Definition of Depression
Benefits of Deadlifting, Squats, Pushups and Real Food to Fight Depression
If you found this page, you are most likely wondering what is the definition of depression and if you have it. There are clinical definitions and there are anecdotal definitions.
First, without further ado, I will give you the clinical definition of depression.
Second, I am going to suggest strategies which will put you on the road to coping with, if not winning the battle with depression, depending on the source of your depression.
Definition of Depression
I am going to take it straight out of the Bible for Psychiatrists, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual:
Diagnostic Criteria for Major Depressive Disorder and Depressive Episodes
DSM-IV Criteria for Major Depressive Disorder (MDD)
• Depressed mood or a loss of interest or pleasure in daily activities for more than two weeks.
• Mood represents a change from the person’s baseline.
• Impaired function: social, occupational, educational.
• Specific symptoms, at least 5 of these 9, present nearly every day:
1. Depressed mood or irritable most of the day, nearly every day, as indicated by either subjective report
(e.g., feels sad or empty) or observation made by others (e.g., appears tearful).
2. Decreased interest or pleasure in most activities, most of each day
3. Significant weight change (5%) or change in appetite
4. Change in sleep: Insomnia or hypersomnia
5. Change in activity: Psychomotor agitation or retardation
6. Fatigue or loss of energy
7. Guilt/worthlessness: Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt
8. Concentration: diminished ability to think or concentrate, or more indecisiveness
9. Suicidality: Thoughts of death or suicide, or has suicide plan
All you have to do is go through the criteria above and you will be able to identify if you are struggling with depression. Do you have a loss of interest in daily activities? Is this affecting your social, occupational or educational abilities? Are you constantly irritable or sad, feeling empty? Sleep too much or too little? Do you feel worthless, excessive guilt or slow down of your thought processing? Indecisive? And the most serious manifestation, thinking of eliminating yourself to escape your internal pain.
The whole point of this site started as a way for me to share strategies that were helping me to deal with depression. The DSM deals with the symptoms, the criteria of, the definition of depression and there are other studies which deal with the causes of depression. Some say that it is a chemical imbalance and can best be treated with medication, some say that it is biological, the actual structure of the brain is different, some say that it is psychological, the consequences of a long term diet of negative thinking.
It is not my place to diagnose if you have depression. It is not your place either. If you have been experiencing at least 5 of the 9 criteria listed above in the DSM IV, you must see a Doctor for a proper diagnosis.
Having said that, I believe that I can suggest some strategies on a practical level. I do not know the origins of my depression. And I do not know yours. I am sure that there are other people who grew up like me and did not experience depression even once their entire life. And for yourself, you might not be able to identify any specific cause, but the important question is what to do about it.
I have taken my share of anti depressants and cannot say that they have helped me much other than a sense of being tranquilized as well as unwelcome side effects. Of course, they might work better for you, without significant or any perceptible side effects.
What I can tell you is that it is critical that you find ways that will help you deal with, cope with your depression. I do not want to drag things on with all of the negative consequences of depression, they are clear to anyone who has been depressed or knows someone who is depressed.
Depression can if not will:
Affect every area of your life
Affect how you do your job or if you can even keep your job
Affect how you interact with your family or if you can even maintain a relationship with your family
Affect how you take care of yourself
Affect your physical and emotional health
Affect your enjoyment of life or if you can even have a drop of enjoyment
I am not a Doctor, but I have experience with depression for as long as I can remember. My first recollection of feeling sad was when I saw my father for the first time without a shirt. We had gone up to a bungalow colony for the summer, as was fairly common in my neighborhood in Queens, to “get out of the city” during the long, hot summers of the sixties in New York. My father did not usually come to the pool since he worked in the City while we remained in the country. He came up here and there for a couple of days, but not a long enough time for a swim. This day though, I believe I was about five, I did not know how to swim yet and neither did he. When I did see him in the pool, he always wore a shirt, I did not understand why. No one else wore a shirt in the pool. This day, he took off his shirt in the pool, I do not remember why. But I do remember how frightened I was seeing his scars, all over his chest, four heavily raised scars that went from his left shoulder all the way down to his right waist. They were ugly and I began to cry because I could never imagine my father being ill, or sick, or hurt in any way. He was always the strongest to me, impervious to anything bad, he was so good. My Dad tried to console me but I did not stop crying, so I went back to the bungalow where my Mom told me that those scars were from people who had hurt my father. She did not elaborate. All I knew from that day was that I felt very vulnerable. People, bad people had been able to hurt my father so bad that he would never take off his shirt and all the marks on his legs I found out were where he was shot and the reason he lost all of his teeth was from being experimented on without anasthesia. He would never go to the Dentist. The sound of the Drill triggered intense trauma. Later on, I discovered that my father had been tortured and branded in the Nazi concentration territory of Transnistria, in Mogolev Podolski. In Transnistria, they did not tatoo the Jews with numbers, they branded them with hot irons across their chest, at least on my father.
