Category: Mental Wellness
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Don't Let Depression Take Over: Let Your Doctor Help
June 26, 2010
Is it a major case of the blues or is it depression? Your doctor can help you determine what's going on and, more importantly, how to help you enjoy life again.
Life gives us many different experiences, good and bad. Some of the bad ones, such as illness, conflict, and grief, can really get us down and we may think the feelings of sadness will never go away. Sometimes, even good events like a new baby, marriage, new job, or retirement can make us feel bad because of the stress that a major life change can bring. Whether the triggers or the feelings they cause are temporary or long lasting, your doctor or other mental health professional can help you get back to enjoying life.
Is it the Blues or Clinical Depression?
Symptoms may be alike for both the blues and clinical depression. And most people have feelings of sadness, loss, or grief at some time in their lives. The blues, however, are usually more temporary in reaction to a certain life event. These feelings can usually be shaken off over time. But with depression, those feelings last longer, are more intense and interfere more with your daily life. Feeling hopeless and worthless can go on day after day.
Depression is a common mood disorder that affects not just your emotional well-being but also your physical health. It may affect the way you look at the world and how well you eat and sleep. Unlike grief or the blues, depression may not go away as a situation changes.
Your doctor can help make the distinction between the blues and clinical depression and set up a treatment plan that fits your needs. Sometimes, even if it is just the blues, you may need additional help to get through them.
What is depression?
Scientists believe depression is caused by an imbalance in certain brain chemicals, such as serotonin. Serotonin acts as a transmitters relaying messages from one area of the brain to another. It has both physical and psychological effects on the body. Researchers have also found some physical differences in people who are depressed compared to those who are not. For example, the hippocampus, a part of the brain that has to do with memory may be smaller in a person with depression. However, scientists and medical professionals still have many questions. What may cause depression in one person may have no effect on another.
Depression and other mental health illnesses are usually triggered by a combination of factors rather than a single event or situation. Factors may include early life experiences, lifestyle, genetics, personality traits, major surgery or physical conditions, especially chronic ones like diabetes or heart problems. Drug abuse can play a role, too. Depression can also be a side effect of certain medicine. Your doctor can help you find out what your triggers may be.
What are the Symptoms?
Symptoms and their severity vary from person to person and over time. Major depression is usually considered if one or more symptoms is present for most of the day or nearly every day for at least two weeks. Talk to your doctor or other mental health professional about any of the following symptoms you may be having and how often. Symptoms can include:
- Persistent sadness or feeling empty or hopeless
- Loss of pleasure in things once enjoyed
- Restlessness, irritability, agitation, anxiety
- Tired all the time; lack of energy
- Difficulty concentrating, forgetfulness or indecisiveness
- Decreased or increased appetite with either weight loss or gain
- Change in your sleeping habits - difficulty going to sleep or staying asleep or sleeping too much
- Loss of sex drive or sexual problems
- Constant physical ailments such as headaches, chronic pain, or digestive problems
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or decreased self-esteem
- Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
What Can Help?
Your doctor may recommend counseling or psychotherapy. He or she may also prescribe antidepressants. There are many kinds of these medications. They not only work in different ways but also work very differently in each person, so your doctor may have to try more than one to see what is right for you. Your doctor may also prescribe another medicine to take with the antidepressant such as a mood stabilizer, antipsychotic, or anti-anxiety medicine.
While your symptoms may improve shortly after starting the medication, it may take as many as six to eight weeks to see real improvement. It is important to take the medicine exactly as recommended. Don't stop taking it without talking to your doctor. Discuss any concerns, especially about side effects. Side effects may decrease over time, and your doctor may be able to offer some simple ways to reduce them. Also make sure your doctor knows of anything else you are taking, including prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, and herbal supplements.
To find out more about evaluation and treatment, go to www.nimh.nih.gov
What Else Can You Do?
- Ask for help and support from your family and friends
- Join a support group
- Get plenty of exercise
- Put more structure in your life with a daily routine
- Stay active
- Eat a healthy diet
- Avoid alcohol, which can make feelings of sadness worse
- Surround yourself with positive people who give you encouragement and hope
- Try to get enough sleep
Other Types of Depression
- Chronic Depression (Dysthymia) - Milder form of depression, but it is more long-term, lasting two or more years with possible episodes of major depression
- Atypical Depression - Symptoms usually include overeating, oversleeping, fatigue, extreme sensitivity to rejection and moods that get better or worse in direct response to events, rather than staying the same all the time
- Postpartum Depression - According to the National Institute of Mental Health, postpartum depression is diagnosed when a new mother becomes severely depressed within one month after delivery
- Bipolar Depression (Manic Depression) - Periods of depression and extreme joy and excitement (mania).
- Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) - Occurs each year at the same time, usually starting in the fall or winter and ending in the spring or early summer
- Psychotic Depression - Includes symptoms of psychosis, such as hallucinations and delusions
You can learn more about the different types of depression at webmd.com
If you feel suicidal, seek help immediately. Call 911 or contact a friend, family member, or doctor. You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Talk to someone!
You can find more about this subject at MyHumana, your secure Website at Humana.com. Log on and click on Condition Centers located under Health and Wellness on the top bar. Select Behavioral Health. Also visit:
The National Institutes of Mental Health
Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
American Psychiatric Association Website
Links to various other Websites from this site are provided for your convenience only and do not constitute or imply endorsement by Humana of these sites, any products or services described on these sites, or of any other material contained therein. Humana disclaims responsibility for their content and accuracy.