| Self Help
THE BLUES AND BEYOND
Billions of dollars are
spent every year to treat it. It is estimated that 5% of Americans
- some 15 million people - suffer from it at a given time. It is
seen as a major contributor to suicidal behavior. What is "it?"
"It" is DEPRESSION. Since we know that the dark days of winter
seem to lead some people to feel depressed and that this past holiday
season, even with all the parties and festivities, can trigger many
people to experience depression, we would like to help you understand
depression better and share some ideas on what you might want to
do if you or someone you know is feeling depressed.
Are your low feelings
the blues or something beyond the blues? That diminished sense of
energy and mildly depressed mood that sometimes sets in are blues
you can beat. Below are some do's and don'ts for combating the blues:
DON'T over do
DON'T overindulge in
DON'T turn to alcohol
and other drugs.
DON'T isolate yourself.
DON'T accept a bad
mood and wallow in it.
DON'T blame others
or take out your bad mood on them.
DO get a reasonable
amount of rest.
DO eat well (protein
and carb's to boost energy without a "crash.")
DO exercise. Physical
activity (even a 10 minute walk) will boost mood. A longer workout
will stimulate a release of endorphins.
DO take action. If
you're feeling lazy/worthless, prove yourself wrong. Remember
past successes. Set small goals; break big tasks into smaller
ones and give yourself credit for accomplishing each one.
DO eliminate negatives
where you can (e.g., avoid bad news or pessimistic people for
DO add small pleasures.
Savoring a cup of tea, listening to music, taking a walk, calling
an old friend...Plan them into your schedule.
DO stimulate the senses.
Eat spicy food, listen to powerful music, dance energetically,
wear bright colors, take a very long hot bath, or a cold shower.
DO something for someone else. Call your grandma, iron your roommate's
shirt, smile and say "hi" to people you don't know.
However, when depression
is beyond the blues, it's time to take a different tactic. People
describe themselves as "depressed" in many different ways and for
many different reasons. "I got my test grade back, I'm depressed."
"My girlfriend and I broke up, I'm depressed." "The Southern Cal
game really depressed me." Depression is not sadness or grief. Failure,
a loss, or major changes in our lives often lead to sad feelings.
This is part of the ups and downs of life but this is not real depression.
We are depressed when we cannot move on with our lives after a major
loss, or if we have no idea of why we feel down. People who are
depressed often say "I have no reason to feel this way, my life
is good." The very fact the feelings seem to come out of the blue
may suggest depression.
Real (clinical) depression
is likely to color our view of the world so that our successes seem
minor and our failures seem major. A person who is depressed often
feels unable to focus on the positive, to put failures in the context
of other successes and to accurately assess their own strengths
and weaknesses. Some depressed people say things like "Even though
I know the world is full of color, to me everything looks gray."
As depression becomes
more serious, we are likely to experience physical symptoms such
as restlessness, the inability to sleep or a need to sleep excessively,
fatigue, appetite changes, crying spells, or the an inability to
enjoy normally pleasurable activities, feelings of worthlessness,
inability to concentrate, indecisiveness, or thoughts of suicide.
Many professionals believe
that depression is really anger turned in on ourselves. Instead
of getting angry at people or events in our lives that are negative,
we blame ourselves for what has happened -- even if we have no control
over it. It is also known that people who are overly responsible
or self-blaming are more likely to experience depression.
Here are some things
that we know about the causes of depression. Some people are predisposed
to experience depression. If there is a history of depression in
your family, you may be more likely to become depressed. For some
people, depression is a reaction to excessive stress. Burning the
candle at both ends, not sleeping, etc., may trigger depression.
Finally, some people seem to get "stuck" when dealing with a difficult
negative experience and move from sadness to depression.
Is there some good news
about all of this? There is. For many people, depression runs its
course and they start to feel well again. Some people seek counseling
and it is clear that counseling can help them manage depression
and often shorten the depressive cycle. Finally, almost every few
months a new anti-depressant comes on the market. For people with
more serious depression, these products can be very helpful.
With all of these resources,
it is sad to realize that 70 % of people with depression never receive
professional help. The University Counseling Center is a place to
seek help if you are feeling depressed or thinking about suicide.
You may visit our web site at http://www.nd.edu/~ucc or call us
To read pamphlets on depression written by other university counseling centers, see the Virtual Pamphlets Collection
Take the ULifeline.org's Self e-Valuator for you or for a friend for depression and other issues
To learn more about depression, including bipolar disorder:
Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
All About Depression
Also see How to Help Someone Who is Suicidal