The Good Thing About Depression
Medically Reviewed by Patti van Eys, Ph.D.
Depression goes beyond sadness; it is a lingering feeling of deep despair and near-total loss of interest in things that once brought pleasure and joy. It is a mental illness that profoundly affects people, regardless of age, race, gender or orientation on an emotional, physical and psychological level. Depression, along with hopelessness and despair, are high risk factors for suicide and suicidal ideation (insistent and persistent thoughts of suicide). In the US, over 21 million adults report having at least one major depressive episode and anyone can fall victim to depression.
That’s the grim news about a terrible condition–but it’s not all bad!
The good thing about depression is that it’s not invisible–there are warning signs, physical symptoms and measurable behaviors that can help identify when someone is struggling with depression; and because it is recognizable, it is also treatable.
10 Telltale Signs of Depression or a Depressive Episode in the workplace:
- Feeling helpless, hopeless or that there is nothing anyone can do to make things better.
- Loss of interest in things that used to bring joy.
- Excessive appetite or loss of appetite, resulting in significant weight gain or loss.
- Excessive sleep or lack of sleep, resulting in insomnia or chronic oversleeping.
- Loss of energy, listlessness or physical exhaustion.
- Difficulty keeping on task, focusing or remembering things.
- Feeling angry, irritable, belligerent or combative; even short-tempered or violent.
- Feeling worthless, guilty, self-loathing or critical.
- Unspecified aches and pains including headaches, stomachaches, neck and back pain.
- Accompanying overwhelming anxiety and/or use of substances like alcohol or marijuana to “self-medicate”
This is hardly an exhaustive list, and depression can manifest differently for different people. Men more often complain of physical symptoms rather than feelings, and experience loss of interest and undefined aggression more than sadness. Women more often experience prolonged feelings of guilt and behaviors like excessive crying, overeating and weight gain, which can be further exacerbated by life stages such as menopause, hormonal changes or post-partum depression.
The good thing is that it has become so widely recognized as a uniformly treatable condition, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared depression one of the “priority conditions” covered by their Mental Health Gap Action Programme (mhGAP). Yet while many countries acknowledged the importance of mental wellness during the pandemic, the stigma around mental health continues to persist. The fear of being judged in a work setting due to a diagnosis is cited as the number one reason why 54.7% of those suffering don’t seek treatment. Increased scrutiny and possible discrimination at work are other reasons why those struggling with depression do not take advantage of available resources.
The good thing is that depression–mild, moderate or severe–is treatable.
Because depression can have many root causes including a biochemical imbalance, a genetic predisposition, or environmental factors like poverty, violence, trauma or abuse, there are many approaches to treatment. Medication, psychotherapy, physical exercise or even a change of diet can have significant effects.
The good thing is that almost everyone–between 80-90%--responds positively to treatment and experiences some relief.
A combination of psychotherapy, medication, and lifestyle changes are effective in treating depression. Antidepressant medications such as Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) prescribed by a medical provider and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)--an evidenced-based treatment for depression–have high success rates for depression and anxiety symptom reduction. Lifestyle changes in diet, exercise, mindfulness, and social support promote feelings of wellbeing, connection and belonging.
And the best thing is that we can be proactive. Prevention programs in the workplace are effective in reducing the risk of depression. You can download this guide to design and develop a customized mental and behavioral health wellness program that is right for your organization.
Depression waves red flags to get our attention, and the more we learn to recognize these signs and symptoms, the more quickly we can help provide the support and treatment people suffering from depression may not be able to identify or voice for themselves.
If you want to learn how Pathways At Work can help your employees learn to recognize the warning signs and take action, please contact us today.