According to a 2020 report from the World Health Organization, depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide. With how common depression is, likely most of us can identify a close family member, colleague, or perhaps even our own experience struggling with this difficult to endure and often debilitating mood disorder. Perhaps you’re a parent with high functioning depression, still able to get your kids to school, keep your job, and run the household, but who is suffering mentally and emotionally to get by. Or maybe you know someone with crippling depression who has difficulty performing normal day-to-day activities and who may feel that life is no longer worth living. No matter which type of depression, it is certain that depression can be a painful experience not only for the one experiencing it, but also for those who live with and care for those who are suffering.
This article will discuss major types of depression, touch on commonly recommended coping skills for depression, and then provide perspective on how Functional Patterns clients experiencing depression have been able to go beyond symptoms management to reclaim their lives by addressing imbalance in the body as a whole.
Common Types of Depression
Depression can take on many forms, some of the most common being:
- Major Depression: This type of depression, also known as crippling depression, can be characterized as having persistent feelings of sadness, loss of interest, difficulty concentrating or making decisions and can cause significant impairment in daily life.
- Persistent Depressive Disorder: Formerly called “dysthymia” and sometimes referred to as “high functioning depression,” this type of depression refers to low mood that has lasted for at least two years but may not reach the intensity of major depression. Often people with this type of depression can still function to meet responsibilities of their days, but may feel down and joyless much of the time.
- Bipolar Disorder: This is associated with episodes of mood swings that can range from depressive lows to manic highs.
- Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): This type of depression typically occurs at the same time every year in climates where there is less sunlight during a period of time, such as during late fall or winter months.
Additionally, some females can also be at risk for two different depression types influenced by reproductive hormones:
- Perinatal depression: This can include major and minor depressive episodes occurring during pregnancy and in the first 12 months after delivery (also known as postpartum depression). Some males also experience this type of depression.
- Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD): A severe form of premenstrual syndrome.
While each of these forms of depression can have their unique causes and symptomatology, the feelings of sadness or apathy, trouble sleeping, changes in appetite or weight, feeling out of control with difficulty concentrating or making decisions, loss of energy, and distorted self esteem are examples of symptoms that can be common traits for them all.
Coping Skills for Depression: What People Tend to Do
Among the most common approaches to addressing depression are:
- Psychological treatments: This usually involves talking about things in depth and doing behavioral exercises. One type of treatment most used is cognitive and behavioral therapy (CBT) which aims to help break patterns such as with self-doubt and feelings of guilt which are often experienced by people with depression. CBT aims to teach coping skills for depression by focusing on how your beliefs, thoughts, and attitudes affect your feelings and actions.
- Anti depression medications (which are often prescribed in tandem with doing psychological treatments).
- Alternative treatment options: some of which include relaxation techniques (such as meditation or breathwork), exercise, gratitude and affirmation journals, light therapy, improved sleep habits, diet changes, and in more severe cases electroconvulsive therapy for people experiencing crippling depression.
If you or someone you know has struggled with depression likely the first two options have been something you’ve tried and/or they’ve at least have been recommended to you. These options can sometimes prove useful and should remain as options on the table. However, it seems too often these are the go-to options without serious consideration of the potential downfalls (such as significant medication side effects), limitations (such as getting stuck in circles of verbal processing without addressing the physical impact of the stressor on the body), and/or over-simplification of telling someone who is depressed to focus on practices like breathwork without taking into consideration why their body may be having a hard time getting a deep breath in the first place. In this way, many of these options can serve as band-aid or even sometimes misguided “solutions.” Though in some circumstances they can be useful coping skills for depression to help someone get by, they don’t typically seem to address the root of the issue at hand.
