By Marta Aizenman Ph.D. Director, Cook College Counseling Center

The Feeling of Depression

Everybody experiences moments of sadness. When a pleasant situation ends, when a relationship is over, when we lose someone we love, when we fail to get a good grade, or when we don't get something we want- we tend to feel upset. These situations come and go. We experience these feelings, but after a while we get over them. There are times, however, in which instead of recovering as quickly as we would like, the bad feelings linger for a long time. There are also instances in which we don't even know why we feel upset; the feeling seems to be coming from nowhere. This lasting emotional state is called Depression.
Depression is common. Over 15 million people in U.S. suffer from it at some point in their lives, so much so that depression has been called the "common cold of mental health problems." While depressed people can still be active, the impact of this emotion on their every day functioning is very strong. The depressive state may in There are different kinds and degrees of depression. They range from a normal reaction to a loss to a very severe reaction due to chemical imbalances in the brain.
Normal Depressive Mood and Grief: These are the feelings one may have after losing someone or something one loves or wants. At that time sadness may occur, leading to a lack of interest and motivation to do things. One also may have difficulty in thinking about issues other than the loss. These feelings have a cause and are transitory. After a certain period of time their intensity tends to lessen.
Adjustment Disorder with Depressed Mood: As we pass through life, good and bad things happen to us. Many changes occur. We may finish school, finish a course, get a new job, be promoted, move from one living quarter to another, and a new relationship, or even become married. All these changes, good or unpleasant may produce at first a sensation of grief. The process of finding our place again is often accompanied with a sensation of depression and at times also of anxiety.
Sadness for what we have left behind and fear for what is about to happen. The characteristics of this kind of depression are that a change has occurred and the person is struggling to adapt to it. These feelings of gloom are also temporary.
Mild Depression: This condition is more complicated than the previous ones.
Although it is also triggered most of the time by an event or a collection of events in the life of the individual, it tends to attack greater aspects of the person's life.
Depression is common. Over 15 million people in U.S. suffer from it at some point in their lives, so much so that depression has been called the "common cold of mental health problems."
It also tends to persist for longer periods of time; and it is difficult to eliminate without professional help. The following features can be found in individuals suffering from mild depression:
* The depressed mood is felt for most of the day for many days; and
* the individual experiences: poor self esteem; strong guilt feelings; feelings of hopelessness; poor concentration and difficulties in making decisions; low energy or fatigue; sleeping difficulties (either sleeping too much or too little); appetite problems (either eating a lot or too little).
Major Depression: This condition has similar features to the previous one.
However, the intensity of the feelings is much higher. The individual experiences "a profound sense of hopelessness and despair" 2 The feelings of pleasure disappear. Nothing awakes the person's interests. Food, sex, loves become almost irrelevant. There is a high degree of anxiety, irritability and chronic indecisiveness. Suicidal thoughts are frequent. Often Major Depression appears without warning or a triggering agent: other times it follows a mild depression. It seems that the feelings in this condition are strongly related to a chemical imbalance of certain neurotransmitters in the nervous system (neuroepinphrine and serotonin).
Seasonal Affective Disorders: This condition is frequently called "winter blues" It tends to appear during periods when there is not enough light. As a result individuals feel the symptoms of mild depression, which clear up once the days are longer and there is more sun.
Bipolar Disorder: (Manic Depression) This is the condition of oscillation between two extreme emotions: One of depression and the other of elation. Its characteristics are feelings of high energy with the display of unrealistic activity preceded or followed by states of profound sadness. During the periods of intense activity (also called mania) the person shows some of the following features3 inflated self esteem and grandiosity; decreased need for sleep; more ta1kative than usual distractibility; increased activity, excessive involvement in pleasurable activities that have a high potential for painful consequences.
It is important to note that many times depression appears together with other psychological conditions or can be the result of some physical illness or physical conditions.
Remedies: What one can do when one is depressed?
When one feels sad or upset it is important to find out if there is a motive behind the depression, and then to consider if it is worthwhile to spend time dwelling on the situation that triggered these feelings.
However it is also important to permit oneself to be sad and/or angry and to give oneself time to grieve and process the pain. Talking with friends, exercising, eating and sleeping well and finding distractions may help if the sadness is normal. If the depression, however, is of any other type it is highly advisable to consult a counselor or a psychiatrist if medications may be needed.
At Cook College students who feel depressed can consult the Counseling Center.
There they will receive the help they need or will he referred to the appropriate services. The Center located at the Cook Campus Center, is confidential, and is free of charge. Students can be seen immediately individually or in groups. The Center is also available for consultations from students about their friends or families. The Center phone number is 732 932- 9150.
One should not wait unnecessary to receive help when in pain. The good news is that Depression while it is a very uncomfortable condition can be successfully treated.
1,2,3: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV Edition EOF Newsletter January/February 1999 Page 9.

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