Ever wonder why depression is so confusing to understand?  When you know it has an affect on people, but you don’t quite understand where it comes from, what it looks like, or how to manage it?  You’re not alone. 

In this article, I will outline some of the causes of depression, the noticeable symptoms, and how you can manage depression.  

What is Depression?

Depression is a mental health disorder.  It starts to impact your daily life functioning in a negative manner.  I come from a strength-based approach, trauma-informed lens.  I look at depression as a consequence or symptom of trauma.  Depression is manageable. 

What does Depression Look Like?

Some symptoms of depression include (this is not a diagnostic tool; please see a medical professional for more information):

– Lack of motivation
– Increase or decrease in appetite
– Irritation
– Low mood
– Thoughts of death or dying
– Lack of interest in activities you use to enjoy
– Body pains or aches
– Lack of interest in taking showers or taking care of self

 

What Influences Depression?

1. Genetics (runs in the family).

People who tend to experience symptoms of depression usually have a family member, or relative who experiences depression as well.  Symptoms of depression can be passed down through our genome (our DNA) from one generation to another.  You are more likely to develop depression if someone in your family has it.  However, genetics is just one component to developing depression — it doesn’t mean you will get it.  

 

2. Changes in Hormones.

Ever heard of the phrase, “you are what you eat?”  Well this can kind of applies here too.  There are certain foods that can fluctuate the hormones in your body — they can impact the amount of serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins that are in your body and brain.  These are all feel-good hormones (hormones that make you feel good and increase your mood).  However, when we put too much in, our body and brain expects the same amount on a consistent basis.  So, if you continuously eat food (or any substance) that makes you feel good, your brain and body will want more of it.  If it doesn’t get enough consistently, then your hormone levels may be affected drastically over time.  Please see a medical professional to learn more about this. 

Your hormones naturally fluctuate as well, as you age.  Once again, please see a medical professional if you believe that this may be the case for yourself. 

 

3. Going through trauma.

Going through traumatic events can actually promote the onset of depression symptoms.  When our body either thinks it’s in danger or when you are in actual danger, your body goes through an automatic response of fight, flight, freeze, or faint to help you survive.  Sometimes our body can get “stuck” in the freeze state.  This happens when the process is interrupted.  Shaking at the time of trauma can help you get out of the freeze state.  Unprocessed trauma can come back to haunt you later on.  You may notice months where your depression symptoms are not present, and some months when it’s hard to even get out of bed.  Visit a counsellor to gain support to process trauma. 

 

4. Our environment and upbringing.

 

Our environment and the way that people interact with us can impact our beliefs about ourselves and the world around us.  If people consistently treated us poorly, we may have developed some pretty discouraging thoughts over the years.  Some of these thoughts may include: “I’m not good enough, the world is mean, people hate me, I feel used, etc.”  These thoughts can start making you feel discouraged, unmotivated, and impact the hormones that are being released from your brain and into your body.  Counselling support can help you learn more about your internal dialogue, the causes behind it, and how to shift these thoughts over time. 

 Managing Depression

Okay, so now that we’ve explored what depression is, what it looks like, and what influences it, let’s explore what we can actually do about it!

1. Exercise and Eat Well

Let’s increase the feel-good hormones in your body!  Exercising allows your brain to release endorphins into the body.  Endorphins naturally make you feel good, and these endorphins are released in moderation.  Eating well (a balanced diet) can also help release endorphins.  Feeling the symptoms of depression worsening?  Get up and get moving! 

2. See a Medical Professional

Sometimes our hormones may be so disrupted that it is hard to do the trauma-processing work or to even get out of bed to exercise.  Visit a medical professional to learn more about how your doctor can help you create a balance in your hormones so that you can start feeling motivated again to do some of the deeper/root work.  

3. See a Counsellor

Negative perspective on life, or on how you see yourself?  Scared, worried, wanting to isolate?  Explore some of these thoughts with a trusted professional.  Processing trauma can be so beneficial because now you are getting to the root of the concern.

4. Practice mindfulness

Sometimes our depression or trauma can leave us feeling disconnected from the world around us.  Ever feel like you’re zoning out or daydreaming to escape from reality or the task at hand?  That may be a trauma response.  When you notice this happening, start noticing things around you and start labelling them out loud or in your head.  Watching a movie?  Start practicing really being present in the movie … notice what the characters are saying.  

 

Change takes time.  Growth takes time.  Our brains and bodies are designed in a way that you have to practice something over and over for it to stick, or for you to see results.  Think of it this way — when you go to the gym or exercise, you don’t see results right away … it takes time.  Same thing with your mental health … it takes time.  Practice kindness and self-compassion throughout your journey.  You got this!