Depressed or Just Feeling Down
Depression is confusing! Part of the confusion is the usage of the word’ depressed’ – the Webster’s dictionary defines depression as ‘low spirits,gloominess, dejection, sadness’. Who has never felt gloomy, dejected or sad? So when everyone feels that they are an expert on ‘depression’, everyone has their own advice. ‘You need to get busy, get out more’, ‘stop feeling sorry for yourself’, or ‘just pray, give it over to God!’ are common admonitions that people suffering from depression are subjected to. Unfortunately, such comments contribute to making the depressed person feel even more helpless and alone.
The problem is there is a huge difference between ‘clinical depression’ and the common understanding of the word ‘depressed’ or ‘down’. It would be somewhat like giving your home remedy for colds to someone suffering from double pneumonia. Some of the symptoms contributing factors, and aspects of treatment might be similar, but the severity of the illness and the consequences if not treated properly are very different and, possibly, very dangerous.
Whereas some people may describe themselves as feeling ‘depressed’ or ‘down’ when they are simply tired or disappointed with someone, clinical depression is a medical diagnosis based on the presence of at least 5 specific symptoms which have been present nearly constantly for at least the past 2 weeks clinical depression has a significant impact on daily functioning, and is not just having ‘a very bad day’.
It is estimated by NIMH (National Institute for Mental Health) that approx. 2/3 of people who are clinically depressed never receive appropriate treatment – sometimes the depression is misdiagnosed, but a major problem is also that the depressed individual fears being stigmatized, as ‘weak’ and’ inadequate’ and does not seek treatment.
That’s the tragedy of depression – at a time when early treatment, and the support of professionals, family and friends are so critical, the person suffering from a clinical depression can withdraw because of the embarrassment and shame, and then the cycle continues downward. However, if depression is treated early and with appropriate treatments, the prognosis for recovery is excellent.
Since depression is so complex, an integrated and comprehensive approach to treatment is very helpful. The MDP program offered at Bayridge combines many aspects: medical assessment, education for both the depressed person and their support person, peer support, bio-feedback/relaxation, nutritional help, coaching, prayer healing, and individual counselling with a focus on CBT and IPT.
Depression is serious and ‘scary’, but many people who face their depression, and ‘do the work of moving through their depression’ report that they emerge from the dark tunnel with greater self-awareness, and understanding of the dynamics of their interpersonal relationships. The ‘gift of depression’ for them is that they have learned to let go of those things which they cannot control, and they have been able to move into greater freedom and joy in their lives.
Gail Bruneau , BA, MSW