Depression is more than just sadness. People with depression may experience a lack of interest and pleasure in daily activities, significant weight loss or gain, insomnia or excessive sleeping, lack of energy, inability to concentrate, feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt and recurrent thoughts of death or suicide.
Signs of Depression
Depression is the most common mental disorder. But depression rates have tripled during the pandemic according to a study from Boston University published in the medical journal The Lancet Regional Health. One of the authors of the study, Dr. Sandro Galea says that people often experience elevated levels of depression after a traumatic event. However, the fact that depression rates have continued to increase 18 months into the pandemic, is unique to COVID-19 and most likely due to its ongoing nature.
Signs of depression to watch for (and how they impact functioning):
- unusually low energy
- a lack of interest or pleasure
- difficulty with basic daily tasks
- changes in eating patterns
- persistent sleep issues
- a lack of concentration
- feelings of worthlessness
- recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
How to Cope
During the pandemic, everyone feels a little isolated, stressed and off kilter. That is expected under the circumstances. In fact, the most common stressors causing pandemic depression are job loss, death of a loved one due to COVID-19, isolation, and a lack of childcare. Other factors are low household income, not being married, and experiencing four or more COVID-19 related stressors. Also, being ages 18-39 years, and having less than $5,000 in savings, and less than $75,000 in household income are significant factors associated with increased depressive symptoms.
Depression Coping Skills:
Ironically, the symptoms of depression keep you from doing the things that alleviate depression!
Social interaction, stimulation and enjoyment will help with depression. But without motivation, that walk in the woods or meet up with pals does not happen. Instead of relying on spontaneity, preset a schedule and stick to it.
Exercise is a beneficial antidepressant both immediately and over the long term. Something to think about during the marathon stressors of the pandemic!
Seek the right kind of social support.
Social isolation increases your risk of depression. But according to the American Psychological Association, so can the wrong kind of friendships. Friendships that focus on “co-rumination” of problems may actually increase depression.
Quality Sleep helps you function better during the daytime. The pandemic has caused an upsurge in stress-related insomnia. Stress is often a trigger for sleep problems, but the social distancing and quarantining associated with the pandemic leads to isolation and depression, which also causes sleeplessness
Prioritize healthy nutrition and minimize/eliminate substances like alcohol or cannabis. Avoid processed foods and emphasize fruits, whole grains and veggies. Avoid added sugar and most of all Eat intuitively – learn when you are hungry and what your body really wants to eat
Consider seeking help from a professional to manage signs of depression.
The options for professional help have increased during the pandemic with the advent of telehealth for mental health concerns. And when you reach the point in your life when you seek professional help, you can choose an in-person or virtual experience. Regardless, you will want to talk to someone you trust and feel comfortable with. A good friend can listen, but a clinical therapist has the skills and professional training to help you manage depression and anxiety when you’re feeling overwhelmed.
For More Information:
Persistent depressive symptoms during COVID-19: a national, population-representative, longitudinal study of U.S. adults