Sadness and grief are normal human emotions. These feelings can often last for a short period of time. However, when these emotions last for many days or weeks, depression becomes a concern.
According to the American Psychiatric Association, depression is a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act. Fortunately, depression is among the most treatable of mental disorders. Between 80 per cent and 90 per cent of people with depression eventually respond well to treatment. Almost all patients gain some relief from their symptoms.
In the past, stigma surrounding depression caused some people to avoid seeking help. As celebrities, musicians, and even politicians speak out about their own struggles with depression, people have felt empowered to take the steps to find the help they need.
Symptoms of depression
It can be difficult to know when feeling down is turning into something more concerning. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, a major depressive episode may include some of these symptoms:
• Persistent sad, anxious or “empty” mood
• Feelings of hopelessness
• Feelings of guilt, worthlessness or helplessness
• Restlessness, irritability
• Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies
• Decreased energy
• Difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions
• Insomnia, early-morning awakening or oversleeping
• Low appetite and weight loss, or, overeating and weight gain
• Thoughts of death or suicide
• Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment (such as headaches, digestive disorders and pain for which no other cause can be diagnosed)
Three steps that can help
People experiencing some or all of these symptoms can take action by following these three steps.
Step 1: Get screened by a qualified mental health expert. Depression can only be diagnosed by a health care professional who has special assessments and tools to make the appropriate diagnosis.
Step 2: Talk to your healthcare provider about a treatment plan. Depression can be managed with the right treatment options. A healthcare provider can determine the strategy that works best for you. Common treatment plans may include psychotherapy and medication.
Step 3: Follow a treatment plan closely and take medications as prescribed. Abruptly stopping medications may cause withdrawal symptoms that could worsen depression.
Depression doesn’t discriminate. It impacts all races, ages and genders. Take these first steps to help manage your symptoms.