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The Difference Between Depression and Grief

Depression and The Difference Between Depression and Grief

Nearly everyone has suffered from depression at one time in his or her life. It can affect anyone at anytime at any age. It goes across racial, religious, and ethnic boundaries. Both genders suffer from depression but women report it twice as often as men do. Depression is almost always caused by a combination of factors.

Depression has a biological component in that there is a decrease in certain chemicals that transmit messages between nerve cells in the brain, resulting in a chemical imbalance. There are also genetic factors in that depression can run in families.

Additionally, environment may factor in depression including financial, legal problems, or other catastrophic life changes.

The elderly are at particular risk for depression in that depression is usually linked with intense feelings of loss.

Those over the age of sixty-five may have experienced considerable losses. This may include loss of a spouse, loss of a child, loss of a job or career due to retirement. There may be considerable feelings of loss related to changes in physical functioning and changes in body image. They may have changed their residence and may even have had to seek placement in a long-term facility. They may also have experienced a catastrophic disease, sudden physical decline, or chronic pain.

A grief reaction is common for many that experience these kinds of losses. Grief differs from depression in that a person in grief may experience considerable feelings of sadness and longing for the lost person or experience. Feelings of grief and loss may lift over a few weeks or months. Depression, on the other hand is a complex syndrome that affects a multitude of areas in a person’s life. And it may be prolonged and intense.

Depression impacts on an individual’s emotions, functioning, and relationships. It affects the mind, body, and spirit of the individual.

Most depressed people experience feeling downhearted, sad, blue or cry easily. They may experience feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. They may have little interest in previously experienced pleasurable activity. All the pleasure has gone out of life. They have difficulty having fun.

Everything is experienced as requiring considerable effort and energy.

The depressed individual may be obsessed by their own feelings of guilt and blame themselves for things or events that in reality they had little or no power over.

They may feel worthless. There may be difficulty in concentrating. They may find it impossible to make even the simplest decisions. The depressed individual may be easily annoyed or irritated. They may feel tense or keyed up and have difficulty in sitting still. Yet for others, they may feel the opposite: slowed down.

In more severe cases there may be thoughts of death and dying and thinking often about ending their lives. Life for them is perceived as too difficult to carry on.

There may be physical changes such as the inability to fall asleep and stay asleep. They may wake up earlier than usual. Racing thoughts and fears may awaken them. Then during the day they may sleep too much. They may experience a lack of a desire for food.

They may experience a disruption in their relationships with friends and family. As they feel hopeless, helpless and worthless they may reject the help and support of others. They may tend to isolate themselves. They may feel abandoned and alone while pushing away loved ones. They may experience a crisis of faith. They may feel abandoned by their higher power. An overall sense of bitterness regarding life and living will engulf them.

But these feelings of hopelessness are not reality-based. Now there is considerable hope in the treatment and management of depression. Many depressed individuals respond well to medication. Anti-depressant drugs work by helping to restore the brain’s chemical balance. However, drug therapy for depression may take up to one month or more to become fully effective so it is best not to expect an overnight success.

Psychotherapy or “talk therapy” coupled with the use of medication can bring about profound changes and healing. The act of just being able to talk and say out loud what you have experienced can be helpful in ending the suffering of depression. Most psychotherapy is based on the principles of support and education. Learning new coping styles and insight into your situation is the corner stone of most therapy. Psychotherapy also can encourage more positive thinking and behavior in order to overcome the negative thinking of depression.

In addition, other forms of therapy will work on the individual goals and expectations in their relationships-past and present. This is helpful in understanding the connection between the medical aspect and family history and conflict. This creates insight, which is also healing.

The third aspect of healing envelopes steps the individual can take for themselves. These are simple steps toward healing but can have aprofound impact on re-establishing meaning to your life.

Begin by engaging in pleasurable or creative activity. Choose an activity you enjoy and make it part of your daily routine. Make the commitment to make the best of each day.

Avoid isolation. Seek out family and friends you can talk to and who will listen. Begin to examine how you can be of support to others who also suffer from depression.

Develop realistic goals and expectations from yourself and others. Break larger tasks into smaller steps that you can take with success and ease.

Try taking one day at a time, one step at a time.

Avoid self-criticism. Do not expect perfection. We are not perfect beings. Treat your self to kindness and respect. Begin to see how you can treat others with this same kindness.

Follow your doctor’s orders. Take your medication as prescribed. Be sure to pay attention to your dietary requirements and keep your appointments. When you have your appointments make a list of your symptoms and tell your doctor of any adverse treatment reactions you may have to the medications.

Try prayer and meditation. This allows for the quieting of your raging thoughts and develops a peaceful and tranquil meditation regime that connects you with a power greater than yourself. This allows for the development of clarity and peace of mind for many.

Finally, by maintaining communication between yourself, family, friends and the medical professional you can break the depressive cycle. You can find the peace and serenity that you have longed for. Life can hold new meaning and hope. The end of depression can be within your own grasp.


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