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Where There’s Help, There’s Hope

Sep 24, 2013

We’ve all had days when we felt down and nothing seems to go right. Faced with sometimes overwhelming demands, we all cope with daily situations that can lead to feelings of confusion, inadequacy, failure or hopelessness.

If those bad days outnumber the good ones, and the feelings become a burden, don’t minimize those feelings as just a “blue” period. Feelings of intense sadness, helplessness or hopelessness that endure for more than a few days and interfere with your ability to function on a daily basis may be clinical depression.

Clinical depression is a common condition affecting more than 19 million Americans each year – and it can happen to anyone, regardless of age, race, gender or health status. Despite this, only half of Americans diagnosed with clinical depression receive treatment according to the National Institute for Mental Health.

Many people tend to explain away their symptoms, dismissing them as a personal weakness rather than a legitimate medical condition, or they try to treat symptoms on their own.

Signs, triggers and symptoms

At Three Rivers Medical Center, the specialists encourage patients to learn the signs and symptoms of depression so that they can help themselves or someone they love.

Multiple studies using imaging of the brain have shown actual brain changes in people who suffer from depression. These changes are in the areas of the brain that regulate mood, thinking, sleep, appetite and behavior, as well as imbalances in chemicals that brain cells use to communicate with each other. Trauma or stressful situations such as financial trouble, work pressure, a difficult relationship, a divorce or the death of a family member can trigger depression.

Symptoms of depression

Feeling blue? If you’re experiencing several of the following symptoms at the same time, don’t ignore them – get help. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, depression symptoms include the following:

  • Persistent sad, anxious or “empty” feelings
  • Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness and/or helplessness
  • Irritability and/or restlessness
  • Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
  • Fatigue and decreased energy
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering details and making decisions
  • Insomnia, excessive sleeping or early-morning wakefulness
  • Overeating or appetite loss
  • Thoughts of suicide or suicide attempts
  • Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps or digestive problems that don’t ease with treatment.

Different patients, different symptoms

Symptoms of depression aren’t the same for everyone (see “Symptoms of depression”). The specific symptoms and their severity and duration differ from one individual to another. Many experience a combination of symptoms. Health experts consider a patient to have a diagnosis of depression when at least five of these symptoms occur nearly every day for at least two weeks. Other chronic health conditions that either contribute to, or develop as a consequence of depression must also be treated.