Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Depression: Sadness or Sickness

Millions of people suffer from depression. How do you know if you are clinically depressed or depressed from outside influences?
There are many "reasons" for depression: loss of a loved one, traumatic injury, long term illness, loss of wages, bills, car troubles, marital troubles, etc. the list goes on and on.
Generally, when people suffer from depression due to outside stimulus, it is moderate to short term in length and usually goes away with time and change in circumstances. Sometimes even when there are good reasons for depression a person may have to go on medication for a short time.

How do you know when it's sadness or sickness? How do you know if it's external circumstances or internal (clinical)?

Mild short term depression is described as a depressed "mood". As you might be in a good mood, a pensive mood, a reflective mood etc. Most people experience a depressed "mood" at some point in their lives, sometimes many times but as stated earlier, these usually go away with changes in circumstances or the absolving the problem that caused the depressed "mood" to begin with. Sometimes just talking things over with a friend or loved one can alleviate the sadness.

Clinical depression or major depression differs greatly from a depressed "mood". Clinical or major depression causes a person to have low self-esteem, to lose interest in activities or things that previously were important to them. The list of symptoms can vary from mild to acute. Some people are so clinically depressed that they don't care about their hygiene, they don't eat well or sleep well. The depression affects not only their home life, but also their work life and their normal day to day living routines. A depressed person may withdraw from friends and activities that they previously were actively involved in. They may start sleeping more or hardly sleeping at all. They may develop eating disorders such as over-eating, or hardly eating at all. They may express or think they just aren't themselves anymore. Major depression generally lasts at least two weeks or longer and re-occurs.
There are also different types of depression; clinical, manic, bi-polar, unipolar etc. I'm not covering all types in this blog, just an over view with some suggestions if you think you might be suffering from depression and feeling out of sorts.

If you feel depressed, here are a few tips to help you decide
1) Don't self-diagnose, do pay attention to how long you have been feeling depressed and the other thoughts and feelings you are having along with it.
2) Don't be afraid to seek help, even if you think you are "just sad", talk to your doctor, let him/her help you decide what is best for you.
3) Don't buy in to the hype that depression medicines are addicting and will make you worse.
4) Don't be afraid the doctor is going to have you locked up just because you are having these feelings.
5) If you do go on medication and you feel worse or see no change, tell your doctor immediately. (Especially if you start or are having thoughts of suicide). The first medication a person tries isn't always the one that will work for them. There are many many medications and every person is different. Some medications CAN make you feel worse that's why its so important to stay in touch with your doctor and let them know the changes you feel.
6) Don't let yourself feel or let others make you feel that you are inferior or crazy because you are depressed or because you have to take medication.
7) Don't stop taking your medication on your own just because you feel better. Chances are the reason you are feeling better is because the medication is doing it's job. Never stop taking anti-depressants without your doctor's consent. Always take the medicine exactly as prescribed by your doctor. Starting and stopping anti-depressants can be detrimental to your health.

Depression is as real a sickness as cancer, arthritis or any other visible illness, except depression is not as widely accepted as other "sicknesses". Many people don't understand and don't appreciate clinical depression for what it is. The word depression has been thrown around so much that most people believe it is just a state of sadness that you can overcome by just "getting it out of your head and determining to be happy". They don't understand that there is a real actual physical cause for major depression. Clinical depression is linked to a missing chemical in the brain. This is where medication is so important to try and regulate those missing chemicals. Therapy is usually recommended also but not always. There can be traumatic situations in your life that have brought about this depression also, another reason you need to consult a doctor and be very honest with them about how you are feeling, what changes you have made in your life and what is going on with your thoughts and feelings.

More people, especially employers in the work force need to be educated on the importance of dealing with employees with clinical depression. Those that can maintain their daily lives are trying very hard to do that and understanding from employers and co-workers goes a very long way in helping them deal with the depression.

For so many years the term, "oh he/she is just depressed, they'll get over it", has been the rule of thumb. Basically, "ignore it and it will go away". Now we know this isn't necessarily true and needs to be addressed more to the public so that everyone is made aware of how serious an illness depression truly can be.

There is hope. With the proper diagnosis, medication and even therapy the situation can become better.