We often hear our friends or family say they feel “depressed”, conveying they feel sad about a situation or event. While sadness is definitely a part of clinical depression, it’s a small part of a genuine and serious illness that is more than sad emotions or a phase, but may actually affect functioning. Some signs of depressive illness, which may vary in degree and combination for each individual, are:
- feeling a lack of energy or motivation to engage in typical activities
- loss of interest, enjoyment or pleasure in the usual things
- changes in behavior, such as moving or talking slower than usual or even becoming fidgety, irritable, or restless
- feeling sad, anxious, or empty
- noticeable changes in appetite – either poor appetite or overeating
- noticeable changes in sleep – either staying asleep or having trouble falling or staying asleep
- feeling guilt, worthlessness or hopelessness
- trouble concentrating, including the simple ones
- thoughts or mentions of suicide
It’s important to know that there is no single cause for depression; it’s likely a combination of factors that include genetic, biochemical, psychological, and environmental factors. Since both the signs and causes of clinical depression can be a unique combination of things, it’s critical that you take an inventory for yourself or those important to you and admit when there is a significant problem.
Once you have taken the first step to recognize the symptoms, the next step, although a difficult one, is to seek professional help. At AMHCA, we encourage you to see a clinical mental health counselor, or other mental health provider, to address these symptoms and create solutions as early as possible. Often a medical evaluation is needed to rule out a physical condition, but once diagnosed, the treatment can involve psychotherapy, most often cognitive-behavioral therapy, but also medication, and a variety of other activities to help alter the course of the condition. Sometimes, adjunctive treatment or self-help groups can help alleviate the symptoms and even help prevent them in the future.
Depression is a very treatable disorder and our goals are to heighten awareness, empower those affected by clinical depression, and to encourage treatment to alleviate suffering and long-term consequences to individuals, families, and communities.
For more information, visit the National Institute of Mental Health at www.nimh.nih.gov or take a free, anonymous online screening or find a site to participate in person at http://helpyourselfhelpothers.org. Be sure to discuss the results with a visit to a clinical mental health counselor. Call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at (800) 273 – TALK if you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts.