Depression Is Different From Sadness or Grief/Bereavement, How?
The death of a loved one, loss of a job or the ending of a relationship are difficult experiences that people endure in life. It is normal for feelings of sadness or grief to develop in response to such situations. Those experiencing loss often might describe themselves as being “depressed.”
But being sad is not the same as having depression. The grieving process is natural and unique to each individual and shares some of the same features of depression. Both grief and depression may involve intense sadness and withdrawal from usual activities. They are also different in important ways:
- In grief, painful feelings come in waves, often intermixed with positive memories of the deceased. In major depression, mood and/or interest (pleasure) are decreased for most of two weeks.
- In grief, self-esteem is usually maintained. In major depression, feelings of worthlessness and self-loathing are common.
- In grief, thoughts of death may surface when thinking of or fantasizing about “joining” the deceased loved one. In major depression, thoughts are focused on ending one’s life due to feeling worthless or undeserving of living or being unable to cope with the pain of depression.
Grief and depression can co-exist for some people, the death of a loved one, losing a job or being a victim of a physical assault or a major disaster can lead to depression. When grief and depression co-occur, the grief is more severe and lasts longer than grief without depression.
Distinguishing between grief and depression is important and can assist people in getting the help, support or treatment they need. If grief or sadness is not dealt with properly it could lead to depression or PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder).
It is important to remember… NEVER make someone feel like their pain is insignificant or lesser! Each individual processes differently what may seem like not a big deal to you can be scaring to someone else, always be mindful. One small comment can be the breaking point.
Risk Factors for Depression.
Depression can affect anyone—even a person who appears to live in relatively ideal circumstances, it’s not set for a specific group of people like any other disease depression can affect anyone.
Several factors that can play a role in depression:
- Biochemistry: Differences in certain chemicals in the brain may contribute to symptoms of depression.
- Genetics: Depression can run in families. If an individuals family has a history of mental illness the risk of suffering from depression is increased.
- Personality: People with low self-esteem, who are easily overwhelmed by stress, or who are generally pessimistic appear to be more likely to experience depression.
- Environmental factors: Continuous exposure to violence, neglect, abuse or poverty may make some people more vulnerable to depression.
How Is Depression Treated?
Depression is among the most treatable of mental disorders. Between 80% and 90% percent of people with depression eventually respond well to treatment. Almost all patients gain some relief from their symptoms.
Before a diagnosis or treatment, a health professional should conduct a thorough diagnostic evaluation, including an interview and a physical examination. In some cases, a blood test might be done to make sure the depression is not due to a medical condition like a thyroid problem or a vitamin deficiency (reversing the medical cause would alleviate the depression-like symptoms). Some of the courses of action after evaluation include:
- Medication: Brain chemistry may contribute to an individual’s depression and may factor into their treatment. For this reason, antidepressants might be prescribed to help modify one’s brain chemistry. These medications are not sedatives, “uppers” or tranquilizers. They are not habit-forming. Generally, antidepressant medications have no stimulating effect on people not experiencing depression.
Psychiatrists usually recommend that patients continue to take medication for six or more months after the symptoms have improved. Longer-term maintenance treatment may be suggested to decrease the risk of future episodes for certain people at high risk.
- Psychotherapy: or “talk therapy,” is sometimes used alone for treatment of mild depression; for moderate to severe depression, psychotherapy is often used along with antidepressant medications. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has been found to be effective in treating depression. CBT is a form of therapy focused on the problem solving in the present. CBT helps a person to recognize distorted/negative thinking with the goal of changing thoughts and behaviors to respond to challenges in a more positive manner. Depending on the severity of the depression, treatment can take a few weeks or much longer. In many cases, significant improvement can be made in 10 to 15 sessions.
- Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT): is a medical treatment that has been most commonly reserved for patients with severe major depression (high risk suicidal) who have not responded to other treatments. It involves a brief electrical stimulation of the brain while the patient is under anesthesia. A patient typically receives ECT two to three times a week for a total of six to 12 treatments. It is not a painful procedure at all.