Today, mental illnesses are at last beginning to be recognized for what they truly are: illnesses. Neither having nor seeking help for clinical depression should be thought of as a sign of personal weakness. It is not something people can just “get over” or shake off. An individual suffering from clinical depression will experience changed eating habits and thought patterns and an altered ability to work, focus, or interact with people. It is a serious condition that can last for months or even years. Untreated, symptoms of clinical depression may escalate to thoughts or attempts of suicide. Sadly, clinical depression affects over 17 million Americans a year, according to the American Psychiatric Association, and frequently goes undiagnosed. Sometimes the cause of depression is very clear to the sufferer (such as a tragic or traumatizing event like death in the family or sexual assault), but this is not always the case. Depression is linked to changes in the chemical functioning of the brain, which may be brought on by psychological and environmental stressors. Common stressors include: academic or workplace demands, a new environment, family or financial concerns, chronic illness, or substance abuse.Studies suggest that clinical depression is also related to genetics. However, not everyone with a family history of depression will experience this condition and those with no known genetic pre-disposition may suffer from depression.Because clinical depression interferes with a person’s ability, or perceived desire, to seek professional help, it is important to be able to recognize symptoms of clinical depression if you suspect someone you know or care about may be in need of assistance. With the help of a licensed professional, many people notice some improvement after only a few weeks.Symptoms of clinical depression can be typically divided into three categories: physical, behavioral, and emotional. Read on for the seven most common signs to be aware of.
Symptoms of Clinical Depression
1. Alterations in sleep pattern (insomnia or oversleeping)
2. Changes in eating habits (overeating or barely eating at all) and weight
3. Unexplained physical problems like headaches, stomachaches, or other digestive problems
4. Neglect of personal appearance or hygiene
5. Loss of interest or enjoyment in activities that were formerly pleasurable, like spending time with friends, hobbies, sporting activities, or even sex
6. Fatigue, accompanied by feelings of emptiness, worthlessness, hopelessness
7. Anxiety or irritability
There are different forms of depression, so symptoms of clinical depression may vary in type and degree:
Major Depression: Inability to experience enjoyment, in episodic occurrences with moderate to severe symptoms; episodes of depression may occur only once in a lifetime, but are more often reoccurring
Dysthymia: Chronic depression or “low mood;” less severe than major depression, but the long-term symptoms prevent the sufferer from feeling positive and functioning at his or her full ability
Bipolar Disorder: Condition in which the sufferer feels alternating periods of depression and mania (unusual elation and activity)
Seasonal Affective Disorder: Episodic depression brought about by decreased exposure to sunlight as the seasons change
If you recognize the above symptoms of clinical depression in yourself or someone you care about, seek help immediately. Talk with your loved one and be as supportive as you can, even if this person seems altered and says hurtful things that normally he or she wouldn’t even think. You might want to accompany this person to a therapy session, as it can take a lot of courage to seek help. Having someone to lean on can help when seeking professional counseling.
You can always contact me for a free consultation to see how I can help you or your loved one.