Note: This article is intended to offer general information. Individual issues may differ from this discusion, and therefore should be addressed within a therapeutic setting with a qualified mental health professional.

Depression: Symptoms, Treatment, and Self-Help
by, Cynthia Lindner, MS
(631) 473-0405

Most people can relate to "having the blues" or "feeling down" from time to time, especially following a loss. This is not the same as major depression, although in our culture clinical terms have made their way into our everyday language. It is not unusual to hear some one say "I'm feeling depressed today" when they want to convey that they are feeling sad. True depression is a serious disorder that can cause a person to feel helpless. worthless, and hopeless and can affect every facet of a persons life. People do not have to suffer because depression can be successfully treated.

There are several causes of depression. Sometimes an extreme change in a person's life patterns, such as a serious illness, finacial problems, stressful relationships, or a painful loss can trigger an episode of depression. Sometimes depression seems to run in families, suggesting that there may be a genetic predisposition for depression in some people. Note: Just because you have a family member with depression, you are not necessarily going to develop this condition yourself. Evidence also indicates that people who tend to worry, who have low self-esteem, who see the world in a pessimistic way, and who have difficulty handling stressful events are more prone to depression than other people.

SYMPTOMS OF DEPRESSION: The following symptoms are adapted from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition. Some people will experience several of these symptoms, while others will only have a few of them, and in some people the symptoms can be quite severe.

1. A depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day.
2. A loss of interest in pleasurable activities, like hobbies or sexual activities.
3. A change in appetite or weight (increase or decrease) which are not due to dieting.
4. A change in sleeping patterns including difficulty sleeping or sleeping to much.
5. Being physically slowed down which is noticeable to others. Sometimes there could be a pattern of agitation, restlessness, and irritability which others will notice.
6. Feeling fatigued and less energetic. Finding it difficult to get moving.
7. Having feelings of helplessness, worthlessness, and guilt. Thoughts that the situation is hopeless.
8. Difficulty with memory, concentration, and/or decision making.
9. Having thoughts of death or suicide, or actually making suicide attempts.
Other symptoms of depression may include: Anxiety, panic episodes, substance abuse, family conflict, or sexual inhibition.

TREATMENT OF DEPRESSION: Major depression is treatable in 80% of the population. People are most frequently treated with both medication and psychotherapy. Although the best results seem to come from this combination, many people respond best to "talk"therapy alone, and some people respond best to antidepressant medication alone.

A depressive disorder is a very serious condition which can affect every area of a person's life. It is not a sign of personal or emotional weakness. It is a problem for which a person should seek professional help, because most people do get better when they they find and participate in the most most beneficial treatment.

1. Treat yourself, everyday if possible, to some type of activity that makes you feel better. Take a bubble bath, go for a walk in the park, or attend a social or religious function.
2. Plan to spend as much time as you can around other people.
3. Do not set difficult goals for yourself, and take on no more responsibility than you can realistically handle.
4. Do some exercise or a physical activity like gardening. This can help to elevate your mood.
5. Give yourself permission to be depressed. Don't expect too much from yourself, since this will only lead to feelings of failure.
6. Realize that you may have negative thoughts, and that they are only a symptom of the depression. As your depression gets better, the negative thought patterns will go away.
7. Avoid making major decisions until your depression is under control. If decisions cannot wait, consult someone who can be objective to help you.

Not all depressions are alike. The type of depression a person may have depends on the cause, and on the persons individual way of adapting to life situations, and this disorder. It is important to recognize that depression can be treated, and to seek treatment if you or a loved one is depressed.
Courtesy of the Port Jefferson Counseling Center, NY

Copyright 2000-2011 by, C. Lindner, all rights reserved.