Persistent sadness. Emptiness. Hopelessness. Those are the words many of us to link to depression — those symptoms listed on pamphlets at the doctor’s office and antidepressant commercials tell us to look for.
But depression affects different people in different ways: For some, it can lead to those dark feelings and thoughts that impact daily life and become debilitating; for others, the signs may be a little less obvious. What we know is true for everyone: Depression is not a simple bout with the blues, and you can’t just snap out of it; it’s a serious medical illness that requires treatment.
An estimated one in 10 adults in the USA are depressed. To help you recognize it, take an anonymous depression screening online at www.helpyourselfhelpothers.org or consider these additional signs and symptoms. If they sound familiar (for you or someone close to you) and happen often, talk to your doctor.
• You lose interest in favorite activities. You’ll do what you have to, like go to work and grocery shop, but the things you did simply for pleasure — such as playing tennis or reading — you can’t seem to find the desire or energy. You may also start to distance yourself from loved ones and lose interest in sex.
• You’re easily irritated. What used to be no big deal — like a slow-moving checkout line or too-talkative telemarketer — is now infuriating. You may be more restless or anxious. Men, in particular, tend to get angrier or more aggressive faster if they’re depressed. Women’s symptoms, on the other hand, are typically more based in feelings of sadness, worthlessness and guilt.
• You can’t concentrate. We all get a little scatterbrained now and then, but if you feel like you’re in a fog often, can’t remember appointments, get distracted quickly and have a tough time making decisions, it may be something else. Excessive tiredness is another hallmark symptom, in which mundane tasks, such as picking up dinner or stopping at the dry cleaners, seem to take a ton of effort.
• You eat less and sleep more. Or you eat more and sleep less. Either way, big changes in appetite and bedtime routines can be a sign of depression.
• You have unexplained pain. Many conditions can cause headaches, backaches, cramps and other physical ailments — and depression is one of them. The two are closely connected: People with chronic pain have three times the average risk of developing mood disorders, say some experts, and depressed patients have three times the risk of developing chronic pain.
“The Doctors” is an Emmy-winning daytime TV show with pediatrician Jim Sears, OB-GYN Lisa Masterson, ER physician Travis Stork and plastic surgeon Andrew Ordon. Check www.the doctorstv.com for local listings.