Everyone experiences variations in moods - sadness, disappointment, temporary 'blues' or the normal grief that accompanies any crisis. The death of a loved one, loss of a job, or the end of a relationship are difficult experiences for an individual to endure. It is normal for feelings of sadness or grief to develop in response to such stressful situations. Those experiencing trying times, may often describe themselves as being 'depressed'; but sadness and depression are not the same. While feelings of sadness will lessen with time, the disorder of depression can continue for months, even years. Researchers have demonstrated that it results from biochemical imbalances in the brain.
Fortunately, depression is very treatable. The majority (80%-90%) of people who receive treatment experience significant improvement, and almost all individuals derive some benefit from medical care. Unfortunately, individuals may not recognize their symptoms as signs of an illness, or they may fear the reactions of co-workers, friends, and family. As a result, millions of people with depression do not seek treatment and unnecessarily experience problems at their jobs or in their relationships.
Depression has a variety of symptoms, but the most common is a deep feeling of sadness. People with depression may feel tired, restless, hopeless, helpless, and generally overwhelmed by life. Simple pleasures are no longer enjoyed, and their world can appear dark and uncontrollable. Emotional and physical withdrawal are common responses of depressed people.
Depression can occur at any age, but most often appears for the first time during the prime of life, from ages 24 to 44. One in four women and one in 10 men will confront depression at some point in their lives.
Depression is diagnosed if a person experiences persistent feelings of sadness, or anxiety, or loss of interest or pleasure in usual activities, in addition to five or more of the following symptoms for at least 2 consecutive weeks.
Depression is diagnosed only if the above symptoms are not due to other conditions (e.g., neurological or hormonal problems) or illnesses (e.g., cancer, heart attack) and are not the unexpected side effects of medications or substance abuse.
How is depression treated?
Before a specific treatment is recommended, a psychiatrist will conduct a thorough diagnostic evaluation, consisting of an interview and a physical examination.
Antidepressants may be prescribed to correct imbalances in the levels of chemicals in the brain. These medications are not habit-forming; and they generally have no stimulating effect on people not experiencing depression.
Psychotherapy or 'talk therapy'
This may also be used for treatment of mild depression or in combination with antidepressant medications for moderate to severe depression.
Psychotherapy can involve only the individual patient or include family members.
Depression is never normal and always produces needless suffering. With proper diagnosis and treatment, depression can be overcome in the vast majority of people. If you are experiencing symptoms of depression, see your physician or psychiatrist, describe your concerns, and request a thorough evaluation.
You will feel better.