October is Depression Awareness Month: Am I sad or depressed?

October is Depression Awareness Month: Am I sad or depressed?

10/14/21 Laura Gibbons

Most people have felt depressed or down at times, especially when life throws curve balls.  But depression is more than feeling sad, down in the dumps, or having the case of the blues. Symptoms of depression are more severe and interfere with one’s relationships, work, and daily activities. Depression is a serious, but very common condition that affects nearly 7% of the population.

Feeling sad or down can look similar to depression but these feelings are often a normal emotion/reaction to a loss or a setback.  Common triggers for sadness or feeling down may include:

  • Loss of a loved one
  • Bad breakup, divorce
  • Job loss
  • Change in health condition
  • Seasonal sadness
  • Life changes (empty nest, moving, aging)

When feelings of normal sadness or the blues don’t fade, and actually intensify and make it difficult to carry out daily activities, it could be signs of depression.

Depression is different for each person and can impact how one feels, thinks, and handles daily activities, such as sleeping, eating, or working. Symptoms of depression can include:

Emotional: Sad or depressed; loss of interest, pleasure or sense of humor; tearful; irritable; hopeless/helpless; worthlessness or guilt

Cognitive: Negative thinking about self, others or future; indecisive; preoccupied; poor concentration; thoughts of suicide

Behavioral: Lack of interest; risky actions; low energy; avoidant; isolating; overly reliant on others

Physical: Changes in sleep; weight gain or loss; fatigue; reduced sexual interest; moving slowly or restlessness

To take a depression screen, click here.

Depression can be caused by multiple triggers or changes that increase one’s risk for developing depression, including:

  •  Stressful life experiences
  •  Chemical changes in the brain
  •  Genetics
  •  Medical conditions or medications
  •  Hormonal changes
  •  Personality factors

Most experts agree that a combination of talk therapy and medication work best for the treatment of depression. Those with milder depression can be helped with talk therapy and developing effective copings skills. Some helpful ways to cope with depression may include:

  • Engage in activities even if you do not feel like it
  • Set realistic goals and expectations for yourself
  • Break large, overwhelming tasks into smaller, more manageable pieces
  • Postpone big decisions
  • Try to spend time with trusted friends and family members, do not isolate yourself
  • Challenge negative thinking patterns
  • Practice regular and positive self-care
  • Focus on healthy sleep, eating, and exercise
  • Avoid self-medicating with drugs and alcohol
  • Notice gradual improvements in mood
  • Continue to educate yourself about depression, mental health, and overall well-being

It’s never too early to seek help when you aren’t feeling yourself or see changes in your daily functioning. Contacting your EAP or medical professional is a good first step.

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