What it is. What it isn't.
And what do I do?
A short video from TED Talk describing the signs, symptoms, causes, and treatment of depression
IS IT NORMAL TO FEEL SAD?
We all feel sad, down, or blue from time to time. Some of us might have even used the word "depressed" to describe the experience. It might seem strange to hear, but sadness is a very normal, human emotion that occurs when we're struggling with difficult circumstances or when we've lost something or someone who's important to us. It's a way of expressing sorrow and an important signal that we're feeling unhappy. Sadness comes and sadness goes, but we often return back to feeling "normal" after a period of time.
It's when sadness doesn't go away that it might be time to explore whether we're clinically depressed.
WHAT'S CLINICAL DEPRESSION AND HOW'S IT DIFFERENT FROM SADNESS?
Clinically depression is different from prolonged sadness or grief as it tends to be more intense, lasts much longer and can really interfere with how we function day-to-day. Another difference between depression and sadness is that it's not a singular feeling, but a collection of symptoms that might involve how we're thinking (e.g., low self-worth) , feeling (e.g., hopeless), acting (e.g., isolating), and even physically functioning (e.g., sleeping, eating). This collection of symptoms can occur in a variety of different ways and look very different between people.
What clinical depression is NOT is abnormal as upwards of 10-20% of adults in the US experience an episode of depression that might require professional help.
WHAT CAN I DO TO EVALUATE AND TREAT CLINICAL DEPRESSION?
The first and most important step in addressing depression is to develop a clear understanding of the signs and symptom. This can can help you determine whether you're experiencing more than just sadness or grief. Consider using the "Facts About Depression" overview written by the National Institute of Mental Health for a comprehensive review of what to look out for.
Another helpful strategy is to consider using a screening device to determine if it's time to seek professional help. The "Depression Screen" link to the right is an opportunity to learn whether you're experiencing enough distress to consider talking with your primary care physician or a psychologist about your options for treating this condition.
If it's determined by a mental health professional that your struggling with depression, they will offer you options for how it can be treated successfully. This might include psychotherapy with a psychologist using strategies grounded in research like cognitive-behavioral therapy, medications like antidepressants that can help to alleviate the distress of what you're experiencing, a combination of each, and lifestyle changes (e.g., exploration of diet, exercise, sleep hygiene).
Whatever the method, please know that you deserve more than to feel depressed and that this is a very treatable condition.
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