequently you experience the sensations asked by the questions below. The responses are 0 to 3. 0 rated as not at all, 1’s response is several days, 2’s response is “more than half the days,” and 3 is nearly every day. Once you have completed the survey, you will add your score, and your sum will measure your total score.
The questions (numbers) are as followed with provided examples (letters) to help gain better awareness.
1. Little interest or pleasure in doing things. You loved going to concerts, but nothing can excite you anymore. It can range from being passive about music to not have the same excitement as you used to or more severe cases of being at the concert and not having that rush of excitement and happiness.
2. Feeling down, hopeless, and depressed. It seems like a never-ending winter. Nothing excites you, and one thing after another crushes any hope you might have. It is the sandbags weighing against you.
3. Trouble falling asleep/ staying asleep or could be sleeping too much. You keep tossing and turning. You can either sleep for a little and wake up at 3 am or stay wide awake during the night. On the opposite side of things, not even a bulldozer could get you out of bed. You sleep late until midday and go to bed at 5 pm.
4. Feeling tired or having little energy. Not enough caffeine in the world could motivate you, and you feel like most of your day is yawning, in a fog, or drinking your 6th cup of coffee.
5. Poor appetite or overeating. You eat a granola bar and maybe some pasta on a good day, but that is all you eat. On the other hand, your appetite is never satiated. You eat when you are upset, anxious, or bored. Your snack supply seems to be constantly running low.
6. Feeling bad for yourself or that you are a failure or have let you or your family down. You don’t understand why you were born. You feel like everything you create is sub-par, and you can never measure up to your peers. People may tell you that your writing, art, or craft might be fantastic, but you feel like they are lying. You feel like your family tolerates you and thinks you are a mistake.
7. Trouble concentrating on things such as reading a newspaper or watching television. You know you are watching something, but nothing that was on the screen registered in your brain, or you might reread a passage a couple of times to understand it.
8. Moving or speaking so slowly that other people could have noticed. Or the opposite- being so fidgety or restless that you have been moving around a lot more than usual. You feel like you are in slow-mo and can not keep up with others. On the other hand, you might feel like a lightning bolt bouncing across the room. You pick at your fingers, bounce your legs, and have a need to move.
9. Thoughts that you would be better off dead or of hurting yourself. This can be the literal definition or more subtle versions of “what would my funeral look like?”, “how would my family react if they found me dead?”, etc.
- 1-4: Depressive tendencies; probably wouldn’t recommend depression treatment but would recommend going to a counselor if symptoms worsen.
- 5-9: Mild Depression; it would be recommended for you to reach a healthcare provider to receive a formal diagnosis to check the duration and severity of symptoms
- 10-14: Moderate Depression; similar to mild depression score, to reach out to a healthcare provider to receive a formal diagnosis to check duration and severity of symptoms.
- 15-19: Moderately Severe Depression; the diagnosis might need additional support, a combination of medication and therapy.
- 20-27: Severe Depression; similar to moderately severe depression with needing help from medication and treatment.
How do I move forward?
Now you have your total PHQ-9 score; it indicates that you might have depression. You will need to see primary care providers or mental health professionals to receive additional diagnostic tools to help provide more insight into your healing.
How do I find mental health help?
Sometimes, mental health appointments can take weeks to months to be seen. An excellent method to help alleviate some of the depression symptoms you might be feeling is by journaling. Journaling helps with mindfulness, tracking your emotions, and tracking your progress through each week and month.
A great way to alleviate depression is by showcasing mindfulness and gratitude. In our article, Embracing Gratitude in Times of Uncertainty, gratitude journaling can alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression. Additionally, journaling can provide physical assistance by helping with more consistent sleeping patterns. In How to Overcome Insomnia with Journaling, you can help release persistent intrusive thoughts to help have a deeper, uninterrupted sleep.
To avoid losing any time, JournalOwl provides professional help with a fraction of the cost including your love of journaling. In our program, you will have easier access to a trained mental health professional who specializes in depression. JournalOwl counseling provides more freedom in your schedule and 1-on-1 opportunities to get the help you need.
Depression does not have to be forever. With a bit of hard work and access to help, you will be able to better manage your depression symptoms with the possibility of alleviating them completely. You are stronger than your depression by even reading this article for help; we believe in you.
About Emily Ruiz, MA
Emily Ruiz is a contributor of JournalOwl with a passion for spreading mental health awareness. She believes that mental health topics are instrumental in creating change. She enjoys writing about PTSD, anxiety, depression, and other arrays of topics by adding an emotional feel to her writing.
Before joining the JournalOwl team, Emily received her Masters in Communication with a focus in healthcare advocacy at East Carolina University in North Carolina. She has assisted organizations teaching social skills to children who are autistic and ADHD and teaching mindfulness to teenagers with BPD and who are high-risk self-harm and suicide. Emily created a training module for a non-profit equestrian therapy, Difference instead of Disability, for her independent study during her master’s program.
Emily and her husband are North Carolina natives who enjoy traveling, exploring, and general shenanigans with one another. They foster and rescue animals in their free time. She enjoys riding horses, theatre, and reading.
JournalOwl is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, medical treatment, medication, or therapy. Always seek the advice of your physician or qualified mental health provider with any questions you may have regarding any mental health symptoms or conditions. JournalOwl is not authorized to make recommendations about medication or serve as a substitute for professional advice. You should never disregard professional psychological or medical advice, or delay in seeking treatment, based on anything you read on JournalOwl’s website or platform.