You don’t have to be suffering from clinical depression to experience a depressive episode. If you have been going through unsettling emotional lows, then this article is just right for you.
Here are 9 signs of an impending depressive episode and tips on how to deal with it.
What is a depressive episode?
This is a duration in which a person suffers from a depressed mood or a deep unwavering sadness. It is most often characterized by feelings of hopelessness, anxiety, worthlessness, guilt, and irritability. It may also affect your decision making power and cause problems concentrating.
A depressive episode could span a few hours or could be the cause of consistent misery for up to two weeks. A recent study shows that 16.2 million people in the United States alone have experienced a major depressive episode in the past year.
How to spot an impending depressive episode?
Feeling down once in a while is not necessarily a sign of depression or even an oncoming depressive episode. Feeling blue on occasion is a part and parcel of everyone’s life and something we cannot hope to eliminate completely.
So how do you discern between an oncoming depressive episode and general sentiments of anxiety and/or sadness? Here are some signs to look out for:
A profound sense of sadness
A feeling of hopelessness and depression that is persistent and intense.
Feelings of worthlessness and/or guilt
It is common to feel insignificant or shameful at the onset of an episode.
You may endure acute panic and have feelings of impending doom, heart palpitations, or shortness of breath.
Loss of interest
A substantial loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed. Performing daily activities like chores or even hobbies might seem like a burden.
Feeling exhausted and weary, along with slowness in movements and thinking. This is the kind of loss of energy that cannot be amounted to lack of good quality sleep.
Drastic changes in eating habits
You might lose your appetite or crave sugar and carb-heavy foods. Overeating can additionally cause blood sugar dips and spikes that end up making you feel worse.
Disturbed sleep patterns
Either excessive sleep or trouble sleeping and insomnia. If your thoughts are keeping you up, or you have difficulty getting out of bed, a depressive episode may be lurking around the corner.
Self-harming or suicidal thoughts
In severe cases, sufferers harbor thoughts of suicide attempts or self-injury. If you find yourself contemplating suicide or self-harm, please seek help immediately.
Urge for substance abuse
An impending depressive episode may lower your inhibitions towards alcohol or drugs. Choosing to indulge might make you feel better in the moment, but is an awful coping mechanism in the long run. Alcohol is known to be a depressant and can even worsen your depression.
If you have been experiencing any of these symptoms over extended periods of time, see a therapist, psychiatrist or your primary care doctor for an evaluation.
If you are currently on medication and have been having these episodes frequently, see your psychiatrist as you may need to modify the medication or take a different approach.
What causes these episodes?
Depressive episodes don’t always need a trigger. Overwhelming feelings of sadness can spring up without any troublesome event or warning.
Yet, certain circumstances such as stress at work or home, financial problems, loneliness, or death of a loved one are known to set off a depressive episode.
The outbreak of such an episode could also be because of a chronic illness. Factors such as hormones, genetics, or brain chemistry might very well be responsible too.
According to research, there is no single reason behind these episodes or depression in general. The aspects of our life that we can control – physical health and attitude – can help manage these symptoms in the long run.
How to deal with it when it comes
Depression, for you, might arrive like a violent storm or a creeping mist. If you are under the effect of an episode, these tips will certainly help you take control of your thoughts and get your spirits back up.
Stay calm and relax your body
Identifying the onset of a depressive episode can be frightening. Feeling anxious and panicked is a natural reaction, but this response can worsen other symptoms.
Instead, find an anchor such as your breath or the sensation in your hands to keep you connected with the physical world around you. Bringing your body to a place of natural stillness will help promote a sense of calm.
Remember that these feelings won’t last
One of the most unbearable characteristics of a depressive episode is that it makes you think that it will never end. As counterintuitive as it seems, accepting that you are going through a difficult episode makes it a little easier to cope with.
Indulge in things that make you happy
May it be playing with your pet or doodling away, spending some quality time doing what makes you joyful is one of the easiest ways to get through a depressive episode.
You could try painting, colouring, baking, or simply catching up on your favourite TV show.
Take some time out of your daily routine to be mindful and appreciate the present moment. Practices like meditation and deep breathing exercises can help keep you grounded.
During the day, when you can afford a moment of silence or stillness for yourself, appreciate the warmth of the sun or the taste of a crisp, sweet apple. Research suggests that making mindfulness a habit can reduce symptoms of depression and the negative responses people have to a depressive episode.
Count your blessings
Make a list of things that are going your way in life. This could be as simple as being grateful for food in your fridge or a roof over your head. Be thankful for all your friends and family whose unending support and confidence are always with you.
List as many things as your heart desires. Recording the positives in your life this way also helps build self-esteem.
Reach out and stay connected
Getting support plays a vital role in surmounting negative thoughts and feelings. Sometimes, it can be difficult to be self-aware. Involving family and friends can help you recognize the triggers and red flags.
Research also suggests that loneliness can worsen depression. When you are all alone, it can be very difficult to maintain a healthy perspective required to beat depression. You must overcome the inclination to withdraw and isolate yourself; staying connected will make a world of difference in your viewpoint and mood.
Run, ride, bike or swim! Whichever lively, zealous activity you choose to get the endorphins running in your system, a number of psychological benefits are sure to come your way. Make sure you choose exercises that are rhythmic and continuous where you move both your arms and legs.
If incorporated into the routine, exercise can also lessen fatigue and boost mindfulness. Improved self-esteem is another crucial advantage of regular physical activity.
Try your best to resist any cravings you might have for sugar-heavy foods. Nourish your body with a depression-fighting diet including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fish.
Don’t ever skip meals and increase your vitamin B intake. This will help lower irritability and tiredness.
Eating foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids will also assist in stabilizing your moods. Ensure that your diet contains citrus fruits, leafy greens, chicken, eggs, salmon, and beans.
Create distance between yourself and the thoughts
Remembering that you are not defined by the emotions you are experiencing puts some of the power back into your hands. You should remind yourself of all the extraordinary roles you play in so many people’s lives. You are a friend, a sibling, a colleague, a spouse, and a neighbour.
You have your own distinctive qualities and abilities that make you unique in this world. Nobody can replace you.
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