Everyone, regardless of age, income, class, sex, race or creed is at risk of depression. The most common risk factor is a family history of the illness. In addition, people who undergo catastrophes, extremely stressful situations, abuse, serious illnesses or the death of a loved one are at higher risk.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms of depression in adults include:
– Persistent sad, anxious or "empty" mood
– Sleeping too much or too little and middle-of-the-night or early-morning wakening
– Reduced appetite and weight loss, or increased appetite and weight gain
– Loss of pleasure and interest in activities once enjoyed, including sex
– Restlessness, irritability
– Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as chronic pain or digestive disorder
– Difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions
– Fatigue or loss of energy
– Feeling guilty, hopeless or worthless
– Thoughts of suicide or death
Anyone who has five or more of these symptoms for two weeks or longer may have clinical depression and should see a doctor or a qualified mental-health professional.
Do men and women have different symptoms?
Although the basic symptoms are the same, men may exhibit their symptoms in a different way than women. For example, men may be more willing to report fatigue, irritability, loss of interest in work or hobbies and sleep disturbances. Women, on the other hand, talk more openly about feelings of sadness, worthlessness and excessive guilt.
Men more frequently turn to alcohol or drugs when they are depressed. Some become frustrated, discouraged, angry, irritable and even abusive. Men also may throw themselves compulsively into their work as a way to hide their depression. Others may respond to depression by engaging in reckless behavior, taking risks and putting themselves in harm’s way.
How can you recognize depression in a college student home for the holidays?
Parents can expect their college students to be the people they always were when they come home. They should pay attention and ask questions if they see a drastic change in behavior or relationships, or if they notice such signs as weight gain or weight loss.
Students with depression can be sluggish and sad, or they can be angry, rebellious and even frenzied. But these same symptoms could signal that a student is involved in drug abuse or having other problems, so it’s important to ask questions and to listen carefully to the answers.
Can substance abuse cause depression?
Substance abuse can cause depression as a result of chemical changes in the brain. But depression can lead to substance abuse, as well. Many people turn to drugs or alcohol to relieve the misery of their depression.
What are the warning signs that someone is at risk of committing suicide?
Signs of potential suicide include:
– Talking openly about committing suicide
– Talking indirectly about "wanting out" or "ending it all"
– Taking unnecessary or life-threatening risks
– Giving away personal possessions
– Making final arrangements, saying goodbyes
Adolescents also show the following warning signs:
– Suicide threats, direct and indirect
– Obsession with death
– Poems, essays and drawings that refer to death
– Dramatic change in personality or appearance
– Irrational, bizarre behavior
– Overwhelming sense of guilt or shame
– Changed eating or sleeping patterns
– Severe drop in school performance
Does depression affect other illnesses?
The biggest effect of depression on other illnesses is related to motivation. Because depression can cause patients to be unmotivated, they may be less likely to follow through on treatment regimens.
Do other illnesses affect depression?
The risk of clinical depression is often higher in people with serious medical illnesses such as heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes. Many illnesses can produce mood changes, and several medications can cause depression as a side effect.
But depression is not "normal" for people struggling with serious health conditions. If a patient does experience depression, it’s important to treat both illnesses at the same time. Prevention also can help. For example, research has shown that heart attack patients who participate in traditional group psychotherapy may live longer than those who do not receive therapy.
What is the best way to treat depression?
Medical professionals may recommend an antidepressant medication, psychotherapy or a combination. Research also shows that exercise can be highly effective. Treatment is based on each individual’s needs, including physical state, habits, preferences and resources. When depression may be hereditary, the same medication or treatment that worked for other family members may work best for the patient as well.
What are the different degrees of depression, and how are they treated differently?
Depression can be mild, moderate or severe. In general, mental-health professionals use the same types of treatment on all levels of severity: therapy, medication, exercise or a combination. The biggest difference occurs when individuals are so seriously depressed that they are at risk of hurting themselves or others. In that case, hospitalization may be required until the patient’s condition can be stabilized.
Is treatment effective?
Clinical depression is a treatable illness. More than 80 percent of all patients who seek treatment improve. But to ensure success, patients must maintain their treatment and must pursue other options if initial medications or types of therapy do not work. Individuals with depression should never give up.
Where can someone with depression find help?
There are many resources available, depending on a patient’s specific needs. Some starting place:
What are the "holiday blues"?
"Holiday blues" describe mild depression that occurs during the holiday season. Everyone is at risk, but the holiday blues especially can affect people who are stressed, fatigued or lonely. Unrealistic expectations, over-commercialization and financial constraints also can contribute to the seasonal blues. Tips for coping with stress and depression during the holidays include:
– Keep expectations for the holiday season manageable.
– Remember that the holidays don’t banish reasons for feeling sad or lonely.
– Do something for someone else.
– Be aware that excessive drinking will only increase feelings of depression.
– If you are not already exercising, find a way to start. It does not have to be a formal program.
– Spend time with supportive and caring people.
– Moderate your stresses and avoid becoming overcommitted.
– Seek professional help if the holiday blues become too severe and begin to develop into symptoms of depression.
What is seasonal affective disorder, and what can be done about it?
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) occurs when a person’s "biological clock" or circadian rhythm is out of step with the daily schedule. It usually is caused by season changes, and the worst months for most SAD sufferers are December, January and February. However, some people are affected in the summer as well.
Younger people and women are at highest risk. The disorder may be related to melatonin, a chemical in the brain that increases production in the dark. Many people respond well to phototherapy or bright-light therapy, which seems to reduce the brain’s production of melatonin. You should discuss your symptoms and treatment options with your doctor.
Should I fear someone with depression?
No. People with depression or any other kind of mental illness are far more likely to be victims of violence than to commit violence against others. Friendship and support from family, friends and others often can help the patient improve more quickly.
But the stigma of mental illness can cause those who need help to fear losing their friends, support systems and even their jobs. As a result, many may delay or avoid treatment. Because early treatment is the best indicator of success, this delay can prove to be devastating for the person in need of care.
SOURCE: Information compiled by Mental Health Connection and Community Solutions with Cook Children’s Medical Center, the Mental Health Association of Tarrant County, Texas, and Mental Health Mental Retardation/Tarrant County.