Is it really depression or just a case of the “blues”? It’s not always easy to tell the difference, especially when an older adult has what seems like good reason to be depressed, such as a chronic illness or loss of a loved one. But depression is very different from the blues in terms of duration and severity.
Most cases of the blues resolve on their own and don’t prevent a person from finding some enjoyment in life. The key components of depression are:
Duration: The symptoms are present almost all the time and last for more than a few weeks.
Severity: Depression is usually more severe, causing symptoms that are difficult enough to deal with that they interfere with daily life.
Here are 11 different warning signs of depression. Keep in mind that depressed people don’t all experience the same symptoms, and the severity of symptoms may vary. But if someone exhibits several of these symptoms for more than two weeks, he may need help.
1. Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings
2. Feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, or helplessness
3. Frequent crying episodes
4. Increased agitation and restlessness
5. Fatigue and decreased energy
6. Loss of interest in activities or hobbies that once were pleasurable
7. Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
8. Sleeping too much or not enough
9. Poor appetite or overeating
10. Expressing thoughts of dying or suicide
11. Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that don’t ease with treatment
“Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.”
–Psalm 42:11, NIV
The things that truly tear me apart, will often start by intensifying my gloom and depression. I certainly do avow a limited degree of freedom. But even in the light of this,
1) depression hammers me,
2) dismantles me, and than it
3) devastates me
My own lostness goes on to confuse me, (not to mention it in the lives of my family and friends) and than I slide into further into my darkness. The bottom just falls off, and I go even lower.
But the Father interjects His will on my behalf, and puts me into this critical place by a special grace. I try to rest into this great big sea of a massive love, but I imagine I really don’t belong. In my dark depression, I turn to Him for a greater protection. I understand my proclivity to depression that only sinks me into the darkness of sin.
In olden days, a ship in a overwhelming storm would attempt to lighten its load by throwing its cargo overboard. When we are in this despondency, we often will do this as well. Anything to just survive. We are quite desperate.
My darkness is deep, and it is an intensely viscous evil. It reaches out for me, and it entangles me. You might rightly say that I am lost, but the Father does intervene, and He steps into my blackness, and separates me from it. It may seem a bit melodramatic. But He nevertheless carries me through. And yet I will confess that He has behaved consistently concerning me.
When we have an opportunity we should simply reach out for it. Our foolishness should not disconnect us into a confused place of being. We will step out into this awareness of being made wonderfully complete, and incredibly sure. His presence alters us, and sanctifies us. We change and adjust ourselves. Yet everything that does proceed into us will bring us to a purpose and significance.
I do return and earnestly seek Him to work in me. Unless He does, I will be irrevocably lost. I turn to Him, and so I must admit I am bold in this. I say desperately, ‘Please Jesus, save me.’ I will only turn, and be very bold, entering into His salvation. “Please save me dear Savior, and launch me into the world of salvation. Give me a deep understanding of your deliverance. Jesus, I surrender to your work.” And in all the areas I surrender, He meets me and brings me to the place of of rest.
“So our hope is in the Lord. He is our help, our shield to protect us.”
Anxiety (panic) attack symptoms can feel awful, intense, and frightening. The good news is that while they can seem serious, anxiety attack symptoms aren’t harmful in and of themselves. That is sonething to remember.
Because there are many medical conditions that can cause ‘anxiety-like’ symptoms, it’s wise to discuss your symptoms with you doctor. If your doctor has attributed your symptoms to stress and anxiety, you can feel confident that your doctor’s diagnosis is correct. Anxiety attack disorder is relatively easy to diagnose and isn’t easily confused with more serious medical conditions.
Anxiety attack symptoms are NOT always indications of a serious medical condition. They are simply dramatic responses to being afraid. Being afraid causes the body to stimulate stress hormones. Since stress hormones are designed to prepare the body for action, the changes stress hormones bring about can cause the body to exhibit “symptoms” of this biochemical change. Anxiety attack symptoms are simply “sensory sensations” of this biological change. Again, they aren’t harmful, but they are letting you know that your body’s stress hormone levels are elevated.
