A sore subject for many people to openly discuss is depression. Depression for most people is simply more than a mild case of “the blues.”
Depression can be smothering and overwhelming, leaving people feeling like they have no hope or no need to wake up and get out of bed in the morning. Depression is more than just feeling sad; it is a persistent life-altering mental disorder that can have major impacts on people’s lives.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, more than 20 million Americans are commonly living with some form of depression, and more than half of those people live with anxiety. Commonly associated with depression, anxiety can also take strong and overpowering strangleholds on people’s lives.
Living with depression and anxiety does not have to be a curse, nor do people have to let it run their lives. Learning to recognize simple signs of depression and anxiety can help get control and power back in your life.
Depression is characterized by someone feeling disappointed, discouraged, downhearted and generally unmotivated toward life. Though it is common for everyone to occasionally feel like this, people suffering from a chronic or ongoing case live with a deeper and much more difficult depressive state that can be difficult to arise from. When people suffer from these feeling for more than a week and it begins to interfere with the day-to-day routines normally performed, that person is suffering from a depressive disorder. Depressive disorders can affect anyone and at any time in someone’s life.
More commonly, depression is triggered by some type of negative impact on one’s personal or social life. Losing a family member or loved one, ending a romantic engagement or failing to meet personal expectations are major triggers into the downward spiral of depression.
Even though no two people’s diagnosis of depression are the same, the triggers that initiate the feelings are all too common. It’s important to recognize major triggers of depression and better prepare yourself for the emotions that follow.
Not all depression is triggered by major events in one’s life. Those who suffer with depression can oftentimes find themselves going in and out of it with no major trigger at all. This type of depression, more commonly termed dysthymia, is a long-lasting and seemingly endless state of depression.
Those suffering from dysthymia have classic signs and symptoms of depression: low states of energy, overeating or loss of appetite, insomnia, difficulty making decisions, difficulty with concentrating or remembering, thoughts of suicide and persistent physical symptoms including digestive problems, headaches and chest pains.
Anxiety commonly associated with depression, as well as unassociated with depression, is a different mental disorder altogether. However, because they are commonly linked it’s important to understand signs and symptoms of prolonged anxiety and anxiety attacks.
Anxiety is a natural response occurring in our bodies. It puts us on alert. It is a mechanism that helps us respond to the primal “fight or flight” complex. This is your body’s reaction to fear.
However, prolonged periods of anxiety, or quick onset of explosive anxiety known at anxiety attacks or panic attacks, can leave people feeling terrified and hopeless. Anxiety attacks usually occur suddenly and without warning, and can last several minutes to several hours, most of which peak within minutes of the onset.
The person experiencing the anxiety oftentimes feels trapped by some means, and is in a fast and frequent scan for some type of escape. The attack can be triggered by many of the same triggers of depression. However, anxiety attacks can be triggered by any means of feeling scared, alone, or any other form of fear.
You can feel short of breath like you can’t breathe. Oftentimes your chest will tighten up and you begin to breathe very rapidly. Fingers, toes, lips and face will begin to go numb. Worry not as this is a natural response in a panic attack.
The best thing to do to help mitigate the problem is to try to relax. Try as hard as physically possible to take long, slow deep breaths, find a place to sit or lay down and try slowly counting down from 100, taking deep breaths.
Many doctors recognize depression and anxiety as true mental disorders in which people suffer directly.
If you or someone you know is dealing with anxiety and or depression, talk with your physician. There are many different types of activities and medications to use to help cope with these mental disorders. Do not be too shy or proud to ask for help. You are not alone in this world and others are willing to share their stories and help.
If you have any questions or concerns, please contact me at the firehouse at 293-9228.
Brian Shea is a Boulder City paramedic/firefighter. If you have further questions about this or any fire safety issue, contact the Boulder City Fire Department at 293-9228.