On-Call Advice

What are the signs of depression and when should you seek help?

It’s not unusual to feel down or to have the blues from time to time. We all have days when we may feel depressed or sad, or when our self-esteem is low—perhaps because of challenges at work, difficulties in our interpersonal relationships or some type of loss with which we are dealing. Such episodes are generally short-lived and tend not to seriously disrupt our lives and our responsibilities to our families or jobs. However, when depressive feelings last for long periods of time and start to interfere with our daily lives, they may indicate that we’re dealing with something more serious, like clinical or major depression.

Signs of clinical depression include the following:

•   loss of energy or chronic fatigue

•   persistent mood changes expressed as feelings of sadness, gloominess or     emptiness

•   feelings of worthlessness, guilt or being overwhelmed

•   lack of interest in activities, hobbies and pastimes once considered enjoyable

•   agitation or irritability

•   persistent insomnia or, conversely, excessive sleeping

•   loss of appetite, or overeating

•   inability to concentrate or make decisions, or memory loss

•   thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts

 Certain physical reactions may also accompany the signs listed above, such as headaches, gastrointestinal distress, and other aches and pains that often do not respond well to treatment.

If clinical depression isn’t treated, associated signs and symptoms may worsen and persist for months or even years, causing major disruptions in one’s ability to lead a healthy life. Also, since people with major depression are at increased risk of suicide, it’s important not to ignore the signs or delay seeking help.

If you’re wondering whether you may be experiencing depression, talk to your doctor. You should seek professional help if you’re experiencing signs of depression that are causing trouble in your family, in your job or with basic daily tasks. Also, if a loved one is experiencing these kinds of disruptive or long-lasting problems, encourage him or her to seek professional help. Furthermore, always take suicidal thoughts or statements seriously, and seek professional help immediately.

To speak with a healthcare provider about this issue, call 1-800-SENTARA.

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