Depression isn’t just a case of the blues |

Depression isn’t just a case of the blues

Editor’s note: In recognition of Mental Health Month, the staff at Craig Mental Health will contribute columns that address some aspect of mental well-being.

Everyone gets down from time to time — a brief blue mood, disappointments, grief after losing a loved one — but depression is different. It’s not just a case of having the blues.

Clinical depression affects more than 19 million Americans each year and can affect anyone regardless of age, gender, race or socioeconomic status.

It can influence your attitude toward yourself, others and life in general. It can change the way you think and behave, and can take away your feelings of well-being. Depression is a real disorder that can be treated effectively with psychotherapy and/or medication.

Unfortunately, fewer than half of the people who have depression seek treatment. Many mistakenly think it is a weakness or personality flaw. Some think that it is a “normal” part of life and that they can treat it themselves, or that it will just go away. Left untreated, depression can last months or years.

Symptoms of depression may include:

n Depressed or irritable mood most of the day, nearly every day

n Loss of interest or pleasure in activities

n A sudden change in weight or appetite

n Inability to sleep or sleeping too much

n Agitation or restlessness

n Constant fatigue or loss of energy

n Frequent feelings of worthlessness or guilt

n Difficulty concentrating or making decisions

n Thoughts of death or suicide

You don’t need to have all these symptoms to have depression. Symptoms will vary among people.

Research has determined that depression can be caused by an imbalance of chemicals in the brain, called neurotransmitters, which play a key role in regulating mood and behavior. Other factors that may precipitate depression include divorce, death of a spouse, loss of a job, serious financial problems, substance abuse, certain medications and diseases, hormonal changes and family history. Although the cause of a person’s depression is not always known, there is tremendous hope for recovery in most cases.

The two main treatments for depression are psychotherapy and medication. For some, either treatment may be sufficient. For others, the most effective treatment is a combination. Psychotherapy is aimed at helping you develop new ways to cope with problems and to identify and understand more about your depression and how to avoid it in the future.

Antidepressant medication works by helping to correct the imbalance of certain chemicals in the brain. These medications may take several weeks to be effective, but they work well and are generally safe.

There are other things you can do to feel better, such as exercising, improving your diet and reducing caffeine and alcohol intake. Talk to your health care provider about what is most appropriate for you. Remember that depression is treatable. If you or someone you know is suffering from depression, don’t wait — find help today.

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