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The Holiday Blues?

depression

Is it the blues or depression?

We are in peak holiday mode, when night time creeps in early and sugar lurks on every corner. It’s a breeding ground for the blues. In the United States, between 5 to 20 percent of the population grapples with depression. That number increases for those living below the poverty level. Women, blacks and those ages 40-59 have higher depression rates. The World Health Organization reports that depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide.

Symptoms of Depression

In Darkness Visible, author William Styron described depression as “the gray drizzle of horror.”  Less poetically, depression presents itself in many ways, such as persistent sadness, anxiety, irritability or decreased energy.  The notion of persistence is important when defining depression because all humans occasionally feel sad or irritable.

Feelings of anxiety or sadness that last for more than a few weeks may signal depression. HCV-related depression may have features of hypomania or mania. The National Institute of Mental Health publication Depression lists the following common symptoms of depression:

  • Feeling sad or “empty”
  • Fits of crying with no reasonable explanation
  • Feeling hopeless or pessimistic
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
  • Feeling anxious, irritable, or restless
  • Loss of interest or enjoyment in hobbies, social activities, or sex
  • Fatigue or decreased energy
  • Poor memory, difficulty concentrating, and decision-making problems
  • Insomnia or other sleep-related problems
  • Appetite loss and/or weight loss
  • Overeating and/or weight gain
  • Thoughts of death or suicide; suicide attempts

Important Note: Seek immediate professional help if you have thoughts of suicide or hurting yourself or others.

Men may experience depression differently than women do. Men report fatigue, irritability, sleep problems and loss of interest in areas that used to provide pleasure. They are more likely to use substances such as alcohol or drugs or throw themselves into their work. When depressed, men may be easily frustrated, angry, or abusive. Women are more likely to feel sad, worthless or excessively guilty. Women are more likely to attempt suicide but men are more likely to die by that means.

Depression Prevention and Treatment

There are a number of antidepressants on the market. Generally, medications known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are prescribed. SSRIs have slightly different features and recommendations will be made based on your medical history.

Antidepressants have potential side effects. If you have specific concerns about a particular antidepressant, read the product information and discuss these concerns with your medical provider. A pharmacist is also a good resource. Never stop antidepressant medications on your own.

There are no proven non-drug or alternative treatments for interferon-related depression.

Social support may reduce depression risk. Activities which stimulate positive neurochemicals may also help. Below are some suggestions that may improve your mood. These are not substitutes for medical treatment, but ways that might make a difference in how you feel.

  • Try to be physically active a little bit every day
  • Get at least 8 hours of sleep every night
  • Avoid alcohol and non-prescribed substances
  • Eat healthy foods
  • Find ways to laugh and amuse yourself
  • Avoid isolation
  • Practice positive thinking
  • Help others
  • Join a support group
  • Seek support from your family and friends
  • Avoid or reduce stress

Depression is a medical condition. It can be treated. You don’t snap out of it merely by positive thinking.  If we could, we would. If you think you may be depressed, talk to a professional. Life is too short to suffer unnecessarily.

Resources

Helpguide Information on many health topics

Mayo Clinic Article about selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)

Medline General article and links to good information

National Institute of Mental Health Information on a variety of topics.

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