Common anxiety attack symptoms include:
A feeling of impending doom, that something horrible is about to happen, that you are in grave danger
A strong feeling of fear, foreboding
An urge to escape, to get out, to run away from danger
Blanching, turning white, looking pale
Blushing, skin blotches, turning red
Choking sensation, tightening throat, it feels like your throat is closing
Depersonalization (feeling detached from reality, separate from one-self, separate from normal emotions)
Derealization (feeling unreal, in a dream-like state)
Dizziness, lightheadedness, unsteadiness
Fear of going crazy
Fear of losing control, freaking out
Fearful thoughts that seem incessant
Feels like there is a tight band around your head
Hot or cold chills
Inability to calm yourself down
Knot in the stomach, tight stomach
Numbness, tingling sensations in any part of the body
Pins and needles feeling
Plugged ear(s), stuffed ear(s)
Shooting pains in the chest, neck, shoulder, head, or face
Shortness of breath, difficulty breathing
Tightness in the chest
Trembling, shaking (visibly shaking or just trembling on the inside)
Urgent desire to go to the bathroom (urinate, defecate)
There is a long list of anxiety symptoms. But because each body is somewhat chemically unique, anxiety affects each person differently. Consequently, anxiety symptoms vary from person to person in type or kind, number, intensity, and frequency. If your symptoms don’t exactly match this list, that does not mean you don’t have anxiety. It simply means that you body is responding to anxiety slightly differently.
For example, one person may experience only a few minor symptoms, while another person may experience the majority of symptoms to great intensities. All combinations are possible and common.
Anxiety attack symptoms can range from mild to severe, from only one symptom to all of them, and can be sporadic, frequent, or persistent. Again, all combinations are possible and common. My own attacks are intense, but I know they’ll go away in time.
Sometimes all we can do is accept the issues that anxiety brings. We must understand that the Holy Spirit knows us fully, and that He will bring us through. Be confident in His grace and receive His mercy. The reality is that Jesus will carry you the distance.
Women experience twice the rate of depression as men.
Everyone experiences disappointment or sadness in life. When the “down” times last a long time or interfere with your ability to function, you may be suffering from a common medical illness called depression.
Major depression affects your mood, mind, body and behavior. Nearly 15 million Americans — one in 10 adults — experience depression each year, and about two-thirds don’t get the help they need.
Women experience twice the rate of depression as men, regardless of race or ethnic background. An estimated one in eight women will contend with a major depression in their lifetimes.
Researchers suspect that, rather than a single cause, many factors unique to women’s lives play a role in developing depression. These factors include: genetic and biological, reproductive, hormonal, abuse and oppression, interpersonal and certain psychological and personality characteristics.
Symptoms of depression include:
Little interest or pleasure in doing things
Feeling down, depressed or hopeless
Trouble falling or staying asleep or sleeping too much
Feeling tired or having little energy
Poor appetite or overeating
Feeling bad about yourself, that you are a failure or have let yourself or your family down
Trouble concentrating on things, such as reading the newspaper or watching television
Moving or speaking so slowly that other people could have noticed or the opposite in that you are so fidgety or restless that you have been moving around a lot more than usual
Thoughts that you would be better off dead or of hurting yourself in some way
Women may be more likely to report certain symptoms, such as…
somatization (the physical expression of mental distress)
increases in weight and appetite
outwardly expressed anger and hostility
Helping a Woman with Depression
People with depression aren’t the only ones who suffer. Their friends and loved ones may experience worry, fear, uncertainty, guilt, confusion or even be more likely to go through depression themselves.
The situation may be especially trying if your loved one doesn’t realize that she is depressed. You can help by recognizing the symptoms of depression and pointing out that she has changed.
Recognize even atypical signs of depression. Women may be more likely to report certain symptoms, such as anxiety, physical pain, increases in weight and appetite, oversleeping and outwardly expressed anger and hostility. Women are also more likely to have another mental illness-such as eating disorders or anxiety disorders-present with depression, so be alert for depression if you know a woman with a history of mental illness.
To point out these changes without seeming accusatory or judgmental, it helps to use “I” statements, or sentences that start with “I.” Saying “I’ve noticed you seem to be feeling down and sleeping more” sounds less accusatory than “you’ve changed.”
Talking to a Woman with Depression
If a friend or loved one has depression, you may be trying to figure out how you can talk to her in a comforting and helpful way. This may be difficult for many reasons. She is probably feeling isolated, emotionally withdrawn, angry or hostile and sees the world in a negative light.
Although you may feel your efforts are rebuffed or unwelcome, she needs your support. You can simply be someone she can talk to and let her share her feelings.
It’s important to remember that depression is a medical illness. Her symptoms are not a sign of laziness or of feeling sorry for herself. She can’t just “snap out of it” by taking a more positive outlook on life.
Helpful responses include, “I am sorry you’re in so much pain” or “I can’t imagine what it’s like for you. It must be very difficult and lonely.” Instead of simply disagreeing with feelings she conveys, it is more helpful to point out realities and hope.
A woman with depression often expects to be rejected. You can reassure her that you will be there for her and ask if there’s anything you can do to make her life easier.
If your loved one is not diagnosed or not in treatment, the most important thing you can do is encourage her to see a health care professional.
*Never ignore statements about suicide.* Even if you don’t believe your loved one is serious, these thoughts should be reported to your friend’s doctor. If this is an emergency, call 9-1-1.
I’m disappointed when friends and family who know me well say things that reveal a gross misunderstanding of depression and how it affects those of us who suffer from it. One person close to me thought depression was something we bring on when we feel sorry for ourselves. Perhaps she thought we liked the attention.
Sufferers of depression would do anything to feel happy and vibrant again. When I’m depressed, many friends keep me at arm’s length. I don’t blame them. It’s not pleasant to be around me when I can’t find anything to talk about except my pain. Depression does that to you: It turns your thinking inward; all you can wrap your mind around is the misery you feel. You end up feeling very alone.
Another person complained to me about an acquaintance with depression who couldn’t manage to do anything more than lie on the sofa. “Couldn’t he just try and make himself do something?” she asked. Nothing I said could convince her that this was an illness that, like other illnesses, couldn’t be helped by simple willpower. Those who have never experienced depression find it difficult to understand how profoundly a brain disorder can affect the entire body.
A long time ago, when I was bordering on psychosis, my doctor put me in a seniors’ care facility for a few days to give me relief from the stress I faced at home. I called a close family member to let her know where I was. She advised me, “You’ve got to pull yourself together and be strong. You have to try harder.” That was insensitive. I was at the facility because I was doing my best to recover – I wasn’t living with eighty and ninety-year-olds for fun. She should have known I always try my best. When I’m trapped in this state, extricating myself is extremely hard. I need time and medication to recover. If I sound angry and hurt, yes, I was.
A person I worked with recommended strongly that I get counseling. “You don’t need those pills you’re taking. All you need is to talk to someone at my church.” She knew nothing about mental disorders like mine. She had no idea what I was dealing with. Again, I seethed, remembering how psychotic I was when I was first admitted to hospital. I could become sick like that again if I didn’t take the medication my mental stability depended on. Would this person tell a diabetic to stop taking insulin?
Christian psychiatrist and author, Dwight L. Carlson, writes, “There are legions of God-fearing Christians who – to the best of their ability – are walking according to the Scriptures and yet are suffering from emotional symptoms. Many of them have been judged for their condition and given half-truths and clichés by well-meaning but ill-informed fellow believers. ‘Pray for God’s forgiveness,’ some are told. ‘A person who is right with the Lord can’t have a nervous breakdown.’”
Fortunately, I have not been treated in this way. The church congregations I’ve belonged to were understanding, yet the stigma continues. It hurts me deeply that Christians who should be compassionate are often judgmental. Church communities need to learn the medical basis for mental disorders and how that differs from the spiritual. They are in the best position to help those in crisis. But when they don’t understand, they are in danger of doing a lot of damage. For Christians, there is nothing worse than to be told our emotional problems are our own fault, the result of unconfessed sin. We suffer so much already. Having to shoulder blame multiplies our mental anguish.
Marja Bergen has lived with bipolar disorder for over forty years. Her mission is to dispel the lingering stigma attached to mental health conditions and to encourage people to lovingly welcome the sufferers into congregations by understanding them better and supporting them in practical ways.
She is the author of Riding the Roller Coaster (Northstone, 1999) and A Firm Place to Stand: Finding Meaning in a Life with Bipolar Disorder (Word Alive). Marja is the founder of the growing faith-based support group ministry, Living Room. Visit her website and her blog.
