Am I Depressed?

I have no energy and no patience.  Everything feels like too much work and I’m not interested in anything.  The joy is gone and I don’t know if it will ever come back.  I can’t seem to get to sleep and if I do get to sleep, I wake up in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep.  Then I can’t get up on time in the morning.  My sleep is definitely odd.  I can’t concentrate at work, I’m not remembering things, and nothing is funny.  I’m irritable and yell at my family for the littlest thing or, cry at the littlest thing. I just don’t care about anything anymore.  Nothing ever goes right and I can’t do anything right anyway.  I don’t even feel like talking with my friends or doing anything with my buddies.  Food doesn’t even taste good unless maybe it’s junk food. Life is never going to change and I just don’t feel I can take it anymore.”

If you feel hopelessness or helplessness, find yourself eating and sleeping too much or too little, are not interested in doing your favorite activities and these feeling and behaviors persist for most of the day for at least two weeks; then, you may be depressed.  If you are not ready to talk to someone, consider taking the Goldberg Depression Questionnaire, a Screening Test for Depression to determine how depressed you are.  If any of the above statements sound familiar, contact the NIU Employee Assistance Program at 815-753-9191.

Depression expressed as anger is a common response, particularly for men, to the intense feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, extreme tiredness, lack of sleep, and a loss of interest or joy in anything.  Many times we only think this person is angry and do not look at what the anger is related to. Listen to what this person is angry about and if it has persistent themes of helplessness and hopelessness, then this person may be depressed.

Depression is the “common cold” of the mind and is a brain disorder that affects your thoughts, moods, feelings, behavior, and physical health.  Depression is NOT A WEAKNESS.  It is a medical disorder and has a biological basis.  It appears to be caused by imbalances in three brain chemicals called neurotransmitters:  serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine.  These neurotransmitters help regulate the secretion of hormones such as estrogen, progesterone, cortisol, melatonin, and endorphins, to affect mood and emotion.

Today, there are some very effective medications with few side effects that can be very helpful with depression.  Medication is an important aspect of treating the biochemical component of depression.  Healthy eating, vitamins, and physical exercise affect our biochemistry and therefore, our feelings of depression. 

Learning new ways of responding to environmental stresses and difficult life transitions can make people less vulnerable to depression. The way individuals explain difficult experiences to themselves (our self-talk) has an effect on our feelings of well-being and our mood. When our self-talk is very negative and absolute, it feeds depression and makes it harder to find solutions. This is when it is important to talk with a counselor to learn these new life living skills.

Counseling teaches people a new way to talk to themselves about their life experiences.  Research has found that changing one’s cognition's or self-talk can be as effective as medication (click on Understanding Your "Automatic Negative Thoughts" (ANTs).  Taking a 30 minute brisk walk naturally increases your serotonin so, walk or do aerobic exercise and make your self-talk positive.

Helpful Reading

McKay, Matthew, Ph.D., Davis, Martha, Ph.D., Fanning, Patrick.  1997.  Thoughts and Feelings:  Taking Control of Your Moods and Your Life.  Oakland, CA:  New Harbinger Publications, Inc.


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