Is this the ‘blues’ or am I struggling with depression?
From Human Services, Inc.
We all have times when we feel blue, are overwhelmed by everyday tasks, have difficulty sleeping, lack joy in life, or find it difficult to concentrate. However, if any or all of these feelings become frequent and persistent, they may be symptoms of depression, and should be taken seriously. Depression is a common and serious medical illness that negatively impacts feelings, thoughts, and actions. It affects men and women of all ages, cultures, races, and income levels.
However, the very word “depression” can be confusing, as it is used both in a general and a clinical sense. We often say that we are “depressed” when we are blue or sad, but these feelings are usually fleeting and pass within a couple of days. When a person has a depressive disorder, however, it interferes with daily life, normal functioning, and causes pain for both the person with the disorder and those who care about him or her.
Depression is a common but serious medical illness that involves changes in the brain. If you are one of the more than 20 million people in the United States who have depression, your feelings of being “down in the dumps” or “blue” do not go away. They persist and interfere with your everyday life. Such symptoms can include sadness, loss of interest or pleasure in activities you used to enjoy, change in weight, difficulty sleeping or oversleeping, energy loss, feelings of worthlessness, and even thoughts of death or suicide.
Depression can run in families, and usually starts between the ages of 15 and 30. It is much more common in women, who can also get postpartum depression after the birth of a baby. Some people suffer “seasonal affective disorder” in the winter, which involves depression. Depression is also one part of bipolar disorder. Depression often co-exists with other illnesses. Such illnesses may precede the depression, cause it, and may be a consequence of it.
Although depression can affect anyone, there are a few groups that are particularly vulnerable. These include the elderly; suicide rates are highest among people aged 65 years and older, with men in that age group having the highest rates of all. The next most vulnerable group is adolescents; suicide is the third leading cause of death for young people aged 15-24 years. When depression is combined with substance abuse, the risk for self-harm goes up dramatically for any age group.
Left untreated, depression wreaks havoc on a person’s quality of life. It may worsen symptoms of other diseases, and even can be fatal. People who have a stroke or heart attack, for example, are more likely to die if they have depression.
The good news is that depression is treatable, even in severe cases. Between 80 percent and 90 percent of people respond well to treatment, and most gain at least some relief from their symptoms. The first step is to visit a doctor. Your family doctor or a health clinic is a good place to start. A doctor can make sure that the symptoms of depression are not being caused by another medical condition. A doctor may refer you to a mental health professional.
Most insurance plans cover treatment for depression. Check with your own insurance company to find out what type of treatment is covered. If you don’t have insurance, local city or county governments may offer treatment at a clinic or health center, where the cost is based on income. Medicaid plans also may pay for depression treatment.
People who are depressed often need those who care about them to lead the way. If you are concerned about depression in yourself or someone else, it is important to seek help. Discuss your concerns with a health care or mental health professional and request a complete evaluation. Remember that depression is treatable, and the proper diagnosis and treatment can restore the sufferer to enjoyment of life.
– HSI, a nonprofit organization with seven offices located throughout Washington County, annually serves more than 8,600 people, offering a variety of services to adults, children, adolescents, and families.