Am I Depressed?

9 Apr, 2011 || by

During the last several years, it’s become more and more difficult to read the daily news without running across a front page article with some alarming story about depression. Here are just a few of these headlines I’ve found:

“Too Much TV Leads to Depression”

“The Link Between Diet & Depression”

“Can Allergies Lead To Depression?”

“Vacation Depression: How to Cope”

“How Relationships Can Cause Depression”

“Technology Leads To Anxiety & Depression”

“Can Fertility Problems Cause Depression?”

“Can Dental Fillings Cause Depression?”

“Docs Warn About Facebook Use & Teen Depression”

“More Music, Less Reading in Kids With Depression”

Just for the sake of it, I Googled “depression” and “toothpaste,” and low and behold I found this…“Ingredient in Toothpaste Linked to Depression.” So, it’s pretty obvious that depression is a hot topic these days.  This, of course, can lead to a lot of confusion about depression…What is it?  How is it different from sadness or the “blues?” And, most importantly, do you have it?

Everyone feels blue at one time or another.  A death in the family, a career disappointment, a romance gone awry – all can cause most people to feel down for a period of time.  Grief and sadness, however, are normal reactions to life’s stressful events.  After a time, most people will heal and return to a normal life.

Depression is more than the normal ups and downs of life that we all have.  When sadness just won’t go away and it begins to interfere with daily life, it’s called “depression,” one of the mood disorders.

Basically, depression is a feeling of being slowed down…with a loss of interest in things, a feeling of lethargy, a chronic sense that “something’s wrong.”  Your whole body feels slowed down (depressed).  Your ability to think and feel may be fine, but your desire or ability to do things may slow dramatically.

Depression: What are the Symptoms?

  • Depression exhibits itself differently in different people. Common depression symptoms are:
  • Depressed mood, sadness, or an “empty” feeling (or appearing tearful or sad to others)
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities you once enjoyed
  • Inability to sleep or excessive sleeping
  • Increased feelings of restlessness, irritability, or anxiety
  • Feelings of worthlessness, or excessive or inappropriate guilt
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide (or wanting to “run away” from responsibility)
  • Physical symptoms such as increased feelings of fatigue or energy loss, significant weight loss or weight gain, headaches, stomachaches, muscle pain or tension, and/or an increase in intensity of chronic pain
  • Increased feelings of sadness or helplessness after brushing your teeth (just kidding with this one…checking to see if you’re still paying attention:)

If you (or someone you know) have 5 or more of these symptoms for most of the day, nearly every day, for at least two weeks, and the symptoms are severe enough to interfere with daily activities, the cause may be depression.

Like any other illness, depression is treatable.  Although there is no “cure” for depression, it is very controllable.  There are a wide variety of treatments that are effective in treating depression.  Antidepressant medications are safe and non-addictive.  Either as an adjunct to medication or as a treatment in and of itself, counseling is a very effective treatment for depression, especially to help people understand the nature of their disorder and to develop more effective strategies for coping.  Finally, some forms of activity, such as walking, meditation (mindfully-based cognitive therapy), and yoga have been found to be quite helpful to people dealing with depression. That being said, depression is the number one cause of suicide.  If you suspect that you or someone you know is depressed, take steps now to get treatment.

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3 Responses to “Am I Depressed?”

  1. Great article! I love where you explained about having 5 or more symptoms etc! That was helpful. Depression can be easily glossed over because we think it’s just “normal” but, on the other hand, “normal” funks can be over emphasized and looked at as the big bad DEPRESSION. This information is helpful in distinguishing between these two. Also, it was well written. Thank you!! Love the humor!:)

  2. Ryan Massey, MD says:

    Excellent article PsychDigest! As a primary care physician, I see a dozen or more people every week who wonder if they have depression. I plan on printing out your article to include in our monthly newsletter to patients. Armed with the information you’ve provided, they’ll be better informed when they come in to see me or one of my colleagues. Thank you!

  3. gin arnold says:

    Excellent article and well said without a lot of “tech. talk”. My Balinese driver use to say, “How you know good if you not know bad” and I think that holds true in our society as well. Balance is the Balinese mantra and that is why they wrap the trees and statures in black and white. Out of balance for too long is a time to ask for help.

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