Nearly ten percent of the U.S. population, or about 19 million American adults, suffer from depression, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). A bout of major depression can last several weeks to several years, and have devastating impact on one's health and personal life. Depression not only compromises a person's ability to function normally but can alter relationships with friends and family. The NIMH also reports that depression is the number one cause of suicide.
Depression is not a side effect of HIV disease. However, depression is more widespread in people living with HIV, as compared to HIV-negative individuals, due to higher instances of social discrimination, economic inequalities and a lack of institutional support.
There is no blueprint to prevent the onset of depression. Biological makeup causes some people to be more susceptible to depression than others, just as the psychosocial issues of living with HIV impact everyone differently. No one's life is empty of conflict, stress and obstacles. The goal is learning how to successfully manage issues when they do arise. Here are just a few suggestions from Shaun Bourget, M.A., M.F.T., a licensed marriage and family therapist in the Los Angeles area, that could potentially help improve the quality of your life when dealing with feelings of depression:
- Try to accept that loss is part of life.
- Don't be afraid to reach out and accept help and support from others.
- Accept that we can't control everything around us.
- Make better, more informed choices that create less turmoil for you.
- Stop being so critical of yourself, and of others.
- Acknowledge the good in you, stop beating yourself up.
- If you're good at caring for others, add yourself to that mix.
Therapy -- "Just Get Over It"
For most people depression is a passing mood. And with time, most people do "just get over it." However, for others, depression is a debilitating chronic illness with potentially severe consequences. Popping a pill a couple times a day may help shorten episodes of depression, but they do not help you understand the causes or cope with situations. Professional counseling (therapists and psychiatrists) can help evaluate and reduce symptoms, shorten episodes of depression, and prevent relapse. Sometimes medications are not needed at all. The most common goals of therapy are:
- Provide a safe environment.
- Assess the need for medication.
- Improve problem-solving and coping skills.
- Resolve issues of loss and correct irrational/negative thoughts.
- Improve self-esteem.
- Improve eating and sleeping patterns.
- Educate and encourage involvement of support persons.