How do you know if you’re just feeling “a little down,” or if there is something more serious going on?
There are many different causes of depression:
•Situational (difficult life events, grief/loss-including loss of significant relationships, cumulative stressors over a period of time)
•Biological (brain chemistry)
•Medical (co-occurring with other illnesses, or following significant medical events/surgery)
•Side effects from medications
If you know you’re not feeling like yourself, you’re having trouble doing normal day-to-day activities, or if a family member/friend who knows you well comments that you seem different, give serious consideration to talking with your doctor or a mental health professional.
The following are symptoms of depression. When the majority of the following are present and consistent for at least a 2-week period, it’s important to take a closer look:
•A depressed mood (feeling sad or empty)
•Tearfulness or crying spells
•Loss of interest/pleasure in activities once enjoyed
•Fatigue/loss of energy
•Agitation or restlessness
•A noticeable slowing in speaking, thinking, or body movements
•Insomnia (or excessive sleeping)
•Decrease or increase in appetite
•Significant weight loss (not due to dieting) or weight gain
•Feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt
•Poor concentration or indecisiveness
•Recurrent thoughts of death (not just fear of dying), suicidal ideation
No matter the cause of these symptoms, restoring to your previous level of functioning should be the goal. Consider giving equal importance and value to your mental well-being as much as your physical well-being.
Wellness is a complete package – physical, mental, and spiritual health. Just as physical health issues such as diabetes and high blood pressure are managed with a combination of nutrition, exercise, and medication, depression can be managed by an overall program which combines therapy, medication to balance brain chemicals, social support and stress management.
National Depression Screening Day is October 11, 2012. This awareness day is sponsored by Screening for Mental Health, a non-profit organization that provides educational screening programs for certain mental health conditions.
Lastly, if you don’t want to talk to your doctor or go to a designated screening center, you can take an anonymous online screening here. But please be mindful that online screening is not a substitute for professional/medical care. I urge you to follow the online screening by talking with your doctor or a licensed mental health professional.
If you’re experiencing suicidal thoughts or are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK(8255).
Remember, depression is a treatable condition. There is no reason to suffer in silence.
This article is intended for general education purposes only, and is not intended to be a substitute for professional counseling or medical care. If you are interested in seeking professional counseling, please call The Stone Foundation at 410-296-2004.
Elicia McIntyre, a licensed clinical social worker and graduate of Smith College School for Social Work, has 15 years’ experience providing counseling to adults, children and families in the Baltimore-Washington metro area. She has helped clients navigate life transitions, depression, anxiety and relationship difficulties. Elicia helps couples increase emotional intimacy and to foster healthy connections among family members. She has spent the past 3 years traveling nationally and overseas, providing education and intervention to military service members and their families on communication, stress management and building healthy relationships.