Question: I hear about people suffering from depression and not knowing it. Sometimes I wonder if I’m depressed or is it just the normal daily pressure and I’m just tired and worn out from being a mom of three preschoolers. How do you know if you are depressed? — Annie, Wapakoneta
Depression is a common and serious mental illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act. Fortunately, it is also treatable.
Depression causes feeling of sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed. It can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems and can decrease a person’s ability to function at work and at home.
Depression symptoms can vary from mild to severe and can include:
• Feeling sad or having a depressed mood.
• Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed.
• Changes in appetite, weight loss or gain unrelated to dieting.
• Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much.
• Loss of energy, increase tiredness or feeling exhausted.
• Increase in purposeless physical activity or slowed movements and speech.
• Feeling worthless and/or guilty.
• Difficulty thinking, concentrating or making decisions.
• Thoughts of death or suicide.
Symptoms must last at least two weeks for a diagnosis of depression. Some medical conditions can mimic symptoms of depression, so it is important to rule out general medical causes.
Depression affects an estimated 6.7% of adults in any given year, and 16.6% of adults will experience depression at some time in their life. Depression can strike at any time but on average, first appears during the late teens and mid 20s. Women are more likely than men to experience depression. Some studies show that one-third of women will experience a depressive episode in their lifetime.
Risk factors: Depression can affect anyone, even a person who appears to live in relatively ideal circumstances. Several factors can play a role in depression:
• Biochemistry: Certain chemicals in the brain may contribute to symptoms of depression.
• Genetics: Depression can run in families.
• Personality: people with low self-esteem and pessimism appear to be more likely to experience depression.
• Environmental factors: Continuous exposure to violence, neglect, abuse (physical, emotional or sexual) or poverty may make some people vulnerable to depression.
How is depression treated? Depression is among the most treatable of mental disorders. Between 80-90% of people with depression eventually respond well to treatment.
• Electroconvulsive therapy and Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation
• Self-help and coping: Regular exercise, getting enough quality sleep, eating a healthy diet, avoiding alcohol and drugs.
Depression is a real illness and help is available with proper diagnosis and treatment the vast majority of people with depression will overcome it. If you are experiencing symptoms of depression, a first step is to see your primary care provider or a psychiatrist. Talk about your concern and request a thorough evaluation. This is a start to addressing mental health needs.
Subrata Roy, MD., Psychiatrist, Director of Psychiatry, Coleman Behavioral Services, 799 S. Main St., Lima, OH 45804