October is Depression Awareness Month
Have you experienced symptoms of depression? Do you know others who may be struggling with depression?
Many people experience depression at some point in their lives. It can be situational, reoccurring or chronic. There are varying degrees of symptoms so it can be confusing to sort out. After all, it is normal to feel down or sad, and to have more intense feeling when dealing with difficult experiences. So, how do you know when it is more than just feeling down?
What is depression?
According to Merriam-Webster depression is:
An act of depressing or a state of being depressed: such as
(1): a state of feeling sad : dejection
(2): a mood disorder marked especially by sadness, inactivity, difficulty in thinking and concentration, a significant increase or decrease in appetite and time spent sleeping, feelings of dejection and hopelessness, and sometimes suicidal tendencies
Sadness is a normal human emotion, and there are times when we all feel sad or down. Sometimes these feelings can seem persistent, like a cloud that has settled over us. And these feelings can range from mild to intense. Making room for the feelings and accepting them is often the best thing we can do, and this can actually help us flow through the experience rather than getting stuck in it. However, it can be difficult to feel and accept these feelings.
There is a way that our culture tells us that we should be happy, and if we are not something is wrong. Also, we may not have the internal and external supports for our feelings.
Depression is more than sadness. It is a common illness that affects one in 10 Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) a major depressive episode includes several of the following symptoms over a period of at least two weeks along with a depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure in almost all activities:
- Sleep issues on an almost daily basis (either difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much)
- Changes in appetite and weight (change of more than 5% body weight in a month) or a decrease or increase in appetite nearly every day
- Decreased energy or fatigue almost every day
- Difficulty concentrating, making decisions, and thinking clearly
- Psychomotor agitation or retardation that is observable by others (slow physical movements or unintentional or purposeless motions)
- Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide, a suicide attempt, or a specific plan for suicide
These symptoms must cause significant distress or impairment in social or occupational, functioning.
A couple other things to be aware of: Around 50% of people with depression are also diagnosed with anxiety. And seasonal depression is real and affects women more often than men. Woman may also experience post-partum depression.
It is important to get help with clinical depression. Depression can lead some people to consider suicide. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States.
The good news is that depression is treatable. The National Institute of Health reports that up to 80% of those treated for depression see an improvement in their symptoms within four to six weeks of treatment.
If you think you, or loved one, may be depressed, here are some things that may help.
- Get a Depression Screening
There are some resources for screening below. You can also talk to your doctor or a mental health care provider.
- Know that depression is not your fault
Depression is not a character flaw or weakness. It is a medical condition.
- Depression makes everything seem worse
Depression can make you feel like there is no hope, but that is not true. There are options and you are not alone. It’s crucial to reach out for help even if you don’t think it will help.
- Reach out for help
Research shows that both medication and therapy are effective treatments for depression. With clinical depression the combination of both may be most effective. For lower level depression, therapy can really help.
- Get support and coping skills
If you are lacking the support you need, I encourage you to reach out to others. Friends and family can be good supports, but talking to a professional may be the best way to get the coping skills that you need. There are research validated treatment methods that make a difference.
- If you are worried about a friend or family member
Talk to them. Let them know that you care and ask if you can help. Provide resource information and encourage them to get help. If you think someone may be suicidal, ask them directly if they are feeling so bad that they are thinking of suicide.
Article of Interest
SAMHSA’s National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357), is a confidential, free, 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year, information service, in English and Spanish, for individuals and family members facing mental and/or substance use disorders. This service provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations.
Free Online Depression Screening
Some local information is available on my website: