Feeling down? Is getting through the day more like slogging through peanut butter? Have no energy? At any given time, nearly one out of five people experience symptoms of depression. However there is hope and help out there for you.
What does depression feel like? It is more than feeling bummed after a break up or sad after a relative has died. It's strong and it's not "shakable." When you know someone with depression, you may want to grab him or her and tell them, "Pull yourself up by your boot straps. Get out of bed!" But they just don't seem to be able to control their sad state.
For two weeks or more, the person may have a depressed mood or loss of interest and pleasure in nearly all of his or her activities. A depressed person may also have one or more of these symptoms: unintentional weight loss or gain, change in appetite, too little or too much sleep, fatigue, inappropriate guilt, trouble concentrating or making decisions, and recurrent thoughts of death, even suicide.
Who gets depressed? We are all vulnerable at different times of our lives, but some more than others. Women report being depressed twice as often as men. Other at risk groups include those who are divorced or separated and individuals aged 18 to 44 who suffer depression at higher rates than any other age group.
What causes depression? A variety of factors may be involved, including genetics (i.e. family history of depression), early childhood experiences (such as loss or trauma), environmental factors (like recent stressors or lack of social support) or medical conditions (such as hormone imbalances, infections, cancer, or just having had a baby).
Sometimes people are told to "Just get over it." A depressed person, however, really can't. Left untreated, depression can last for several months, leaving the sufferer unproductive or even out of work and with disrupted relationships. But with treatment, symptoms of depression can start to clear in weeks and enable people to continue being productive and happy.
What treatments are out there? Medications. Psychotherapy. Bright light lamps. Herbals. What is the first step? Get a complete physical and set of blood tests from your internist, family doctor, ob-gyn, or psychiatrist. There is no blood test for depression, but there are reversible causes of depressive symptoms like low thyroid levels or anemia and there are physical consequences to having been depressed like poor nutrition and lack of sleep that can make you more vulnerable to other illnesses.
After your complete physical, your doctor may recommend treatments you can do for yourself like getting regular and adequate sleep and exercise, or treatment with psychotherapy and/or medications to jump start your recovery.
Therapy helps people pinpoint triggers for their depression and deal with the consequences of living with depressive symptoms like trouble at work and in relationships.
If medication is needed, most medications that treat depression have few or no side effects. You and your doctor can pick one that is right for you by exploring the medication's side effect profile. For example, if one medication makes people sleepy and you experience restlessness at night because of depression and anxiety, that particular medication may work well for you.
Don't want to take prescription medication? Some herbals may have good anti-depressant properties like St John's Wort or SAM-e. One should know, however, that not enough studies have been done to know for sure how effective herbals might be. Be sure to tell your doctor what herbals you take, or would like to take, since herbals can affect the metabolism of other drugs making them more or less effective or even building toxic levels. Also, the amount of active ingredient in an herbal preparation can vary from pill to pill so one day's dose may have enough ingredient, while another day's dose may not.
Bottom line to getting better? TALK. Talk to your spouse. Talk to your friends. Talk to your doctor. You are not alone and you can get better with help.
Also, educate yourself and your loved ones. Here are some good websites to help you start: