Does My Depression Need Treatment?
Depression is a disorder that affects approximately 17.3 million Americans in any given year. That is about 7.1% of our population. It affects women more than men and although it affects more adults than children, children also can get depression. Seniors also often suffer from depression and can be at high risk for suicide.
Most of us have a basic understanding of what feeling depressed or sad feels like, but how can you tell if you are just feeling down, or if you have a Depressive Disorder and should seek treatment?
Symptoms of Depression
In order to be diagnosed with depression, a person has to meet a certain number of criteria or symptoms (5 or more) during a 2-week period. These symptoms include:
1. Being depressed or sad for most of the day, almost every day for the 2-week period.
2. Having a decreased interest or pleasure in the things that normally bring the person happiness
3. A significant weight change (either gain or loss), or a significant change in your appetite
4. Significant changes in sleep (either marked difficulty sleeping or increased time spent sleeping)
5. Psychomotor agitation or depression, meaning that you are displaying either an increase (agitation) or a decrease (depression) in purposeless activities such as pacing or tapping your fingers
6. Fatigue or decreased energy
7. Feeling worthless or having excessive guilt
8. Difficulty concentrating, thinking, or making decisions
9. Recurrent thoughts of dying, or suicidal thoughts or attempts
Although it’s not officially a diagnostic criterion, irritability and anger can be a symptom, especially in boys and men. People with depression often will have physical symptoms as well. These might include stomach pain, indigestion, muscle pain, headaches, increased blood pressure, an impaired immune response, IBS/ulcerative colitis, or even cardiac disease.
Of course, diagnosing is not as easy as picking symptoms off a list and it takes a trained professional to diagnose people competently. This will give you a good idea of what Major Depression looks like though.
How to Know if you Should Seek Help
All of us can feel sad, lonely, or overwhelmed at various times. Maybe we’ve experienced the loss of a loved one or pet, perhaps we lost a job that we loved or an old memento that reminds us of better times. Or perhaps you aren’t doing as well in life as you expected you would be. Whatever triggers us, we can start feeling sad. But this is not necessarily depression or a signal of a need for treatment. So how do you know when you’ve crossed this invisible line?
I think one of the main indicators is if you feel in over your head or that you can’t handle your feelings anymore. If you feel like you aren’t able to live your life as fully as you’d like, then you should definitely ask for help.
Another definite sign that you should seek treatment is if you have been thinking about or planning to end your own life. Feeling suicidal is the ultimate in feeling worthless and hopeless and should not be ignored. Your life is precious and if you are starting to doubt this, even if you know you won't do anything, please talk to someone about these feelings!
Of course, even if you are only feeling a little sad or out of sorts, you can still benefit from someone to talk to! Therapists are trained to help support you through the difficult times of your life. We can lend an outsider's perspective, a kind ear, and a non-judgmental sounding board.
Your depression is probably telling you that nothing will help and you will never feel better. However, therapy can help. In fact, studies show that therapy is more effective than the use of medications in the treatment of depression, especially in mild to moderate depression. Therapy's effects are longer lasting too. If you are interested in talking some more about this, or if you would like information on depression treatment, please follow the link!