As we wrestle with our embedded issues, we realize that the battle is in largely inside of us. The last few days have been very hard, and I have a dark presence pressing on me; there is a subsequent reaction in my heart.
As a “born-again” believer who gets deeply challenged by depression, I simply cannot fathom life outside my faith in Jesus. How do unbelievers do it? The Holy Spirit meets me, holds me, and speaks peaceful things to me. I have been promised things of wonder and of grace.
I’ve discovered that self-pity and discouragement are main ingredients into my excursions through bleakness and sadness. In my more profound plummets into the pit, I find myself seeing the physical world around me drained of color. Everything around me is in “black and white.” (I have been told this is one of many symptoms of depression.)
Charlie Brown hits the nail on the head. Often I catch myself smiling, and I immediately stop and say, “Wait. I’m very depressed. I can’t be seen smiling, or talking with a dear friend.” Often we choose to act in ways that reinforces our illness. We think we have to be a certain way, stand in another, or even walk like we think a depressive walks. (After all, we have an image to live up to.)
Depression is very real. Medication is mandated for many. But truthfully, there is this other element of extending this image to others. Our self-pity works hand-in-hand with our image and identity. It seems we have to be somebody, even if we are “crazy people.”
I know this blog has been a challenge at times. I write these daily blogs out of my attitudes, and issues and problems. But there is a “Charlie Brown Depression,” the type where we feel like we are inconsolable all the time. (Maybe Mr. Brown should be our new patron saint of “lost causes?”)
If while in the pit, and for some reason you think of something that’s funny, go ahead and smile, its okay. I’m learning that things are never as sad or grim as I think, nor are they rosy and joy saturated either. Be real. Be real to yourself. Walk in the truth. And take your meds, lol.
“Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?”
Matthew 6:27, NLT
“And who of you by worrying and being anxious can add one unit of measure (cubit) to his stature or to the span of his life?”
Matthew 6:27, AMP
Anxiety can be described as “misplaced concern.” Many are over-wrought and disturbed by the way life is developing for them. They can’t make it work, and find themselves in a place they regard as perilous. They are stressed and then try to imagine themselves to a place of success. But a year from now, they will not have improved and find themselves in pretty much in the same place.
The evil of anxiety is that we become overly concerned with the future— today.
Under a great deal of worry, we develop a deep tendency for fear. Soon doubt filters in and we work ourselves up into a significant problem. Seeking success we find ourselves in the chains of anxiety and worry.
Jesus declared that we should never ever be anxious. He suggests that anxiety will never pay-off. Our fear over our future can bring us nothing but spiritual poverty, and emotional crisis We find a bag and we try to collect some security and certainty, but little do we know that our bag has holes. It holds nothing, and leaks everything.
No matter what we think, we change a single thing. Concentrating on wealth and success will in the long run, is futile and empty. We can’t make an iota of a difference.
6 “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 4:6-7, NLT
Security for us is not what we can scrape up, but it is found in coming under the control of Jesus Christ. We have an awareness that life is cruel, capricious and demanding. We sift through our life, our eyes eager to find something, anything that will help us. And, we find nothing. But faith in God will push the anxious thoughts out.
“An unpeaceful mind cannot operate normally. Hence the Apostle teaches us to “have no anxiety about anything” (Phil. 4:6). Deliver all anxious thoughts to God as soon as they arise. Let the peace of God maintain your heart and mind (v. 7).”
Anxiety seems to be a disturbing companion to those of us with a mental illness. (We definitely don’t like his company.) Anxiety shapes us and victimizes us, and we often find ourselves in a confusing place. But understanding the presence of anxiety is just a half-step towards freedom. We must shake ourselves of the fear and doubt that accompanies this sin.
We must trust our Father, and completely lean on his grace. We must learn to pray again.
Important to Know:
General Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is a seperate category of mental illness, and although similar to the anxiety experienced by many, requires the help of medical professionals. We should not confuse the two. GAD is an illness and not just basic anxiety. Panic attacks can often accompany GAD. Get help if you think this might be an issue for you.
Visit http://www.medicinenet.com/panic_disorder/article.htm for more information.