Winston Churchill called it his black dog: periods of melancholy and despondence that came to him and then clung to his side like a nefarious dog that refuses to leave the side of its owner. While there is much debate and speculation about whether Churchill suffered from a diagnoseable mental illness, what’s not debated is the fact that this great WWII Prime Minister suffered periods of grief and depression that significantly affected him.
There are very few of us who can say that we’ve never had the black dog come and visit. Maybe after a loved one died, the dog came to visit you. Or maybe it was when a romantic relationship failed or an expected promotion didn’t come through that you heard the scratching of the dog on your back door.
If we live long enough, the dog will surely come to visit all of us at some point because feeling sad and despondent about our lives is one of the things that makes us human.
For many people, the black dog comes to visit for a while, but then gradually walks away into the night, never to return. Sometimes though, the dog comes and does not accept our kind invitation to leave when we open the door. It’s in these moments that seeking out additional help can be a wise course of action.
When should you seek professional help for depression? Differentiating between normal sadness and depression isn’t always easy. But a good guideline is provided by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual published by the American Psychiatric Association. According to these guidelines, a person is depressed if they have had a two-week period of depression that includes depressed mood or a lack of interest in activities that used to provide pleasure. This period should be a marked change from their prior functioning and should impact them in their work, school or social activities.
People suffering from a depressive episode often have other symptoms such as weight loss or weight gain, trouble sleeping, fatigue or feeling worthless or guilty. It’s also common to have trouble paying attention or to have thoughts of suicide or other self-harm.
If you think you’re suffering from depression, it’s always a good idea to be evaluated by your primary care physician or a mental health professional. Research has shown that the most effective treatment for depression is a combination of medication and talk therapy.
Deerfield Counseling offers psychotherapy aimed at helping you recover from depression and get back to living a full life. When the black dog comes and doesn’t seem to want to leave, we can help you show it the door.