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  • Writer's pictureMelissa Paulsen, MA, LMFT, RPT-S

A Closer Look At: Depression

“That’s the thing about depression: A human being can survive almost anything, as long as she sees the end in sight. But depression is so insidious, and it compounds daily, that it’s impossible to ever see the end.”

– Elizabeth Wurtzel, Prozac Nation

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) reports that 20.9 million American adults or about 9.5 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older have a mood disorder in any given year. Major Depressive Disorder is the leading cause of disability in the United States for people ages 15-44 and it is more prevalent in women than in men. Individuals who are unemployed or recently divorced are most likely to suffer from depression.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) lists the following symptoms of a Major Depressive Episode:

  1. Depressed mood most of the day nearly every day. You might feel sad, empty or hopeless. Other people might state you often appear fearful, tired, or sad. For kids and teens, this might look more like an irritable mood.

  2. Loss of interest or pleasure in most activities most of the day nearly every day.

  3. Significant weight loss or weight gain (a change of more than 5 percent of body weight in a month) or a significant change in appetite.

  4. Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much, nearly every day.

  5. Thoughts, movements, and speech all appear to be slower than usual (this would be observable by others).

  6. Fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day.

  7. Feeling worthless or excessive or inappropriate guilt about things nearly every day.

  8. Diminished ability to think, concentrate, or make decisions nearly every day.

  9. Recurrent thoughts of death, recurrent suicidal ideation without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt or a specific plan for committing suicide.

If 5 or more of these symptoms are present for more than 2 weeks and cannot be better explained by a physical illness or other mental health diagnosis such as schizophrenia and are causing you distress or impairment in your social life, home life, or work life, you should consider seeking help. Outpatient therapy can be helpful as can the utilization of antidepressant medications. Often times a combination of medication and therapy can be quite effective. Talk with your therapist and/or doctor to see what combination is right for you.

Things you can try to elevate your mood:

  • Elicit the help of the supportive people in your life (significant other, friends, and family).

  • Get enough sleep. Try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day.

  • Eat healthy. Limit sugar and caffeine intake.

  • Exercise regularly; 30 minutes a day has been shown to elevate mood.

  • Try to do the things you once found enjoyable or try a new hobby.

  • Challenge your negative thinking patterns.

  • Know when to get help from a professional; talk to your doctor or schedule an appointment with a therapist in your area.

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