Living with depression every day is a reality for millions of people, but not everyone knows it. There are different forms of depression and different stages, as well. All of them are far more involved than just being “down in the dumps” or feeling a case of “the blues.”
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America reports that more than 16 million people in the U.S. alone struggle with depression, a condition that is believed to affect more than half a million people across the globe. Its symptoms present differently depending on the person, but in general, major depressive disorder (MDD) is a medical condition that can affect the actions, thoughts, and feelings of the person living with it, according to the American Psychiatric Association (APA). MDD can be mild or severe or somewhere between the two extremes. A person may be battling depression if they find that they have:
- Sadness that does not go away
- Little to no interest in daily activities
- Little to no interest in hobbies or interests they once found enjoyable
- Weight loss or gain that isn’t affected by their diet
- Little to no energy
- More days when they feel excessively tired
- Uneasy feelings, restlessness, or irritability
People living with depression can also struggle with feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem. They may appear to speak slower or move slower than others and have a hard time thinking clearly, making decisions, or understanding or following what others say to them during a conversation. They may also entertain thoughts of suicide or self-harm, or even death.
If low mood and other changes mentioned above last for two weeks or longer, this could mean a diagnosis of clinical depression for a person who needs treatment for it.
Stages of Depression Similar to the 5 Stages of Grief
One of the challenges of treating depression promptly and appropriately is recognizing it when it is happening. Everyone goes through phases of feeling down, but how does a person know when they are experiencing stages of depression?
As mentioned earlier, depression affects individuals differently, but it is believed that people experience depression in stages similar to how people experience grief.
In the grief cycle model, as explained by Swiss-American psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, who created the model, a person experiences grief in five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Some abbreviate the model as “DABDA.” The person experiencing grief could be the person who is facing death or the person who is coming to terms with a loved one who is in the process of dying or has died.
The Five Stages of Depression
Denial. If a person does not want to accept that depression is possible, they could just reject the idea altogether. Despite the symptoms being present for some time, a person may not be ready, willing, or able to think that they could be seriously depressed. They may even accept that although they feel “down in the dumps,” the feeling is temporary and that it will soon pass. What they may not realize is how long they have been feeling this way and how much of their life is being affected by their low mood. The denial stage is usually short.
Anger. If and when denial fades, a person experiencing depression may feel angry about having to deal with it. Feeling helpless or victimized is common in this stage. It is common for a person to ask, “Why me?” This may happen because the person does not know where to go or who to turn to, or it may happen because they are aware of the stigma that often accompanies mental health disorders. A person in this stage may also feel afraid that they either will not have the tools to deal with their depression or know who to use them.
Bargaining. Part of the process of coming to terms with a depression diagnosis may involve engaging in bargaining behavior. A person may find themselves doing other things to get the depression to go away. They may pray about it to their source of faith and offer to do something else to make their depression fade. This phase may also be short-lived as the person realizes that their requests and offers aren’t changing their condition.
Depression. In the grief process, the depression stage involves feelings of overwhelm, hostility, and helplessness. A person who is living with depression may retreat even further, withdrawing from others and refusing to engage with others or the outside world in any way. They may feel emotionally numb and do things like stay in bed or avoid taking a shower, or cleaning up their living space. A person can get into a pretty dark headspace in this stage and may entertain thoughts of harming themselves or ending their lives. If you or someone you know is falling into a deeper depression, it is time to get help.
Acceptance. This stage is where a person decides to accept their reality that they are living with depression. They may decide to get professional treatment for it at a facility, or they may decide to do what they can to manage it on their own. Professional treatment involves medications, therapies, and working with a licensed mental health professional to come up with a strategy to treat the depression in a way that is effective for them.
It is important to understand that a person may experience all five stages of depression, or they may experience one or two, or maybe even none. They could jump around and experience a few at a time or start and complete the cycle a few times. Managing depression is a lifelong matter for many people.
Getting a Diagnosis of Depression
If you or a loved one has decided to get help for depression, it is critical that you get an official diagnosis from someone who is qualified to do so. If your symptoms have lasted at least two weeks, you could be evaluated for depression, per the APA.
Depression is treatable with medications, therapy, and other approaches. Even adopting a routine of rest, healthy eating, exercise, and other holistic therapies, such as yoga and meditation, among many others, help many people manage their depression.
If you are screened for depression, you could undergo a physical exam, and you could be given a blood test. This is to see if there are other conditions that could be affecting your mood. You also may be asked certain questions or given a questionnaire to see if symptoms of depression are present. Your doctor should know what to do based on the answers you give.
Treatment and Recovery
If you are formally diagnosed with depression, the great news is that now you can address the issue with appropriate treatment. You could be prescribed an antidepressant medication that can balance brain chemicals that influence one’s mood and emotions.
You also could be prescribed psychotherapy that helps you address your condition and gives you the proper tools you will need to manage it the right way. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is commonly used to help people manage their depression. CBT is used to help combat negative thinking and patterns of thought that lead to destructive behaviors if they are not disrupted and rerouted in a positive direction. Engaging in clear thinking and connecting that thinking to behavior helps many people make better decisions for themselves.
Get Help for Depression Today at Vista Pines Health
Vista Pines Health, located in Pembroke Pines, Florida, offers customized programs to help our clients address mental health disorders. Depression can be challenging to manage on one’s own, but you don’t have to do it alone. We’re here to help you.
We use psychotherapy and medication therapy, and evidence-based approaches to help clients with depression. Your treatment program will be made with you in mind, keeping your needs at the forefront at all times. You also will receive the personal attention you need as we offer a low clinician-to-patient ratio, ensuring your needs are met.
Call us today to learn more about how we can help you. You can have the life you want, and you can start working toward it today.