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Do I Have Depression?

Do I Have Depression?

Not Feeling Like Your Usual Self? Could it be Depression?

The term “depression” is often misunderstood as simply feeling sad. But in actuality, depression is much more than an emotion. It’s a serious health condition that affects millions of Americans of all ages, genders, and backgrounds. Like other illnesses, left untreated, depression can devastate individuals and their families.

What is Depression?

Depression is a mental health condition that typically changes how a person functions on a daily basis. People who experience depressive episodes (also known as clinical depression) may notice changes in sleep patterns and their appetite. They may also have trouble focusing or making decisions, feel tremendous loss of energy, or feel physically agitated. In addition, they may lose interest in their usual activities; suffer from low self-esteem or hopelessness. Some may even complain about physical aches and pains. Symptoms vary from person to person and may be described differently based on that individual’s background and culture.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), depression can be diagnosed if the patient has experienced a major depressive episode for longer than two weeks, but making an accurate diagnosis can be complicated:

Diagnosing depression can be complicated because a depressive episode can be part of bipolar disorder or another mental illness. How a person describes symptoms often depends on the cultural lens she is looking through. Research has shown that African Americans and Latinos are more likely to be misdiagnosed, so people who have been diagnosed with depression should look for a health care professional who understands their background and shares their expectations for treatment.

What Causes Depression?

An individual’s physical characteristics (such as brain structure), genetic make-up, personal history and/or life circumstances can all contribute to depression. In addition to this, according to NAMI, those who suffer from long term sleep disturbances, other medical illness, chronic pain, anxiety and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are also more at risk for developing depression.

Depression doesn’t affect any one type of person. Individuals may experience depression in different ways and for different reasons. NAMI states:

For cultural reasons, men may feel more shame about their depression.

For cultural reasons, men may feel more shame about their depression.

Men. For cultural reasons, men may feel more shame about their depression and simply try to tough it out or use alcohol or drugs to self-medicate. Untreated depression in men can have devastating consequences, as men are about four times more likely to die by suicide than women.

Women. Many factors unique to women’s lives play a role in whether they develop depression, including genetics, biology, reproduction, hormonal changes and interpersonal relationships.

During their menstrual cycles, many women experience behavioral and physical changes. These changes can include depressed feelings, irritability and other emotional and physical changes. Many women with depression experience worse symptoms before their periods. Women who have premenstrual syndrome (PMS) or premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) will experience gradually worsening symptoms until menstruation starts. Researchers are exploring how the cyclical change in hormones may affect the brain chemistry associated with depression.

Many women experience a temporary mood disturbance after childbirth. But an estimated 9-16% of American women will experience postpartum depression, a disorder that occurs after pregnancy. Women with postpartum depression may find it difficult to function day-to-day because the illness can cause anxiety, insomnia, bouts of crying and thoughts of hurting themselves or the child.

Seniors. Depression in elderly people often goes untreated because many people think that depression is a normal part of aging and a natural reaction to chronic illness, loss and social transition. Depression symptoms in older people may differ from younger people’s symptoms. Depression in seniors can be characterized by memory problems, vague complaints of pain and delusions. Depression can be a side effect of some medications commonly prescribed to older persons, such as medications to treat hypertension, and conditions such as heart attack, stroke, hip fracture or macular degeneration are known to be associated with the development of depression.

LGBTQ. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) people are at higher risk for depression because they regularly face discrimination from society at large and sometimes from family, co-workers or classmates. The stigma experienced by some LGBTQ people can make them more vulnerable to mental health conditions like depression.

Children and teens. All children experience ups and downs while growing up, but for some, the downs aren’t commonplace—they are symptoms of depression. Children and teens at higher risk for depression include those who have attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, learning or anxiety disorders and oppositional defiance disorder. A young person who has experienced considerable stress or trauma, faced a significant loss or has a family history of mood disorders is at increased risk for depression. Children with depression are more likely to complain of aches and pains than to say they are depressed. Teens with depression may become aggressive, engage in risky behavior, abuse drugs or alcohol, do poorly in school or run away. When experiencing an episode, teens have an increased risk for suicide. In fact, suicide is the third-leading cause of death among children aged 15-19.

Treatment Options

Like many other illnesses, depression can be treated. Options vary widely and may include medications, psychotherapy, brain stimulation therapies, light therapy, exercise, and alternative therapies (such as acupuncture, meditation and nutrition). Self-management and spiritual strategies (such as mediation, faith and prayer) may also be effective for some individuals.

Contact Us

Lassen Medical Clinic, Red Bluff
2450 Sister Mary Columba Drive
Red Bluff, CA 96080
Phone: 530-527-0414

Lassen Medical Clinic, Cottonwood
20833 Long Branch Drive
Cottonwood, CA 96022
Phone: 530-347-3418

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