How many of us can name immediate family members who have been on depression medications or in talk therapy for years and don’t feel better, or maybe are even worse? It’s rough for those in this spot and as mentioned before, it's tough for anyone who is in close relationship to them as well. Fortunately, it seems there may be other options …
Why Addressing the Physical Body is a Must
While depression can act as a barrier to having the energy to try to problem solve challenges in one’s life, by addressing the physical barriers it can make it more doable to approach the mental challenges at hand. In another Functional Patterns article discussing the interlinkage of chronic pain and depression it was noted that:
“Most of the energy used by your brain on a daily basis is aimed at assessing your position in space and how balanced you are overall at a deep cellular level. Your brain is constantly doing math to monitor your environment and maintain your readiness. This energy is being used on mostly subconscious processes such as estimating the distance and speed at which you are approaching the steps leading to your front door for example.”
Those who are experiencing depression often feel a lack of stability and control over their life, as well as low energy and confidence in their capacity to change their circumstances. Few consider how the stress of imbalance in the body at a physical level plays a major role. While many coping skills for depression aim to get people to talk about their problems or focus on breathwork, affirmations, or journaling, they all are limited in trying to get someone to feel better because they remain within the context of a body that is likely physically and physiologically unstable. This can not only cause the body to experience pain and anxiety but it can also be a major energy suck on the body. At Functional Patterns we find that by helping someone establish more certainty in their physical body by addressing their posture and movement, it helps them perform physical tasks and activities with a level of increased confidence, physical awareness, and stamina that then translates into a calmer and more balanced mental state.
How Functional Patterns Protocols can Help Address Depression
Depressive thoughts can be paralyzing.
“I just don’t care anymore, this [insert: pain, relationship, job, my body} is just how it is and there’s nothing that I can do to change it.”
“I feel embarrassed that I let it get this bad.”
“I feel hopeless when I think of the impact that this has on my children. I feel like a failure and I don’t know that I will feel better enough to be able to get through this.”
“This grief is so overwhelming. What if I can never get past this?”
Relationship struggles, childhood traumas, and experiences of major loss are all difficulties that people may feel like they can never fix. At Functional Patterns we often hear clients discuss their challenges with their body as things that they also feel like they can never fix. However, when they learn to objectively look at their dysfunctions and then are guided through a step by step process to address their movement and behavioral patterns based on prioritizing nature’s design they are able to create practical solutions for other problems in life. Paying more attention to the physical body seems to help people view their issues from a different perspective.
“FP has ingrained in me a way of thinking and approaching my problems that has liberated me from that way of thinking. I am much better at identifying my own problems, planning a course of action, and implementing that action plan. I am much less reactive to my environment and the people around me. I have a problem-solving focus in all things I do. I am no longer looking for someone else to “fix” me or solve my issues for me. It’s all on me, and the control I have over my own destiny has empowered me and improved my entire outlook in all aspects of my life. In short, I feel like l am in control and living my life now instead of just letting life happen to me.” - Mary Beth
It is overwhelming to be stuck in despair with crippling depression. While sometimes it is hard to find words to pinpoint what is causing depression, by focusing on identifying and tangibly improving imbalance in the body it can help you feel in more control. By being able to change circumstances of what you may have never thought you’d be able to change (like that forward head posture you see every time you look in the mirror) you may be encouraged to not only have tools to keep improving your physicality but also start to develop a problem solving mindset, greater resiliency, and the ability for your body to find rest to help get to a greater place of overall equilibrium.
In this way, perhaps we will find that depression may not only be treatable, but also curable.
With how common depression is, it can almost seem like it starts to become expected as just how life is or will turn out to be for many of us. We then are quick to be given prescriptions or are sent to therapy to talk about our feelings (both valid in some circumstances) but are rarely ever provided with competent education about how our bodies are designed to function as a priority to addressing our wellbeing. This foundational education is what we offer at Functional Patterns and it is why we continue to get the results we do with people experiencing struggles like crippling depression so that they can go beyond simply coping and get to the possibility of overcoming seemingly insurmountable challenges.
Wanting more tangible details of the nuts and bolts of how to develop this body literacy and what our training methodology entails? The best place to start is with our 10 Week Online Program.