About Depression

What is Depression?

Depression is more than just “the blues.” Nearly everyone has spells when they feel sad for several days, or experience a period of mourning or grieving over the end of a relationship or the loss of a friend. Depression, on the other hand, is a serious illness that often goes unrecognized even by those who have the illness. And there are physical reasons that cause the symptoms to occur.

Depression varies from person to person. Frequently there are symptoms such as: feeling empty or sad, being angry or irritable all the time, being restless or slowed down, feeling worthless, loss of interest or pleasure in activities which you would usually enjoy, significant gains or losses in weight, difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep, lack of energy, or thoughts of death or suicide. If these feelings last nearly every day almost all of the day for two weeks or more, depression may be present.

What Causes Depression?

There are many different causes for depression.

Chemical Imbalance. You may have a shortage or imbalance of mood-influencing chemicals in your brain. In such cases medication may be suggested.

Genetic Causes. The tendency for depression can be inherited. One is more likely to experience depression if other blood relatives have had depression or a problem with chemical addiction.

Personality. Depression is more common in those who are seen by others as highly self-critical and demanding, or passive and dependent.

Life Stresses. Loss of a loved one, a child, a job, interpersonal conflicts with others and stress at work or home can trigger an initial period of sadness which, in vulnerable persons, can lead to the development of depression.

Consequences of Depression

Untreated depression leads to serious consequences. The personal pain and distress is often significant. Ability to perform at work or school can become so impaired that academic or job failure can result. Family members are often hurt as the affected person has so little energy left to relate to them in a meaningful way.

Suicide is a possible risk for those who are depressed. While not everyone who kills him or herself is depressed, the majority are. Suicide is the third leading cause of death for teens and young adults up to age 24, and is a major cause of death at all ages. Suicide is most common among those over age 65, many of whom are medically ill and/or lonely, and may be struggling with unrecognized depression.

Depression carries with it the risk of higher rates of medical illnesses, slower recovery from surgery and increased risks of death from heart attack. For adolescents, unrecognized depression carries with it the risk of increased use of street drugs.

Some Types of Depression

Major Depression. Depression felt for the most part of every day for at least two weeks or more is usually classified as major depression. Untreated major depression will last from two to nine months or longer. At any given time, about 10 percent of people in the community are experiencing depression and one in five of us experience at least one episode of major depression at some point in our lives.

Mild/Moderate Depression. In mild/moderate depression, thoughts of suicide and death are often less intense in major depression, but this is not always the case.

Manic Depression or Bipolar Disease. Periods of depression followed by times of elevated mood is called mania. The person swings not just from normal moods back into sad ones, but from very high to very low moods. At times of mania, the individual feels so good he may not recognize the need for help. When some depressed, the person has so little energy and so little hope, that he doesn’t seek treatment.

Depression from Alcohol or Drug Use. Changes in mood often accompany alcohol intoxication or other drug use. What is not well recognized is that the chronic use of many drugs leads to changes in mood even during periods of sobriety.

What to Do

Depression is very treatable. If the depressive feelings last only a brief time, follow these simple steps: • Limit your use of alcohol and stop use of street drugs.

• Avoid sleep agents or use them no longer than two weeks.

• Get regular nutrition and exercise.
• Stay in contact with others even though you feel like hiding.
• Talk with others about what worries you.

• Set a time limit as to when you expect to get better and seek help quickly if you fail to improve. Remember, part of depression is feeling hopeless. It may be hard to believe that anything can help, even treatment, though it is usually very effective.

If your depression is longer lasting or causing distress, do seek help:

• Get an accurate diagnosis if you are thinking about suicide or have a health condition such as substance use, heart disease or other illness.

• Seek an immediate evaluation if you are thinking about suicide or have a health condition such as substance use, heart disease or other illness.
• Read and educate yourself about available treatment
• If medication is recommended, take it regularly as prescribed.

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