As I learned more about my Dad’s life, the murder of most of his family, the nightmare, as I started to read, to corroborate, because they were so difficult to believe, I felt a definitive sadness and fear of the world. Those feelings were palpable in my home. Many times I felt as if we were never safe, I imagine that I sensed the feelings of my father. Are these experiences the cause of my depression, I do not know. What I do know though is that whatever the causes of depression are, we have to have effective strategies to deal with it.
How to Fight Depression
I am going to give you some strategies that I use every day. My suggestion is that assuming you have clearance from your Doctor, try out some of these strategies and my hope is that they will help to alleviate your symptoms. Do everything that you can to manage your depression. Never be complacent. Winning the battle does not necessarily mean that your depression disappears. Depending on the source, it might not be possible to eliminate it entirely. However, you can manage it effectively, so listen up.
1. Stop thinking about yourself all day. Stop the movie in your mind where you are the victim, where you are afraid, where you are suffering, where you are running away from your thoughts. The more you think of yourself and the events or circumstances that are eating you on the inside, the more depressed you will become!
2. Start thinking about those who do care for you. Start to think outside of yourself. Realize that there are people who do love you, who do care that you are healthy, who you matter to. When you can start to think outside of yourself, you can stop playing that tape in your head which continues to review all of your woes. You need a new track, you need a new narrative that you do matter and that you are important. If you have no one in your life, at least be important to yourself. If you do have people in your life, you are important to them and can be a source of help to them once you can get out of obsessing over the movie you keep playing in your mind.
3. Get moving. Get moving physically and get moving metaphorically. Get moving physically means to actually get up and get out of your room. Stop isolating. Get up, go out, take a walk, go for a swim, get out into the world. I know you want to isolate. That is depression. You want to stay glued to the bed. That is depression. I know what that is. I have experienced it. Those behaviors, sulking, isolating, despairing are NOT going to fix anything, at all. Those behaviors will ruin your life. They will make you disfunctional socially in too many ways. Save yourself and save the people who do care for you and do not want to see you continue to spiral down into darker depression.
4. Eat consciously. What? Yes, start to eat consciously. You and I know that Ben & Jerry will not help you out of your depression. In fact, they will help drive you deeper into depression. If you start noshing and snacking on every junk food to make yourself feel better, that is a lie. Junk food will never make you feel better, never. Might taste good and sweet, but you will not feel better from lots of manufactured sugar, fat and chocolate. We are not talking about having one hershey kiss. I am speaking about using your depression as a reason to focus on chips, pretzels, pizza, ice cream and candy to fill the hole in your soul. You cannot fill that hole with junk food. Please do not waste your time. Eat consciously means that you should start becoming very aware of the food you are eating. Try to eat real food on a set schedule. I promise that you will feel better.
5. Start deadlifting, doing squats, doing pushups, swimming, tennis, biking, whatever sport that you are capable of doing, do it. Especially strength exercises, who would know that the benefits of deadlifting, squats, pushups and strenght training in general includes fighting off depression. Start moving those weights and you will see over time the results. You are going to feel better when you take better care of the body that you are in. A few years ago, a friend of mine who has witnessed my own coping strategies and their impact, asked me if I could help one of his close friends who had no strategies, who has been depressed, literally bed ridden for over a decade. He is despondent over the estrangement with his daughter after his marriage ended in divorce. I called his close friend, spoke to him several times. Unfortunately, this man heard everything I said, but he just was not able to get himself moving, even for a short amount of time. I know how hard it is to start. But once you do, you will gain momentum and will see that you begin to add to your strategies for coping with your depression.
6. Take Responsibility. I think one of the worst environments in our mind is when we feel totally victimized. Where we have no power. We are not productive, at all. Take as much responsibility and choice where you can.
You might feel:
heaviness of heart
In all of these cases, make conscious choices that will help to lift yourself up. You can definitely control the food that you put in your mouth and the exercise that you do or do not do. Assuming you are not physically impaired.
You can find it possible to find even one activity to focus on that will make you feel better. Whether it is a book to read, a new project, exercise, learning to cook, there are alot of options. Get new habits and you can reap the benefits.
You have spent enough time in the dumps, walk out of that room, out of that darkness and start building something new. Build a new life, become a new and better person. You can do it.