Recognizing and Managing Depressive Episodes

Depressive Episodes

Depression is a common and often debilitating mental health disorder that affects the way we feel, think, and act. It’s not just a feeling of sadness, and it can last for weeks and even months. There are several mental health disorders that can lead to depressive episodes. If you think you might be struggling with depression or a depressive episode, read on below for common signs to look out for and effective tools to manage and cope.

 

Signs and Symptoms of a Depressive Episode

Loss of Concentration

Depression can cause feelings of apathy, hopelessness, and worthlessness. This can make it incredibility difficult to get stuff done and focus on our responsibilities. When we are not motivated or desire to participate in everyday life, it’s normal to have a hard time concentrating. It’s often described as trying to walk through quicksand.

Increase or Decrease in Appetite

Depending on how it shows up for you, depression can have an affect our eating habits. Some people turn to food in an attempt to brighten their mood. Others are either too exhausted or apathetic to make an effort to eat.

Avoidance and Isolation

When we’re feeling a range of negative emotions, it’s difficult to be around people and you likely don’t want to. Or you do, but the prospect of it feels like too much effort. Depression can increase feelings of loneliness, rejection, and self-doubt, which causes us to self-isolate. However, social isolation can induce and worsen symptoms of depression.

Low Energy

Fatigue is one of the most prevalent symptoms of Depressive Disorder. No matter how much sleep you get, you still feel exhausted. This is because the neurotransmitters in our brain play a significant role in regulating our energy, and depression can indicate that these neurotransmitters aren’t working effectively. Since depression can go on for days and weeks, we often end up shaming ourselves for being tired, which continues and worsens our feelings of exhaustion.

Guilt and Shame

Depression is associated with elevated levels of self-blaming emotions. While it’s not commonly discussed, depressive episodes can bring up feelings of guilt and shame, likely from the symptoms mentioned above. Depression makes it difficult to move through life the way we want to, and it’s common to feel pressured to show up as someone who isn’t struggling. Whether you aren’t taking care of yourself, withdrawing from friends and family, or you feel like you’re not solving it “fast enough”, it’s normal for feelings of guilt to come to the surface.

 

Managing A Depressive Episode

Depression isn’t just sadness. It’s a disorder and it can cause us to suffer for months, especially if we don’t have or use tools to manage it. If you suffer from regular depressive episodes, it’s important to experiment different ways to cope. Depending on our circumstances, some tools might work and others might not. Below are a few tools you can try when depression has you down.

Track Symptoms and Triggers

Going through a depressive episode can feel like we have a total lack of control. Tracking our moods and getting in tune with our symptoms can help us feel like we’re in the driver’s seat. Over time, you can begin to spot triggers and possible avoid bigger episodes. Keep a notebook with you to log events, moods, and daily routines.

Complete Small, Easy Tasks

It’s normal to let go of our routines and responsibilities when we’re in the middle of an episode. This leaves us feeling worse and we shame ourselves for not doing more. Instead of beating yourself up and forcing action, try completing easy tasks instead. We all have that long exhaustive to-do list in our heads. Jot it all down and do the things you feel confident you can achieve right now. This will help you feel a sense of accomplishment and could also create momentum to do more.

Practice Relaxation and Deep Breathing

There is no end in sight to the benefits of breathing exercises. Depression can cause shallow breathing or increased, anxious breathing. Deep breathing slows down the release of stress hormones, giving our body a chance to relax and find a sense of calm. It’s best to do this as often as possible. The best part is that breathing can be practiced anywhere.

Challenge Your Thoughts

Depression often causes a rush of negative, dark thoughts. It can also lead to a rise in cognitive distortions, resulting in a false perception of our reality and leading to unhelpful behaviors. Take the time to challenge these thoughts. Ask yourself – is there any evidence for these thoughts? Does it help me to think this way?

 

Seek Support

The best way to manage depression is through proper support. Managing your depression with a professional can give you peace of mind and save you time and frustration trying to manage it all by yourself. Poor mental health often causes us to withdraw from our social circles, but we still need support. If you or a loved one are struggling or experiencing severe symptoms, please reach out for the help you deserve.

Here at Dr. Messina and Associates, our compassionate team of professionals are qualified to help you at our Flower Mound, Texas, and Southlake, Texas, offices. Our Psychologists, Psychiatrists, and Counselors specialize in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), psychological testing, and medication management for a variety of emotional and behavioral health needs. All services are available in-person and online (telehealth). If you or a loved one are seeking help with mental health, we are here to help.

Author
Dr. Michael Messina

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