Question: I am going through a hard time and can’t seem to pull myself out of it. I don’t work. I don’t go anywhere. Most of my friends don’t call me anymore. Most days I just want to stay in bed and sleep. I hate what I am becoming but don’t know how to fix this. What should I do?
Michelle’s Take: You are describing symptoms of depression and should make an appointment with your physician to rule out any physical cause.
You mention your friends do not call you. How about setting a goal of picking one friend and reaching out to call them?
One of my early clients that I will call Charlie suffered from major depressive disorder. Charlie had one failed marriage and was engaged to be married. His fiancee cared about him but had her own struggles and commented to me once in private, “to be honest, this is not what I signed up for. I can barely handle being responsible for my own life and I think Charlie is looking for me to be responsible for his.” Charlie would stay home from work and sleep all day . For this reason, he cycled through various jobs and often relied on the financial support of his wealthy parents. Charlie had to be hospitalized more than once for suicidal thoughts and attempts.
Let’s take a look at criteria for major depression:
1) Depressed mood for most of the day
2) Diminished interest and lack of pleasure in activities
3) Weight loss or weight gain
4) Insomnia (inability to sleep) or hypersomnia (sleeping constantly)
5) Sluggish and restless behavior that is noticed by others
6) Fatigue and loss of energy
7) Feelings of worthlessness and guilt
8) Diminished ability to think and concentrate
9) Recurrent thoughts of death (with or without a specific plan)
To meet diagnostic criteria, five or more of the listed symptoms have to be present for two weeks, representing a change from previous functioning.
So what causes depression?
Distorted and negative thoughts that you may not even be aware of often feed depression. These distortions can be corrected with cognitive behavior therapy commonly referred to as CBT. David Burn’s book, Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy, is a start point for understanding how our thoughts impact our moods. While the book is rather intensive, it has good techniques and many helpful handouts to start using.
Many therapists have training in CBT and can help you get to a better place in life. Please take the first step and find a professional who can steer you in a happier direction during this dark time.
P.S. Your comment can positively add to this discussion. Please share how depression has effected your life and any tips you have learned.