We may have all felt “blue” at one time or another, but when this sad feeling turns into an overwhelming condition it’s time to seek help. In this post, we are going to explore the types of depression, its causes, how it’s diagnosed by professionals and what an emotional support animal may be able to do to help alleviate depression.
What is Depression?
Did you know that depression is the world’s leading cause of disability? This illness is characterized by an intense and overwhelming sense of emptiness, apathy, sadness, hopelessness, and anger. Depression is more than just having an “off” day, for those that struggle with this condition, it can interfere with life on a day-to-day basis.
Types of Depression
There are six causes of depression recognized by the medical field. These include;
- Major Depression – the person is unable to feel joy or pleasure. It is persistent and lasts up to six months.
- Minor Depression – does not meet the criteria for major depression and the symptoms only last for a couple of months.
- Atypical Depression – has typical signs of major depression, but is alleviated with short periods of happiness usually brought on by good news or a happy event.
- Dysthymia – shows mild symptoms of depression that can last up to two years with intermittent periods of good moods.
- Seasonal Affect Disorder (SAD) – characterized by sadness during the fall and winter months and on rainy, gloomy days.
- Bipolar Disorder (manic depression) – alternating bouts of major depression and manic behavior such as rapid speaking, hyperactivity, impulsiveness and insomnia.
What Causes Depression?
Although the exact cause of depression is still under study, scientists have pinpointed some factors that can lead to the development of this illness. These include;
- Life issues such as a divorce, death of a loved one, financial problems
- Chemical or physical changes in the brain
- Childhood trauma (loss of a parent, abuse/neglect)
There are also certain individuals that are more prone to developing depression. These folks include;
- People on their late 20’s
- Women and women who have just had a baby
- People with a lack of a good support system
- Unemployed individuals/those with financial burdens
- People suffering from a serious or chronic illness
- History of family members with depression
- People with low self-esteem
- People who suffer from drug/alcohol addictions
Doctors and mental health professionals can usually diagnose depression by asking the patient a series of questions. To help pinpoint depression in patients, doctors will also look for these symptoms;
- Lack of concentration and/or completing tasks
- Sleeping a lot or not enough
- Changes in appetite and weight loss
- Feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, and emptiness
- Loss of energy, always feeling tired
- Feelings of anger, restlessness, irritability, and aggression
- Having difficulty with persistent negative thoughts
- Unexplained pains and aches
- Poor judgment leading to reckless behavior (drinking in excess, gambling etc.)
- Loss of sex drive
- Can no longer find pleasure in previously enjoyable hobbies/activities
- Thoughts of death and/or attempt of suicide
How Can an Emotional Support Animal Help With Depression?
Even though there are several ways to treat depression (ie drugs, therapy, diet/exercise regimes), the help of an emotional support animal has proven to work in many cases of depression.
This is due to the fact that animals have an amazing ability to lift our spirits just by being there and are a great source of companionship for those that are lonely or suffer from a low self-esteem. Animals are also extremely entertaining especially in their kitten and puppy stages which can help brighten a sour mood and make us laugh (which also releases those feel-good endorphins). Having an emotional support animal is also a great way for the person to feel they have a purpose. Walking, feeding, grooming and playing with an animal will “force” the individual to get up and get moving (if not for themselves, then because the animal needs their attention and care). The ESA will take the focus off of the problems and refocus their mind to the animal.
Depression & ESA’s
If you believe you may be suffering from depression, be sure to get in touch with a medical doctor or a mental health professional. Leaving depression untreated can make the situation worse. If you think having an emotional support animal may help you with this common condition, then find a pet that works best for you. ESA’s don’t just have to be cats or dogs, they can be of any species that makes you feel happy and engaged in living. Having a wonderful companion in your life may be just one of the important ways you help treat depression.