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Thursday, October 10, 2013 is National Depression Screening Day and Sachin Mehta, MD, a psychiatrist with Belmont Behavioral Health who specializes in treating people with depression and other mood disorders, offers this information:Depression is a common but serious illness that needs treatment.Most people, even those with the most severe depression, can get better with treatment with psychotherapies, medications and other methods. Major depression can affect a person’s ability to sleep, eat, work, and enjoy life and can prevent a person from functioning normally. Symptoms of DepressionThe severity, frequency, and duration of symptoms vary with each person. Symptoms may include:
-Sad, anxious or “empty” feelings -feelings of hopelessness, guilt, worthlessness or helplessness -irritability-loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyable-lack of energy-difficulty concentrating -difficulty sleeping-overeating or loss of appetite-thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts-aches or pains, headaches, or stomach problemsCauses of Depression Depression is caused by a combination of genetic, biological, environmental and psychological factors. One theory is that in depression, chemicals that brain cells use to communicate are out of balance. Some types of depression run in families, however, depression can also occur in people without family histories of the condition. Scientists are studying certain genes that may make some people more prone to depression. Loss of a loved one, trauma, or any stress situation may trigger a depressive episode; other episodes may occur without an apparent trigger. Depression in Women Depression is more common among women than men due to biological, hormonal and psychosocial factors. Women with depression often feel sad, worthless and guilty. Depression in Men Men with depression often feel tired, irritable and lose interest in once enjoyable activities. They may be more likely to turn to alcohol or drugs when depressed. Depression in Older Adults Depression is not a normal part of aging. Grief after loss of a loved one is normal and usually doesn’t require mental health treatment. However, grief that lasts for a very long time following a loss may require treatment. Older adults usually have medical conditions such as heart disease, stroke or cancer, which may cause depressive symptoms, or they may be taking medications with side effects that contribute to depression. Depression in Children & Teens A child with depression may pretend to be sick, refuse to go to school or cling to a parent. Older children may get into trouble at school or be irritable. Since these signs may be considered normal mood swings for children as they move through developmental stages, it can be difficult to diagnose a young person with depression. Depression during the teen years happens at a difficult time when boys and girls are forming an identity, grappling with gender issues, and making independent decisions for the first time. Depression in adolescence frequently occurs along with other disorders such as anxiety, eating disorders, or substance abuse. Diagnosis & Treatment Even severe cases can be treated, and the earlier the treatment can begin, the more effective it is. The first step is to visit a doctor or mental health specialist. A doctor can rule out medical conditions that may be causing depression or can refer you to a mental health professional. Once diagnosed, the most common treatments for depression are medication and psychotherapy. Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) can provide relief for severe depression in people who have not been able to feel better with other treatments. Helping a Loved One Help your loved one get a diagnosis and treatment. Encourage him/her to stay in treatment or seek different treatment if there’s no improvement after 6 to 8 weeks. -Offer support, patience and encouragement-Talk to him/her and be a good listener -Offer hope-Do not ignore comments about suicide; report them to your loved one’s therapist or doctor-Provide assistance in getting to doctor’s appointments-Remind your loved one that with treatment and in time, the depression will lift.Helping Yourself -Seek help as soon as you can-Exercise and be physically active -Enjoy a movie, ballgame or other activities that you once enjoyed-Set realistic goals -Spend time with other people and confide in a trusted friend or relative- Expect your mood to improve gradually, not immediatelyWhat to Do In a Crisis? If you are thinking of harming yourself or know someone who is, tell someone who can help immediately.-Do not leave your friend or relative alone, and do not isolate yourself-Call your doctor-Call 911 or go to a hospital emergency room -Call the toll-free, 24-hour hotline of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 and speak to a trained counselor*Information obtained from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)