Depression”More Than Just a Blue Mood
Everyone gets sad sometimes ” a brief blue mood, feelings of disappointment, or the more serious grief after losing a loved one. Depression is not a mere case of the blues; it’s more than a period of sadness. Depression is a serious medical illness that affects your body as well as your moods and thoughts. And it requires treatment, just like diabetes, asthma, or heart disease.
There are a number of signs and symptoms that help a doctor know if a person has depression. If he or she has had at least five of the following symptoms for most of the day, nearly every day for more than 2 weeks, depression may be present:
Feelings of sadness, depressed mood, and/or irritability
Loss of interest or pleasure in activities, such as hobbies or spending time with family/friends
Changes in weight or appetite
Changes in sleeping pattern ” sleeping too much or not at all
Feelings of guilt, hopelessness, or worthlessness
Inability to concentrate, remember things, or make decisions
Constant fatigue or loss of energy
Restlessness or decreased activity
Recurrent thoughts of suicide or death
What depression is not
Depression isn™t something to be ashamed of, nor is it a character flaw or a sign of a weak personality. No one with depression can just “snap out of it.” You wouldn’t ask someone to “snap out of” diabetes or some other illness, and you cannot expect it of a person with depression.
What causes depression?
Depression can be caused by an imbalance of certain chemicals in the brain. These chemicals are natural substances that allow brain cells to communicate with one another. Depression can also be triggered by stress, medication, or other medical illnesses. Certain personality traits and genetic factors can also contribute to depression. But no matter what has caused a person™s depression, it can be treated ” and help is widely available.
Can anyone get depressed?
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, more than 17 million Americans develop depression each year ” that™s 1 out of every 10 people. Chances are, at some point in your life, you or someone you know will become depressed. And depression strikes both sexes and people from all walks of life.
Help is available
The good news is that up to 80% of people who receive proper treatment for depression improve as a result. There are two principal modes of treatment for depression ” psychotherapy and medication. For some, either mode may be enough. For others, a combination of the two is most effective.
Psychotherapy comes in many forms. “Talking” therapy is aimed at helping the person gain insight and resolve problems through a verbal give-and-take with the therapist. “Behavioral” therapy focuses more on patterns of behavior associated with the person’s depression, as well as action steps that can be taken to increase the satisfaction and rewards one can get out of life.
Psychotherapy can take place in individual, group, or family sessions. While the process may take some time to work, there are some effective short-term (10 to 20 weeks) therapies available.
Antidepressant medication works by affecting brain chemistry. These drugs may take several weeks to be effective, but they work well and are safe and non“habit“forming. There are 3 prominent groups of these drugs: selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), tricyclics (TCAs), and MAO inhibitors. SSRIs are the newest class of antidepressants and work to help increase the amount of serotonin in the brain, which can relieve the symptoms of depression.
“My loved one was diagnosed with depression”
Those words can make any family member or friend worried, scared, or even angry. Some find it hard to understand why the depressed person can’t “snap out of it.” It’s okay for you to feel concerned. You are not alone. Millions of families and friends have felt exactly like you. And because they care, they have learned how to help their loved ones get through depression.
You can help a depressed family member
You play an important role in helping your loved one get through this difficult period in his or her life. There are many ways to help:
Remind your loved one to keep his or her doctor™s appointments and take prescribed medication. Depressed persons are often tempted to stop their medication as soon as they begin to feel better. It is very important for them to keep taking their medication as directed. This will help prevent a relapse of the depression, or the return of symptoms.
Listen and provide support. Be patient, understanding, and encouraging. Don’t dismiss the depressed person’s negative feelings “ point out realities and offer hope instead.
Take care of the “little things.” A depressed person may need help just keeping up with tasks like doing the laundry or caring for a pet. You can offer to help until the person is feeling better.
Remember that depression is a medical condition. Don™t accuse the depressed person of faking illness or laziness. Try to encourage your loved one to develop healthy habits by sleeping at regular times, eating balanced, nutritious meals, and taking a daily walk or some other form of exercise. Remember, with treatment, most depressed people do get better.
Make suggestions. Urge your loved one to postpone major life decisions, such as changing jobs, getting married or divorced, or moving until his or her depression has lifted.
Learn everything you can about depression. Knowledge is power and contributes to a greater understanding of your loved one.
Suicide threats are to be taken seriously. Keep in mind that it is not true, as many people believe, that a person who talks about suicide will not attempt it. Those who attempt suicide often threaten to do so as a way of asking for help. So if your loved one seems in danger of suicide, be supportive and call a doctor.
Take care of yourself. You may find yourself feeling sad, angry, frustrated, or helpless when caring for a depressed person. Talking with a friend or counselor can help you deal with those feelings. Doing something nice for yourself while taking care of a loved one can also help.
One last thing to remember¦
Depression is a very treatable illness, and your loved one can get better with appropriate medical treatment and support from you.