Depression is more than just grief in reaction to life's difficulties and misfortunes. Depression alters how you think, feel, and operate in everyday tasks. Major life experiences, such as a divorce or loss of employment, can trigger depression. You can get depressed when you experience chronic sadness for weeks or months rather than just a few days.
Feelings of grief are only considered depression if they become prolonged and interfere with your daily functioning. Depression can cause a range of mental and physical challenges, as well as a decrease in your productivity both at work and at home.
Luckily, depression, also known as clinical depression or major depressive disorder, is treatable. Seeking help early can have a significant impact on someone suffering from depression.
Learning about emerging symptoms or early warning signs, and acting on them, can make a huge difference. Early intervention can serve to lessen the severity of the depression disorder condition. It may even be able to slow down or avoid the condition entirely.
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You're probably wondering how you'd know if you're depressed.
Depression can manifest itself in different ways, depending on the individual, and here are some warning signs.
Feeling insecure and hopeless
When you're depressed, you may feel trapped and feel like nothing will ever change, or there is nothing you can do to fix your status.
Losing interest or pleasure in activities you used to love and enjoy
You're no longer interested in old pursuits, interests, events, or romance.
Changes in appetite or weight
When depressed, you can experience significant weight loss or gain.
A shift in sleeping patterns
You may find yourself either oversleeping or having trouble sleeping.
Getting easily offended and irritable
When depressed, you may have a really short fuse. Your patience is low, your temper is short, and most things and people irritate you.
Tiredness or energy deficiency
You may tire quickly, feel sluggish, and minor chores may seem demanding or take longer to perform.
Feeling worthless and experiencing intense guilt
You are severely critical of yourself for apparent flaws and errors.
Many depressed people may turn to drugs and obsessive gambling, trying to forget or escape their depressed feelings.
Difficulties with focusing
You may experience difficulties in concentrating or remembering details.
Thoughts of life not worth living
You may experience suicidal thoughts in very difficult times. This is serious, and help should immediately be sought.
Increased physical symptoms such as headaches, back discomfort, hurting muscles, and stomach pain may point to depression.
Depression affects people of all age groups, races, ethnicities, and socioeconomic backgrounds, although it affects certain groups more than others. More than 19 million adults in the United States—nearly 8% of the population—experienced at least one severe depressive episode in 2020.¹
Women, more than their male counterparts, are more likely to suffer from depression. According to some research, one in three women will have a major depressive episode sometime during their lives.²
Other risk factors include:
Suffering from extreme stress
Lack of effective coping techniques
Prescribed meds such as corticosteroids, beta-blockers, and interferon
Having experienced a past bout with severe depression
Having a long-term illness, such as diabetes or cardiovascular disease
If you plan to see your doctor about depression, here are a few tests your doctor could prescribe.
Your doctor may do a physical exam and ask you health-related questions. Depression may be connected to an underlying physical health condition in some situations. Your doctor may attend mainly on the brain and endocrine systems during the physical exam.
The doctor will investigate any serious health issues that may be contributing to the depression symptoms.
Your doctor may request lab testing to rule out other diagnoses. Your doctor will most likely order blood tests to rule out any medical problems that might be causing your symptoms.
Blood tests will be used to screen for anemia, thyroid, or perhaps other hormones, and occasionally calcium and vitamin D levels. For instance, your doctor may perform a blood count or examine your thyroid to ensure it is working correctly.
Your mental health professional will inquire about your symptoms, thoughts, feelings, and patterns of behavior. To help you answer these questions, you might be asked to fill out a questionnaire.
It is critical to remember that the assessments and questionnaires used by the doctor are only one element of the diagnostic process of determining depression. On the other hand, these tests can occasionally provide your doctor with more information about your mood. They can use them to establish a more definite diagnosis.
Your mental health practitioner may use the criteria for depression outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) of the American Psychiatric Association. To be diagnosed with severe depression, a medical expert must establish that your symptoms are not because of another source, such as a physical illness, a side effect of medicine, or drug abuse.
Although online depression tests can help you determine if you have symptoms that require medical treatment, only a healthcare practitioner or mental health practitioner can diagnose you. These online tests cannot make the diagnosis, and they are not all from reliable sources. Ensure that you take a test from a credible source, such as a teaching hospital or institution, and that you always submit your outcomes to your doctor.
An early diagnosis can bring lots of benefits. You may feel relieved that you can put a label on a problem, and this will help you and your doctor decide what type of treatment would be best for you.
Getting diagnosed with depressive disorder is not the end of the road. The majority who have depression recover. With appropriate guidance and support, you are more likely to overcome it and achieve your life goals.
You may face several obstacles when you begin your therapy, but there is still hope. Depression can be managed. And there are some things you can do for yourself following a diagnosis to help you cope with the news, stay on track with your treatment, and aid in your recovery.
Your doctor may recommend taking antidepressants to treat your depression. Following an initial evaluation, your doctor may also recommend you to one of the following experts for additional care:
General practitioner (GP)
A general practitioner (GP) is a medical doctor (MD) who has finished four years of medical school, followed by a residency and, in some instances, a fellowship. General practitioners and family doctors can test for depression and prescribe medications, but they can also refer you to a psychiatrist, psychologist, or counselor.
Typically, your GP will conduct medical examinations and establish a diagnosis, excluding other causes of depression such as physical causes. If your depression is minor, your general practitioner may be the only health expert you require. If you require more therapy, your GP may recommend you to a psychiatrist or psychologist.
Psychiatrists are physicians who have finished an undergraduate degree, medical school and gained specialist status through many years of training. A psychiatrist can recommend solutions to your general practitioner and often work within a wider team with other allied specialists to provide a tailored treatment package for you.
Your treatment will commonly integrate both drugs and psychotherapy. Psychotherapy is a talking therapy that guides you in talking through any emotional difficulties that may be causing your symptoms. Talk therapy is highly successful in treating clinical depression and is the first line for treating mild to moderate depression.
Psychologists, like psychiatrists, have undertaken post-graduate studies. They have finished a non-medical doctoral program. Psychologists frequently specialize in providing specialized diagnostic tests and counseling in several situations.
Psychologists do not prescribe drugs, but their services are quite valuable. They have been trained to conduct clinical interviews, psychological assessments, and testing to assess your mental health.
They are capable of making a diagnosis as well as providing individual and group therapy. Some people may have received training in certain types of treatment, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), and other behavioral therapy methods.
A licensed mental health counselor (LMHC) has two to three years of graduate counseling study. Depending on the state, a counselor may need to be certified by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC).
Counselors cannot provide prescription medicine. Depending on the treatment context, they may have some employment titles, such as counselor, clinician, therapist, or something else.
Working with one of these mental health experts can improve ways of thinking, feeling, living, and symptom reduction.
A licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) completes approximately two years of graduate therapy study, coupled with an internship and supervised field experience. They are specially trained to assess your mental health and employ therapeutic approaches based on particular training programs. They are also taught case management and advocacy skills.
Although depression disorder can be a severe condition, it more often than not responds to therapy. Exercise and abstaining from drugs and alcohol can help keep depression at bay.
Discuss your symptoms with your doctor to develop an appropriate treatment strategy. Begin with a few simple goals and work your way up, attempting to do a bit more each day.
Your doctor may recommend medication, psychotherapy, or both to address your depression. And since the risk factors and symptoms of depression differ, treatment methods will be tailored to your case.