Like with anything you might go through, there are stages of depression that you might notice as you cope with the illness. While it is normal to feel sad from time to time, depression is something much more encompassing that may seem like it will never be ending. However, it usually doesn’t come on all at once. It does come on gradually, in many cases.
There are also stages you will go through while you are suffering or coping with depression, stages of emotion that you will go through while you are learning about what it means to have depression and how to cope with it and overcome it.
Before you can fully understand the stages of depression, you have first to understand what depression is, and how the stages of depression are defined. Then you may be able to recognize some of the stages of depression for yourself, either from your own experiences or the experiences of those you know and love.
What Constitutes Depression?
Everyone gets sad from time to time, and sometimes events happen that can bring on a bout of depression, such as a loss or a death. However, depression is a lasting sadness that does not go away over time. True depression may come on with no distinguishable trigger or event. There may be no reason that you can pinpoint for why you feel depressed. And, regardless of your best efforts, the depression will last for at least two weeks or more.
When depression lasts more than two weeks or recurs consistently for two weeks or more several times within a year, it may constitute a major depressive disorder. Often people who go through depression routinely or for long periods of time require assistance in the form of medications or therapy to help them cope with their mood disorder.
Are There Stages Of Depression?
There are not, per se, stages of depression that everyone goes through. There is not a set number of stages that everyone goes through when they go through depression. However, there are some ways that many people experience depression that could be considered stages of depression. Many people go through certain stages on their path through depression as depression starts and progresses, although this does not hold true for everyone. There are also some stages that everyone goes through emotionally when they are trying to cope with depression.
There is a model of the five stages of grief that was initially developed by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross for dealing with death and dying. The model was designed based on observations and studies of how people react to loss and grief.
This model has been applied to many different emotional issues that people go through, including coping with depression. Many people who suffer from depression go through similar stages such as the stages of grief as they learn about their depression and learn to accept and cope with it.
Denial And Anger
Denial is fairly short-lived when it comes to depression. The feelings of intense sadness that you will feel in depression can be difficult to ignore. However, you may have denied that this is a problem you need to seek help for. You may feel as though you should overcome it on your own.
Much more common and intense are feelings of anger. You may feel intense anger that you are going through this difficult time, and see no way out of the depression. You may go into a phase of thinking about “why me” and wanting to fight an inner demon that in reality is just another version of yourself.
Once depression has advanced, the illness becomes almost like another entity. The depression tells you horrible things about yourself and what is going on in the world around you. And, tired of feeling this way, you begin to bargain with it. You try to issue ultimatums and negotiations trying to stave off the thoughts brought on by the depression in favor of something more positive. Unfortunately, this is rarely successful, and the negative thoughts or the entity of depression invariably wins out, leading to the next stage.
When you are in the depths of the depression, you may feel a though you are lost in a wilderness from which you cannot escape. The depression may completely overtake you and make you feel as though you will never be happy again. During this stage of your depression, you will have obsessive and racing thoughts that are debilitating in nature. These thoughts will further perpetuate the depression, making you quite desperate.
Finally, you have to come to accept the depression. You seek help, and you do the work in therapy and take the medications you are prescribed. You begin to feel better. You may fear a relapse, but eventually, you come to recognize that although relapse is possible, you have to accept that as something the might happen, but not dwell on the possibility.
5 Stages Of Depression Symptoms
Another model for the stages of depression is one based on the symptoms of depression disorders themselves. Not everyone will go through these five stages of depression in the same order, nor will everyone go through all five stages of depression at all. For example, some people never have changes in sleep patterns or changes in appetite.
However, these five stages of depression are the closest model there is that represents what most people go through as depression develops. Getting help in the earlier stages of depression is the most helpful, and if you get the proper help in the form of medications and therapy, you may not go through all five of the stages of depression.
Negative Thought Patterns
For most people, depression starts with negative thought patterns. Negative thoughts intrude and are not easy to dismiss. These negative thoughts might be about yourself, or they might be thoughts about how you perceive others to think of you. You may also have negative thoughts about the world around you, thinking that things are hopeless and will never get better.
Changes In Appetite
Many people who go through depression experience changes in appetite. Some people lose their appetite completely, while other people may eat more than usual. And, some people may not have changes in appetite at all. It depends on the individual and their typical eating habits. Some people overeat considerably when they are unhappy, and some people who are unhappy or feeling stressed lose their appetite completely. This is an arbitrary stage of depression that may not be a true measure of the illness.