Depression 101

Depression 101

10/28/14 James Winston

Did you know that depression is referred to as the “common cold” of mental health conditions? The Center for Disease Control (CDC) indicates that an estimated 1 in 10 of U.S. adults will report experiencing depression.

As humans, we experience a lot of different emotions – it is part of the ups and downs of life. Feeling down or sad are normal reactions to loss, disappointment, or other event/experience that may be unexpected or not as you had hoped. But how do you know if you are falling into depression? Depression begins to interfere with your daily life, ability to function at an appropriate level, and the ability to just enjoy life. The depression persists and not only affects you, but those around you. The difference between depression and sadness is the duration and intensity.

Depression is the most unpleasant thing I have ever experienced. . . . It is that absence of being able to envisage that you will ever be cheerful again. The absence of hope. That very deadened feeling, which is so very different from feeling sad. Sad hurts but it’s a healthy feeling. It is a necessary thing to feel. Depression is very different.” J.K. Rowling (author of Harry Potter)

Common symptoms of depression include:

  • Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings;
  • Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism;
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness;
  • Irritability, restlessness;
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities or hobbies once enjoyed;
  • Fatigue and decreased energy;
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions;
  • Changes in sleep (insomnia, wake frequently, or excessive sleeping);
  • Changes in appetite (poor appetite or overeating); and
  • Thoughts of suicide or suicide attempts.

There are different forms of depression and the severity, frequency, and duration of symptoms vary depending on the individual’s particular condition. If you have experienced five or more of the symptoms listed above for two weeks or more, consider talking to a professional.

What can you do if you show signs of depression? 

  • Do not wait too long to get evaluated or treated. There is research showing the longer one waits, the greater the impairment can be down the road. Try to see a professional as soon as possible.
  • Try to be active and exercise. Go to a movie, a ballgame, or another event or activity that you once enjoyed.
  • Set realistic goals for yourself.
  • Break up large tasks into small ones, set some priorities, and do what you can as you can.
  • Try to spend time with other people and confide in a trusted friend or relative. Try not to isolate yourself, and let others help you.
  • Expect your mood to improve gradually, not immediately. Do not expect to suddenly “snap out of” your depression. Often during treatment for depression, sleep and appetite will begin to improve before your depressed mood lifts.
  • Postpone important decisions, such as getting married or divorced or changing jobs, until you feel better. Discuss decisions with others who know you well and have a more objective view of your situation.
  • Remember that positive thinking will replace negative thoughts as your depression responds to treatment.
  • Continue to educate yourself about depression.
  • If you have a treatment plan, try to stick to it – it will take time for treatment to work.

Depression is a common and serious condition. Remember, you are not alone. If you are feeling depressed, missing work, or your relationships are being impacted, your EAP is a good place to start to get help.

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