If given the question “who do you know that suffers from depression”, I would hazard a guess that you could rattle off more than one name. For some of us, it would be our own name making that list. Yet, there are many who may be suffering and just do not recognize the symptoms of depression.
Sadness, loneliness, and occasional depression are normal parts of life that can be experienced by anyone at some point in their lives. Feeling sad or depressed can occur as a result of a break-up, work stress, financial problems, general struggles of life and is a typical reaction to grief and loss.
These times and feelings come and go, and typically there is a source or reason for the depression that we can identify. They also tend to respond well to lifestyle changes and the use of activities or things like essential oils for stress relief.
It is when a low mood and certain accompanying symptoms become the norm and last for more than two weeks, that it may be indicative of clinical depression.
At this point, it is time to seek help from a doctor. Your primary physician is a great place to start, and he or she can screen you for depression or refer you to a psychiatrist so that you can get the help you need.
If left untreated, symptoms of depression may get worse and can last for several months or even several years causing major suffering, a reduced quality of life and may lead to suicide.
Not getting psychiatric treatment can be life-threatening. More than 10% of people who have depressive symptoms commit suicide.
Recognizing the symptoms of depression is usually the biggest problem when making the diagnosis of depression and treating it.
What are the symptoms of depression?
A diagnosis of depression requires that there be several persistent symptoms along with a low mood that are present for at least two weeks, other important considerations include:
- Not everyone will experience every symptom; some may have a few, while others will have many
- The signs and symptoms of depression can be severe or mild
- The symptoms can vary based on the stage of depression
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, the symptoms of depression may include any of the following:
- Suicide attempts or thoughts of suicide
- Sad, “empty”, or anxious feelings
- Ongoing aches and pains, digestive problems, and headaches that don’t ease even with some type of treatment and have no known cause
- Appetite loss or eating too much, including a 5% body weight loss or gain over a month’s time
- Anger, irritability, agitation, low tolerance level, short temperedness and everything and everyone getting on your nerves
- Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed, even sex
- Restlessness and irritability
- Insomnia, excessive sleeping, or early morning awakening
- Feelings of pessimism and hopelessness
- Feelings of helplessness, worthlessness, or guilt
- Tiredness and decreased energy
- Restlessness and restless behavior such as the inability to sit still
- Problems concentrating, making decisions, or remembering details
Personal Connection | Symptoms of Depression
When I experienced major depressive disorder in my mid-20s, I was weepy, unable to fully concentrate, and gained 40 pounds in just under 2 months. I don’t even remember eating anything to lead to that weight gain. For that matter, I don’t remember much of anything during those 2 months.
Some people in my life noticed things were off. But, they didn’t say anything to me about it. Or, it is possible that I didn’t hear their one-off comments.
Also, I had several ‘stressors’ in my life at the time that some attributed my sad mood. I was working full time, attending graduate school part-time, planning my wedding, and worried about 2 family members who both received terminal diagnoses.
It was actually my job that helped me see that I needed help. I was a tech for a neurologist studying the prevalence of tics and Tourette’s Syndrome in the general population. He was also looking to see if trends seen in his office were present as well. We had to train on a computer-based diagnostic tool we’d use in the field. It was answering questions truthfully that indicated I had major depressive disorder.
It took many months of treatment, including both medication and counseling sessions, to get back to a new sense of normal. Since then, I have been extremely vigilant regarding my moods.
What are the warning signs of suicide with depression?
People who are depressed are at a greater risk of being suicidal. Anyone who has suicidal thoughts or ideation should be taken extremely seriously.
Help is available from the suicide hotline at 1-800-SUICIDE.
Warning signs of the possibility of suicide in depression include:
- Having a death wish or tempting fate by taking risks that could lead to an early death
- Depression that gets worse
- Always thinking or talking about death
- A sudden and significant witch from being sad to appearing to be happy or very calm
- Visiting or talking to people they once cared about
- Talk of killing oneself
- Saying things like “I want out” or “It would be better if I weren’t here”
- Putting affairs in order, changing a will, or tying up loose ends
- Making comments about being worthless, helpless, or hopeless
Remember that if you or a loved one is showing any of the above signs of suicide with depression either contact a health specialist right away or call a local suicide hotline. If these aren’t possible, go to the emergency room for emergency evaluation and management.
Depression in Adolescents
It is common for adolescents to occasionally feel sad. When the sadness lasts for more than 2 weeks, however, it may mean the teenager is suffering from depression.
It is estimated that as many as 1 in every 8 teens and 1 in every 33 kids have depression. If you suspect that your teenager is suffering from depression, you need to take them to an emergency room or to a psychiatrist who specializes in treating adolescents.
How is depression diagnosed?
The diagnosis of depression often starts with a complete history and physical examination by your doctor. Because certain illnesses, medications, or infections can also cause symptoms of depression, your doctor will want to understand when the symptoms began, how long they have lasted, and how bad they are.
They will ask you whether or not you have had depression in the past and what kinds of treatments you’ve had that has worked for you before. Your family history of mental illnesses, including depression, is extremely important, as is any history of alcohol or illicit drug use.
There are various screenings used by psychiatrists to identify if depression exists and what type the patient has.
- Beck Depression Inventory
- Geriatric Depression Scale
How Depressive Symptoms are Treated
If a physical cause for the depressive symptoms is ruled out, your physician may begin an initial treatment or may refer you to a psychiatrist of a psychologist.
This mental health professional will help you understand ways you can feel better with treatment, such as with the use of psychotherapy or antidepressant medication. Sometimes both things may need to be utilized for the treatment of depressive symptoms.
Treatment is not a one size fits all or quick process. Rather, you might need to test out more than one medication to find the one which works best for you. This was my experience over 20 years ago.
Since then, they do have drug-gene testing (pharmacogenetics) which can indicate the medication you’ll respond best to using. My aunt has gone through the screening and found it did make a big difference.
Depression by the Numbers
Have you or a loved one suffered from depression?