Depression Warning Signs
Everyone feels the blues from time to time. Temporary feelings of sadness, frustration, irritability, stress and fatigue are the normal difficulties of daily life, even more so when considering the recent increased threat of terrorism since 9/11 and the war in Iraq. However, if those feelings last most of the day, nearly every day for more than two weeks, they can interfere with a person's usual enjoyment of life's pleasures. Periods like this could signal depression and should be evaluated by your physician.
Depression affects about 20 million Americans-men and women of all races, ages and religions. When untreated or treated inappropriately the disease takes a toll on an individual's ability to function and affects their family and friends. However, with adequate treatment following the recommended guidelines, most people recover. Depression may be mild, moderate or severe. You should contact your doctor if any of the following symptoms occur for two or more weeks:
Depression is a disease; it is not something you can just snap out of. It can be treated effectively when it is identified, but only one of three sufferers gets the correct help. Although the exact cause is not always clear, research shows that an imbalance of certain brain chemicals called neurotransmitters plays a role. Some of the risk factors include:
- A persistent sad mood
- Loss of interest or pleasure in most activities
- Changes in appetite and weight, either increased or decreased
- Changes in sleep pattern, too much sleeping or insomnia
- Restlessness or decreased activity noticeable to others
- Loss of energy or feeling tired all the time
- Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
- Feelings of worthlessness or inappropriate guilt
- Repeated thoughts of death or suicide
When depression causes terrible mood cycles or swings, as in the case of about two million Americans, the condition is called bipolar disease or manic-depressive illness. There is also effective treatment for this condition.
- Prior episodes of depression
- A family history
- Prior suicide attempts
- Recent stressful life events such as divorce or death in the family
- Lack of social support, like going into a new environment or having no friends or family
- Current alcohol or substance abuse
- Certain medical conditions or the treatment for them, including stroke, diabetes, low thyroid function (hypothyroidism), heart disease or cancer
Depression is often accompanied by anxiety disorder. Unlike the typical temporary feelings of nervousness around situations like tests or presentations, anxiety disorder is a chronic illness that does not go away without treatment. It is thought that a number of biological and environmental factors cause anxiety in the same way heart disease and diabetes develop. Anxiety can progress and become totally disabling. Types of anxiety disorders include:
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) occurs when a person has experienced, witnessed or heard about a traumatic event such as rape, other violent attacks, child abuse, war, a natural disaster or a serious accident. Symptoms may include re-experiencing the event, avoidance or loss of interest, and hyper-arousal (feeling irritated and angry or easily startled). Individuals suffering from PTSD may also be depressed or abuse alcohol and or drugs. This condition affects 5.2 million Americans every year; fortunately, there are very effective treatments available if diagnosed.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Panic disorder - periods of intense fear or feelings of going crazy
- Obsessive compulsive disorder - persistent unwanted thoughts and impulses, ritualized behavior
- Phobias - fear of a specific item or situation or fear of public situation
- Generalized anxiety disorder - fatigue, sweating, muscle tension lasting over six months
Depression and anxiety disorders are common. They are no fault of the sufferer and are often effectively treated when diagnosed properly. If you recognize any of the symptoms listed above in you or any of your family members, follow up with your doctor.
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"Depression Warning Signs"
Dr. Pamella Thomas graduated from the University of the West Indies with an MD degree and in 1990 from the Medical College of Wisconsin with a Masters in Public Health degree (MPH). She is an Director Wellness Center Heath Promotion, Lockheed Martin ...