Everyone at one time or another has felt depressed, sad, or blue. Being depressed is a normal reaction to loss, life’s struggles, or an injured self-esteem. But sometimes the feeling of sadness becomes intense, lasting for long periods of time and preventing a person from leading a normal life. Depression that has these characteristics is a treatable, medical condition. It is a medical problem, not a personal weakness. Major depression is an illness that requires professional diagnosis and treatment.
Common Signs of Depression
- Loss of enjoyment from things that were once pleasurable
- Loss of energy
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Feelings of worthlessness
- Difficulty concentrating
- Difficulty making decisions
- Insomnia or excessive sleep
- Stomachache and digestive problems
- Sexual problems (for example, decreased sex drive)
- Aches and pains (such as recurrent headaches)
- A change in appetite causing weight loss or gain
- Recurring thoughts of death or suicide or Attempting suicide
Common Causes of Depression
- Biochemistry (imbalance of serotonin and norepinephrine in brain)
- Genetics (can run in a family)
- Environmental factors (continuous exposure to violence, neglect, abuse, or poverty)
- Major, chronic, and/or terminal illness
Coping With Depression
- Make a plan of action based on your strengths – keep things in a positive perspective
- Get adequate Sleep – general rule for healthy adults is 7-8 hrs./night
- Avoid caffeine and heavy foods right before going to sleep.
- Avoid Alcohol and/or Drugs – it only intensifies the feelings of depression, can lead to suicidal thoughts and behaviors, and can negatively interact with your medication.
- Spend time with people who care about you and are positive forces in your life.
- Join a depression support group.
- Manage Stress Levels by exercising (20-30 mins./day), do relaxing activities, journal, & help others as you can
- Eat healthy: a healthy diet can improve the way you feel. Healthy eating increases energy, improves the way your body functions, strengthens your immune system & thwarts weight gain.
Medication to Treat Depression and Associated Symptoms
- Anti-Depressant Medication
- Anti-Anxiety Medication
- Mood Stabilizer Medication
Tips When Talking With Your Doctor About Medication
- What are my medication options for my diagnosis and how long will I need to be on medication?
- What are the side effects of the medication and will they go away over time?
- Why do you feel that this particular medication will work better than another one?
- When should I start to feel/see a difference?
- What can I do to help myself get better?
- Tell your doctor about: current medications you are on, any family history of MI, any current physical issues/diagnosis, current depressive symptoms, prior experience with taking antidepressants, and any significant life events that could be affecting your depression.
- Take your medication daily; even when you begin to feel better
- Antidepressants must be taken for at least 2 to 4 weeks for a noticeable effect
- Mild side effects are common but often improve after 7 to 10 days
- Call your doctor with any questions
- If you have concerns about remembering to take your medications, talk with your WWC team about ideas for medication management
- Do not stop medication without checking with physician
- Antidepressants are not addictive
Self Help Books at your Local Library
Feeling Good (Burns, 1980)
Control Your Depression (Lewinsohn and others, 1992)
The Depression Workbook: A Guide for Living with Depression and Manic Depression (Mary Ellen Copeland, 2002)
Ending the Depression Cycle: A Step-by-Step Guide for Preventing Relapse (Peter Bieling and Martin Antony, 2003)