Depression Is More Than Feeling Blue
Depression is not "all in your head." It is a real illness that saps your energy. It can leave you feeling sad, hopeless, lonely and guilty. It is related to a chemical imbalance in the brain and to certain traits such as low self-esteem and pessimism. A tendency to have some kinds of depression may be inherited.
Doesn't Everyone Get Depressed?
When someone close breaks off the relationship or moves away, you lose a job, your marriage ends, or you just have a bad day, it's normal to feel blue. The difference between depression and feeling down is that normal feelings of sadness gradually lift. They don’t last long and interfere with your life.
The amount of time you feel sad depends on the situation. Even with a major loss, some people might start feeling better within a few weeks. Their sadness doesn't usually affect every part of their lives. When your feelings persist or when they affect you in ways that don't seem consistent with the loss, it could be a sign that you’re suffering from clinical depression.
What's it Like to Have a Depression?
The difference between having a depression and feeling down is how severe the symptoms are and how long they last. To help you determine if you have a depression, answer these questions.
Do you often or usually feel sad, anxious or "empty?"
Do you sleep too little or too much?
Has your appetite shrunk, and have you lost weight? Or do you have a bigger appetite, and have you gained weight?
Have you lost interest in or pleasure from activities you once enjoyed?
Are you restless or irritable?
Do you have persistent physical symptoms, such as headaches, chronic pain or constipation, that don't respond to treatment?
Do you have difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions?
Do you often feel tired or lack energy?
Do you feel guilty, hopeless or worthless?
Do you have recurring thoughts of death or suicide?
If you answered yes to three or more of these questions and the symptoms interfere with your daily routine and you have felt this way for longer than two weeks, you should see your doctor.
One of the most painful parts of a depression is feeling that it is somehow your fault or something that you should be able to control. But depression is an illness. It is no more your fault than allergies or arthritis. It's important to talk with your doctor about your feelings, certainly if you have thoughts about dying or suicide. Once you do talk to your doctor, he or she can determine whether you have a depression and decide what kind of treatment may work best for you.
For other sources of help for depression, look in your local telephone Yellow Pages under Social and Human Services. This section lists some of the many people available who can help you overcome this illness. Getting treated can make a huge difference in your life. Most depressed people who get professional help feel better, and the effects of treatment on some people can be dramatic.