Depression is a serious mood disorder likely rooted in a combination of factors: Genetics, chemical imbalances in the brain and stress.
It’s more serious than feeling “blue” for a day or two; symptoms can last from weeks to years and can contribute to other serious illnesses, including heart disease and stroke, according to the National Institute on Mental Health.
Depression looks a little different in everyone, but, in general, most people experience some combination of these symptoms:
- Feeling sad or empty
- Sleeping too much or not at all
- Eating too much or not at all
- Feeling hopeless, anxious or irritable
- Avoiding friends and family
- Loss of interest in favorite activities
- Feeling very tired
- Not being able to concentrate or remember details
- Thoughts of suicide or suicide attempts
- Headaches, stomach aches or stomach cramps or muscle aches and cramps that don’t seem to have a clear cause
People experience depression differently. Children may show physical symptoms – wanting to stay home from school because of a stomach ache, for example, while women may feel guilty or worthless and men may seem irritable or even angry, according to NIMH.
A number of effective options, including medications, counseling or psychotherapy and even physical activity, such as dancing, yoga or even walking, can help ease depression symptoms. The first step is seeking help through your healthcare provider or the employee assistance program (EAP) at your job.
To help a loved one experiencing depression, listen patiently and talk compassionately. Remind them that things will get better. Invite them out for coffee, a movie or a walk. Do not ignore comments about suicide.
To help yourself, talk to your doctor about treatment options. Focus on taking care of yourself by eating well, sleeping the right amount and getting some exercise. Don’t make any major life decisions and try to break tasks that seem overwhelming down into smaller, simpler steps.
If you or a loved one is experiencing a crisis – including thoughts of suicide – get help immediately. Talk to your physician, call 911 or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.