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Depression: You Don't Have to Go it Alone!

Kristi Phillips, PsyD, LP, ACMC-Willmar Skylark Center, Psychology

The National Institute of Mental Health has estimated 6.7% of the US population suffers from depression during any given year. Depression is a common, although serious health issue. Depression can be effectively treated and you don't have to go it alone.

Short lived feelings of being down or sad happen to most people occasionally, but these feelings usually pass within a few days. Depression, if untreated, can carry with it a high cost and may take a toll on our relationships. Depression can potentially lead to loss of relationships, emotional strain on families and make it difficult to manage our careers and day to day interests and responsibilities.

It is common and part of life to grieve over upsetting life experiences such as finding out you or one that you love has a major health issue, death of a loved one, loss of a job, divorce, foreclosure on a house or the discovery that a partner has been unfaithful. For most people, these feelings of grief and sadness tend to lessen with the passage of time.

It is important to note that people who are suffering from depression may not experience the same symptoms. Signs and symptoms of depression include:

  1. Persistent sad, anxious or empty feelings.
  2. Feelings of inappropriate guilt, hopelessness, helplessness or pessimism.
  3. Irritability or feeling keyed up or on edge.
  4. Loss of interest in activities/hobbies, once found pleasurable.
  5. Insomnia, early morning wakefulness or sleeping too much.
  6. Decreased appetite or compulsive eating.
  7. Thoughts or attempts of suicide.
  8. Complaints of other health issues such as digestive problems, headaches, or cramps that don't get better with treatment.

Psychologists can help manage depression by utilizing psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy and other approaches of treatment to help the person suffering better manage their depression and recover. Psychotherapy helps to identify factors that can contribute to depression and psychologists can provide recommendations to contend with the psychological behavior either the interpersonal or situational causes of the depression. Psychotherapy can help to uncover negative cognitions and distorted thinking and help challenge all or nothing thinking and feelings of hopelessness and helplessness which tends to be prevalent thinking patterns in a person who is challenged with depression.

Depression can be managed effectively and is highly treatable if a health care professional is enlisted such as a primary care provider, psychologists or psychiatrist. These professionals have the training and empathy to start the conversation about depression and to help the individual learn healthy strategies of managing their depression so that the symptoms don't continue to worsen.

If you are unsure of where to go for help, ask your family care provider and they can get you or a loved one or the appropriate professionals. Depression is a "real" health issue and support is necessary. Remember, you don't have to go it alone. If you or someone you love is thinking about suicide, get help immediately:

  • Call 911 for emergency services.
  • Go to the emergency room or nearest hospital.
  • Ask a family member or friend to take you to the hospital.
  • Call the toll free 24 hour hotline of the National Suicide Prevention lifeline (1-800-273-TALK) (1-800-273-8255) to be connected to a trained counselor at the suicide crisis center nearest you.

The need for support and involvement of family and friends cannot be over stated. Family and friends can offer emotional support, encouragement and provide assistance in getting their loved one to the appropriate health care professional. People with depression who don't seek help suffer longer and can have their life situation impacted negatively in a manner that could have been avoided. When people become more isolated and don't express their feelings and concerns, the depression can and usually worsens.

In certain situations, medical conditions could be contributing to the depression and might need to be assessed and treated. A few patients might require a combination of medications. Most patients who suffer from a single episode of depression need not remain on medication in the long term. However, patients who have had multiple episodes do well when they remain on medication for a few years, this is something your psychiatrist or primary care provider will discuss with you.

Reference: www.nimh.nih.gov