Many single moms I speak with note depression or loneliness as a larger issue than financial problems. The root causes of depression can be related to chemical imbalances. However, when a woman suddenly finds herself raising a child alone, the emotional pressures can lead to “situational depression”. This is the term a doctor once used to describe my emotional state. Unfortunately, most women move from “situational” to moderate or major depression. Raising a child or children alone almost always comes with feelings of loneliness. While single moms have their children around, adult relationships generally take a back seat. This can be harmful as a single mom will tend to build her whole world around the children. In order for everyone to be healthy, mom must have a life outside of her role as “mommy”. If mom lacks healthy outlets, must carry all the weight of child rearing and household responsibilities, chances of depression increase ten fold.
Signs of depression:
Being aware of the signs is an important step in determining if further help is needed. You should never “self-diagnose”. Depression is a medical condition, not a “defect”. Thus, having the help of a medical provider is first step in getting help.
- fatigue and decreased energy
- feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and/or helplessness
- insomnia, early morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
- irritability, restlessness
- loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
- no pleasure left in life any more
- persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment
- persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings
- thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
Depression is a serious but very common health issue. Unfortunately, many women don’t realize they are depressed. It usually takes a friend, family member or co-worker to take notice and say something. One single mom I spoke with told me a friend confided in her about when she battled depression. This friend also talked about her treatment plan which included help from her doctor.
How family or friends can help
If you believe a mom you know is depressed, don’t let her suffer alone. First, conduct research and gather facts. Next, plan a private time where you can express your concern. If possible, this discussion should occur in person. But if the phone is your only option, it is critically important to be kind and gentle when approaching the subject. The worst thing to do is blurt out “you are depressed”. The single mom is already on the defense, having to play the role of two parents and dealing with possible feelings of inadequacy. Suggest some help and/or offer to watch her child while she goes to the doctor. You will be amazed at how alive a single mom becomes once she realizes she is not alone.
Fighting off depression
Below are a few quick bullet points to help with feelings of loneliness or depression. It is not a substitute for medical treatment and advice. Always seek treatment from a medical professional as part of your overall health plan.
· Cultivate adult relationships
· Join the gym
· Have a night out
· Find a new hobby
· Use social networking for games/connections
· Call a friend
Finally, remember that women are 2 times more likely to develop depression than men. Some studies suggest that single moms are 40% more likely to develop depression than married moms. This means that you are not alone! There is nothing innately wrong with you. Seeking treatment just means that you love yourself and your children enough to get help. Life is a journey, you have the right to be happy and enjoy the ride.
If you or someone you know is in an immediate crisis, call the toll-free, 24-hour hotline of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255)