According to the National Institute of Mental Health, depression is considered one of the most common mental disorders in the United States, affecting more than 10 million adults a year.
Depression is often caused by something specific, such as a loved one passing away or a stressful work or home life situation. However, sometimes depression can just happen. Learning about depression can help you spot it in yourself and others – making it easier to get help when you or a loved one need it.
Depression Symptoms: What You Need to Know
Symptoms of depression can be tricky to spot. Medical professionals are trained to recognize the symptoms of depression – even if patients are having a hard time recognizing it themselves. The most common signs and symptoms include:
- Feelings of sadness, emptiness or hopelessness for most of the day, almost every day.
- Decreased interest or pleasure in most activities nearly every day.
- Significant weight loss or weight gain.
- Inability to sleep or oversleeping nearly every day.
- Fatigue/loss of energy almost every day.
- Feelings of worthlessness or extreme guilt nearly every day.
- Diminished ability to think, concentrate or make decisions almost every day.
- Recurrent thoughts of death (more than a fear of dying), as well as recurrent suicidal thoughts, a suicide attempt or a specific plan for committing suicide.
“It’s important to note that when a patient is experiencing depression, it’s not caused by a substance or a medical condition,” says Steve Durkee, LPCC, PhD, a Behavior Health Specialist at St. Elizabeth Physicians. “It’s more than simply feeling ‘down in the dumps.’ It’s a constellation of symptoms that cause significant distress or impairment in your life – both socially and at work/school.”
Dr. Durkee cautions against using the term “depression” – he says doing so can often become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
“A hidden problem with labeling yourself as ‘depressed’ is that your thoughts and behaviors start to conform to this label, reinforcing it and starting a vicious cycle,” says Dr. Durkee. “You don’t want to ignore a real and pressing problem – but it’s important to not get overly concerned with normal life fluctuations since these are part and parcel of the human condition.”
Depression: Everyone’s “Normal” Is Different
The most important thing to remember is that everyone’s “normal” is different. When your thoughts, feelings or behavior starts to consistently deviate from your normal, it’s time to get help.
The first step to get help is making an appointment with your primary care physician for a consultation. If you’re in need of a quick mood pick-me-up, Dr. Durkee suggests the following:
- Get up and move: Getting your blood flowing will release endorphins, which help you feel better. Just simply taking a short walk can make a big difference.
- Help others: Focusing on others by volunteering at a church, school or social services center can positively impact your mood.
- Watch a funny show or movie: Hitting play on something that makes you truly laugh is a great way to boost your spirits.
- Turn off the news/talk shows/negative stimulation: it’s important to be informed; however, the onslaught of constant news can often be overwhelming. Take a break, unplug and try to only consume news or social media for a short amount of time each day.
St. Elizabeth Behavioral Health: Here When You Need Us
St. Elizabeth is always here for you – 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We offer trained Behavioral Health Specialists for private consultations, as well as Grief Support Groups, Caregiver Support Groups and much more. For more information or to schedule an appointment, please call St. Elizabeth Physicians Behavioral Health at (859) 301-5901.