Depression is a real but often misunderstood mental disorder that can be successfully treated, typically with medications and psychotherapy. Although individuals with depression are sometimes thoughtlessly told to simply “buck up” or “get over it,” depression is an authentic illness that can significantly limit a person’s ability to feel happiness, maintain relationships, achieve goals and fully live their lives. It can interfere with sleeping, eating, exercise and working, and if not treated, it can lead to drug and alcohol dependency, other serious health conditions, suicidal thoughts and even death.
To help us all better understand depression and be able to recognize its signs and symptoms, we at Westchester Health offer this information and guidance so people can get the help they need.
Feeling sad and suffering from depression are not the same
Feeling blue, unloved or hopeless sometimes is a normal part of the human experience, explains Psych Central. There’s nothing wrong with you if you feel that way from time to time, especially in reaction to specific events in your life, such as the death of someone close to you, a romantic breakup, a serious illness or injury, a failed exam or losing your job.
Depression, however, is a sadness so profound that you suddenly can’t function. Nothing seems to matter. People with depression have described it as a black hole they find themselves in that just grows larger and larger every day, and there’s nothing they can do to stop it or get out of it.
If you feel that you or someone you know may be suffering from depression, there are a number of signs that can help identify the condition. Being aware of these can help you or others get needed help and treatment.
10 signs of depression
Recognizing depression can be hard because the signs aren’t always obvious. Some people experience only a few symptoms, while others may exhibit several. Also, the severity of symptoms varies from person to person and can also vary over time.
If you have been experiencing some of the following symptoms nearly every day, for at least two weeks or longer, says Psych Central, you may be suffering from depression.
- Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
- Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness or helplessness
- Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities you once enjoyed, including sex
- Decreased energy, persistent fatigue
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions
- Insomnia, early-morning waking or oversleeping
- Lack of appetite and weight loss, or overeating and weight gain
- Thoughts of death or suicide, or actual suicide attempts
- Restlessness, irritability
Treatment and therapies
Fortunately, depression can be treated, even the most severe cases. As with many health conditions, the earlier treatment can begin, the more effective it is. At Westchester Health, our physicians work closely with mental health professionals to ensure that you receive the best care possible as soon as possible.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, depression is usually treated with medication, psychotherapy or a combination of the two. If these treatments do not prove effective, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and/or other brain stimulation therapies may be successful. The NIH also states that no two people are affected the same way by depression and therefore there is no “one-size-fits-all” treatment. Often many options need to be explored to find what works best for an individual.
Things you can do to help ease your depression
Here are several things that may help you or a loved one while undergoing treatment for depression:
- Try to be active and exercise, outdoors if you can
- Set realistic goals for yourself that you can feel good about accomplishing
- Try to spend time with other people doing something you enjoy
- Confide in a trusted friend, relative, teacher or coach
- Try not to isolate yourself
- Be willing to ask for help
- Realize that your mood will probably improve gradually, not immediately
- Postpone important decisions, such as getting married/divorced or changing jobs,
until you are feeling better. Discuss big decisions with others who know you well and have a more objective view of your situation.
- Continue to educate yourself about depression
Read our Internal Medicine blogs
We’ve written several informative blogs about a variety of internal medicine-related health conditions as well as preventative care, which you can read here.
- National Institute of Mental Health
- SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) National Helpline 800-662-HELP (4357)
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
- Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator (lists facilities providing mental health services in your area)
Are you suffering from depression? Please come see us.
At Westchester Health, we strongly believe that your mental health is a very important part of your overall health. If you feel you or someone you care about is experiencing depression, please call (914) 232-1919 to make an appointment to see one of our Westchester Health Internal Medicine physicians. We are here to listen and to assist you in finding the help you need so you can start feeling better soon. Whenever, wherever you need us, we’re here for you.
By Margaret Andersen, MD, an Internist, Lead Physician and Director of Clinical Education with Westchester Health, member of Northwell Health Physician Partners, and co-founder of Women Caring For Women, an internal medicine practice focused solely on women