Reviewed by Rashonda Douthit, LCSW
Sometimes, unpleasant situational events may bring down your high mood and leave you feeling unsettled and upset. You may be emotionally hit very hard to the extent of persistently feeling bothered about the triggers. This experience may be so disturbing that it may spontaneously result in a depressive episode.
Different situations may affect your mood. Sometimes, you may experience changes in your life or take up a new responsibility that may negatively affect your mood and make you feel that things are not the way they should be. This may make you attempt to make a personal effort to change things back to normal, but you still feel like your emotions are still affected, feeling lonely, tired, lost, and lacking the energy to function effectively. Identifying and managing depressive symptoms as early as possible may help inhibit "depression episodes."
What Is A Major Depression Attack or Episode?
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), for you to be diagnosed with depression, your symptoms must persist for 2 weeks or more. This implies that a major depressive episode refers to a period of 14 days or longer. You experience specific depressive symptoms such as feelings of sadness and hopelessness, changes in weight, fatigue, loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed sleeping problems or thoughts of death or suicide. Studies show that those diagnosed with major depression may tend to experience a periodic recurrence of depressive episodes.
Major depression is described by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) as a common and serious mental illness. The World Health Organization (WHO) sees it as a common mental disorder that has affected more than 264 million people worldwide. As a mood disorder, major depression is characterized by unhealthy patterns in emotions and thoughts. Depressive episodes sometimes reoccur. Therefore, the period you experience the symptoms is referred to as a "depressive episode.”
What Are The Symptoms Of A Major Depressive Episode?
There are nine possible symptoms in the major depression diagnostic criteria. To meet the criteria, you must have experienced five or more symptoms and notable impairment due to those symptoms for two weeks (depressive episode). The following are the nine potential symptoms of the episodes of major depression:
- Loss of Interest: The loss of interest or pleasure in activities you once enjoyed is a common symptom of major depressive episodes. These activities may include chores, hobbies, school, or work.
- Depressed Mood: Major depression episodes are characterized by feelings of sadness and pessimism, which are persistent and intense. These may be exhibited outwardly in the form of irritability in men, teens, and children.
- Weight Changes: You may experience loss of weight or weight gain. This process of transformation is inadvertent but triggered by the loss of appetite or overeating.
- Sleep Problems: Sleep changes can either be insomnia (difficulty sleeping) or hypersomnia (excessive sleepiness).
Fatigue: The preceding symptom (insomnia or sleep deprivation) may result in fatigue and decreased energy that's more than normal and inexplicable.
- Agitation Or Retardation: Depression can result in restless and agitated experience. It can also show something about you down, such as your response to conversations — this may be notable to those around you.
- Impaired Thinking: Major depression can also affect your cognitive function. It can cause difficulty concentrating, focusing, or making decisions.
- Excessive Guilt. If you're experiencing depression, there is a higher tendency that you may feel guilty and sometimes ashamed. You may also see yourself as being worthless or purposeless.
- Thoughts Of Death Or Suicide: An episode of major depression can possibly involve the thoughts of suicide, death, and suicidal attempts or suicidal planning.
How Does Depression Start?
Depression may be experienced after traumatic events (such as accident and abuse), a significant change, or sudden loss of a loved one or job. These situational events may cause the brain to increasingly produce certain stress hormones that may pave the way for depressive symptoms until you begin to feel that things are not right. Apparently, the symptoms are sudden, but actually, it's an overtime process where the chemicals in your brain change in response to stress. Your health may have been affected before you begin to notice
So, how long can depression last? It can last for a prolonged period if you feel reluctant about dealing with it as early as possible. When you notice the aforementioned changes, it is best to take immediate action. It's very important to seek help for your depression or seek ways to know if what you're experiencing are depressive symptoms— for potential clarity, click here to take an online depression test.
How To Deal With A Depressive Episode
The sudden onset of depression can involve feelings of hopelessness, thinking that there is no way out of your challenge. Consequently, you may feel like it's a waste of time attempting to do something about relieving your condition's levels. The good news is, depression is treatable. To deal with a depressive episode, there are steps to take to effectively help reduce depressive symptoms and the duration of the episode. The following are the treatment options:
- Therapy: Therapy is a common treatment for mental health challenges. Fortunately, it also works for a depressive episode. There are trained therapists you can talk with about your condition. Your therapist will know the best form of therapy for your condition and how to plan the sessions.
- Medications: Medications such as antidepressants are mostly prescribed for the treatment of depression. You must use them strictly according to the prescription given by a psychiatrist. Ensure that you avoid discontinuation (even when you start to see improvement ) without notifying your doctor— sudden withdrawal may have harmful implications.
- Support From Friends And Family: Your loved ones can greatly be of help. Don't hesitate to reach out to your close friends and family members. They can be supportive and take active steps that may be beneficial to your health.
- Join A Support Group: There are support groups for those suffering from similar mental health challenges. This group may offer a lot of benefits that can help you be on your feet once again. If you need assistance on the one that best fits your condition, try to talk with your therapist.
Lifestyle Changes: There are self-care strategies you can adopt that can help deal with a depressive episode. These may include eating a healthy diet, avoiding alcohol and drugs, getting enough sleep, practicing meditation, engaging in regular exercise, actively challenging intrusive thoughts, or doing activities that you once enjoyed.
Furthermore, you should try to know your triggers. The triggers of a depressive episode are warning signs you may want to watch out for. Try to reflect on events that may trigger your behavior or thoughts. After identifying them, try to speak with your therapist or family member. From research, it's discovered that things responsible for sudden changes in people's moods sometimes include an abundance of stress or lifestyle changes. For instance, some women may be predisposed to depressive symptoms if they experience premenstrual syndrome (PMS) — due to the occurrence of hormonal changes, it may prolong the period of the symptoms. There are some individuals that experience depression and a chronic physical illness at the same time.
Also, some changes in personal situations may trigger depressive symptoms. These may include divorce or loss of a loved one or a job. Also, weather patterns are researched to tend to affect people's emotions. This form of depression (seasonal affective disorder) occurs when there is limited access to sunlight. When there is limited exposure to sunlight, it may lead to disrupted patterns of sleep.
- Don't Panic: You mustn't panic, especially at the onset of depression; try to take some very deep breaths and calm yourself down by telling yourself that you can handle it. Also, try to understand that your symptoms won't last forever.
- Keep Up With Activities You’ve Lost Interest In:An episode of depression may involve loss of interest or pleasure in activities you used to enjoy. You can do otherwise to help your condition. Try to keep up with such social activities even if you don't like it anymore. The more you engage in them and ensuring you try to make yourself happy and feel free, the less you feel depressed.