Is It Depression or Just
By Annette E. Barton, ACSW, BCD
Depression is one of the most under diagnosed
illnesses in this country. There are many reasons for this. One of the biggest
reasons is that people have a tendency to believe that there is nothing wrong with them.
They hear many messages from others that minimize their distress. "Just
buck up!" "Whats your problem?" "Its nothing,
just get over it." "Its all in your head." Eventually
people can start to believe that there is nothing wrong with them and suffer through their
depression as if that was normal. In addition, many patients will go to their
physician with a list of physical complaints. Their doctor may wind up prescribing
medication to manage the presenting symptoms and miss the root of the problems
Depression is an actual illness with physiological
components. When a person is depressed their brain is not producing enough
"feel good" brain chemicals such as serotonin, dopamine, endorphins,
norepinephrine, etc. Without the right balance of these chemicals, a person is
unable to feel good. This can be likened to the diabetic who requires insulin
because their pancreas is not producing enough of this chemical. We dont
criticize or stigmatize a person with diabetes for this, yet society will stigmatize a
When a person just has "the blues," their
symptoms are mild and they only experience this for a brief period of time. Their
mood has little impact on their day-to-day activities. This is not the case for a
person who is depressed. When a person is moderately depressed, their symptoms have
been around for a longer time. They may still be able to function, but it is
becoming harder. The world is starting to get much grayer. With severe
depression, the person is feeling suicidal and may want to completely withdraw from the
Signs of depression:
- Persistent sad, anxious or empty mood
- Crying spells or feeling emotionally shut down
- Feelings of hopelessness, helplessness and/or worthlessness
- Excessive feelings of guilt or self blame
- Sleeping too much, too little and/or having interrupted sleep
- Feeling like things arent fun anymore
- Decreased motivation its harder to push self to
- Decreased concentration
- Increased difficulty making decisions
- Decreased energy
- Memory worsens
- Dissatisfaction with life
- Decreased ability to cope with life
- Chronic fatigue
- Decreased or increased appetite
- Unexplained headaches, backaches or other physical complaints
- Gastrointestinal problems such as stomach pain, nausea, indigestion,
constipation or diarrhea
How can you cope with depression?
- Be honest with yourself about how you are feeling.
- Talk to friends.
- Practice assertiveness and learn how to discuss your concerns with
- Identify possible sources of depression and stress (thinking
distortions, environmental or biological factors).
- Practice rational thinking.
- Utilize stress management strategies.
- Exercise can help you relax, improve your mood (the runners
high really does exist), and sleep better.
- Improve your diet.
- Socialize with your friends and family even if you dont feel
- Try something new.
- Consider journaling your thoughts and feelings to help you sort them
- Talk to your doctor about Natural remedies for depression such as St.
Johns Wort if your depression is mild to moderate.
- If you are feeling severely depressed, you may want to talk with your
doctor about antidepressants.
- Begin therapy with a psychotherapist so you can learn new coping
skills and receive support from a skilled and unbiased professional.
© 2005-2007, Annette Barton, ACSW, BCD
The information provided on this
website is intended for informational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose,
treat, or in any other way substitute for the assistance of a professional.
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