Many people use the word “depressed” to describe a sad mood, but depression is actually a serious medical condition with both physical and mental symptoms that prevents sufferers from enjoying a normal life. It’s also more common than you may think: up to one in four adults in America suffer from depression. Having depression does not mean you’re weak, crazy or weird. Too many—approximately half the people who suffer from symptoms of depression—do not seek diagnosis or treatment. In these untreated cases, clinical depression may worsen or lead to suicide.
Symptoms of Clinical Depression
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, symptoms of depression may include:
- Persistent feelings of sadness, anxiety or emptiness
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering details/or and making decisions
- Fatigue and decreased energy
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness and/or helplessness or hopelessness
- Changes in your sleep pattern including: insomnia, excessive sleeping or early-morning wakefulness
- Loss of interest in activities or hobbies
- Overeating or appetite loss
- Persistent or worsening of aches or pains
- Digestive problems that resist treatment methods
Any one of these symptoms would make it difficult to function normally, and combined they can be overwhelming and lead to thoughts—or attempts—of suicide.
When & How to Seek Treatment
If the above symptoms are persisting over a long period of time and causing difficulties in your everyday life, speak to a health care professional. This can be as simple as calling your primary care provider's office and requesting an appointment to discuss issues of stress and anxiety. When you speak to your provider about any of the above symptoms, he or she will take a thorough health history and physical exam. Since depression can’t be detected through methods like a blood test or an X-ray, your provider will factor in the time you’ve had your symptoms, your family history and your use of drugs and alcohol.
If outside causes for your symptoms are ruled out, your provider may start you on an initial treatment plan, which could include prescription medication or refer you to a psychologist, psychiatrist or other mental health professional for further evaluation and treatment.
People respond to treatment in different ways, so it may take time for you and your provider to find the best combination of medication, therapy or both. With a variety of options available—different types and dosage levels of medication and different types of therapies—the beginning of treatment can feel overwhelming simply because of the amount of combinations and options. As with any potentially life-threatening illness, it is vitally important that you persist in treatment and are honest with your provider about what is and isn’t working. You wouldn’t ‘grin and bear it’ with ineffective treatment of a broken leg, and treatment of clinical depression is no different.
If you are experiencing symptoms of depression, taking the ‘Test Your Mood’ survey is an excellent starting point. You can also call one of our locations and make an appointment with a psychiatrist/psychologist of your choice.