It is normal to have periods of discouragement in life. As we work through disappointment, discouragement, or grief, we find ourselves gradually feeling better after a few days or weeks. However, sometimes the sky seems to grow darker and darker as the weeks go by. Instead of feeling the love and support of our family, we begin to feel more distant from them. The things people say to cheer us up seem to have no meaning. We feel lonely and empty inside. Is this depression?

rainy window -- CC Image courtesy of Angelo Andiario Photographic Art on Flickr

Depression is more than loneliness or isolation. When we experience major depression, we also experience a lack of purpose, meaning, or pleasure. You may find that you have stopped enjoying food, your job, even your favorite hobbies or spending time with friends. It may take longer to complete tasks at work or to get ready in the morning. You may have begun calling in sick and feeling exhausted all the time. If you have difficulty sleeping or are sleeping much more than usual, this is also a sign of depression.

When some of these feelings (hopelessness, meaninglessness, loneliness, and purposelessness) and physical signs (difficulty sleeping, loss of concentration, slower movements, decreased appetite) occur together, depression is likely. You may have attributed a lack of appetite, difficulty concentrating, fatigue, and sleep problems to other causes. However, when these occur together, depression may be the cause.

Depression is quite common, affecting 1 in 15 people every year. It can look different from person to person. Sometimes depression may require medication to see improvement. Other times, talking to a counselor and making specific changes in our routine can improve depression. Often a combination of medication and therapy is best. Untreated depression can become debilitating over time, so it is important to begin talking with friends, family, and professionals about the best way to help you feel better in the long run.

Written by Ian Nelson, LLP intern