If You’re Feeling Down…

There Are Ways to Find Help

We’ve all had those “off” days where it’s hard to get up in the morning, joy seems elusive and it’s difficult to concentrate. But, what if that moody day stretches out into a moody week or even a moody month? When should you become worried?

“Typically, a person with major dep-ression has symptoms (such as those listed in the box, right) nearly every day, all day, for two weeks or longer,” notes Robin Price, M.D., a family practice physician at the NorthBay Center for Women’s Health in Fairfield.

Depression affects nearly 19 million American adults each year, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, or about 9.5 percent of the population. Sufferers say the color has been drained from daily life, and they are left with feelings of hopelessness, lethargy, numbness and emptiness.

Depression not only affects a person’s mood, but their physical well-being, too, by altering the way they eat and sleep, and even the way they feel about the world in general. It can make daily activities seem almost impossible to accomplish.

So, when is it time to see your doctor? “You should make an appointment with your physician when your symptoms begin to interfere with the daily activities of life and normal functioning,” Dr. Price notes. Your physician will be able to make an official diagnosis, and then help set you on a course of treatment.

Depression has many causes. It can run in families, while others will report no family history of depression. Dr. Price also notes that depression is twice as prevalent in women, with the incidence over a lifetime of 20 percent, while it is around 12 percent for men.

Depression has “multi-factorial causes or triggers,” Dr. Price adds. “People could have a genetic predisposition, a chemical imbalance or lack of neurotransmitters in the brain. Other triggers may be some medicines, such as reserpine or
beta blockers, or the use of illegal substances, such as amphetamines, marijuana or cocaine.” Even stress, trauma or such medical conditions as stroke, multiple sclerosis or myo-cardial infarction can send someone into a depressive state.

That’s why seeing your doctor early is so important, Dr. Price notes. “Early treatment helps keep depression from getting worse or lasting a long time. Treatment can help you to return to your ‘normal’ self, and enjoying life, while also helping to prevent depression from returning.”

There is plenty of good news regarding treatment for depression, according to the institute, but the first step toward feeling better is to make that appointment with your physician. This is your opportunity to discuss not only your emotional symptoms, but your physical ones, as well.

Treatments may include an anti-depressant medication, or visits with a counselor, psychiatrist or psychiatric nurse. Some people with mild depression may find they improve with just psychotherapy, while for others a combination of medications and therapy will lead to brighter days.

The most important thing any-one can do for themselves, or for a loved one who appears to be suffering, is to get a diagnosis and treatment plan started. It may take a while for symptoms to subside, so sustained positive emotional support is important.

To make an appointment with Dr. Price, call the NorthBay Center for Women’s Health at (707) 646-4100.

Check out the institute’s Web site at www.nimh.nih.gov for further information about depression.

Symptoms of Major Depression

  • Feeling sad or hopeless
  • Frequent crying spells
  • Losing interest or pleasure in things you used to enjoy
    (including sex)
  • Feeling guilty, helpless or worthless
  • Thinking about death or suicide
  • Sleeping too much or having problems sleeping
  • Unintended weight loss or gain
  • Feeling very tired all the time
  • Having trouble paying attention and making decisions
  • Having aches and pains that don’t get better with treatment
  • Feeling restless, irritated and easily annoyed

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