Health Watch: Don't let depression get you down

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Susan heard the same comments over and over for many months. Phrases like "snap out of it," "What's wrong with you?" or the real stinger, "You have so much going for you. Stop feeling sorry for yourself."

With support like that, Susan felt real guilty about her feelings and decided to "tough it out" on her own.

As it turned out, Susan was one of the estimated 17 million Americans who suffered from depression in the past year. And unfortunately, almost two-thirds of people suffering from depression fail to recognize their illness or seek professional help.

Everybody gets sad once in a while, right?

Sure, many people do experience feelings of sadness, or as Susan put it, "feeling dumpy."

Most often these feelings are caused by a terrible event or change in one's life, which can be emotionally painful. Usually, these feelings are temporary, but if the sad feelings linger to where they can't "snap out of it," they may be suffering from clinical depression.

As we all know, some people are optimists while others are pessimists.

That's just their basic personalities.

However, if a person has a change to where they are emotionally "different" than before, and at a point where they are feeling "blue" and cannot get back to "the person they were," then medical evaluation should be sought.

What should we look for?

Some of the common symptoms that may be caused by clinical depression include:

• Loss of interest or pleasure in daily hobbies or activities, including sex

• A persistent sad or depressed mood, often described as an "empty" feeling

• Change of appetite with either weight loss or gain

• Difficulty in concentrating or in making decisions

• A change in the normal sleep pattern

• Fatigue or loss of energy

• Feeling sluggish or restless

• Increased feelings of guilt worthlessness or feeling that there is no hope

• Unexplained crying or a sense of not having any emotion at all

• Thoughts of death or suicide

Some people even suffer from physical symptoms such as anxiety attacks, headaches, abdominal pains or other general aches.

Are there other causes of depression?

It is important to know that there are certain illnesses or drugs, including over-the-counter medications, which can cause the symptoms of depression, or even depression itself.

That's why it is so important to seek medical attention. Often, we need to rule out other causes before we can diagnose clinical depression.

The good news is that with the proper diagnosis and treatment, including psychotherapy, up to 80 percent of people with the diagnosis of clinical depression show an improvement within a matter of weeks.

Hopefully, this will help the person to live their life, instead of just "going through the motions."

Please remember that true clinical depression is an illness. It is not something to be embarrassed about.

A good source for further information is your physician and the National Depressive and Manic Depressive Association at 1-800-826-3632.

The hardest part is taking the first step toward helping yourself.

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