Coming to Terms With Depression
Getting Treatment for Other Conditions
Depression often occurs in conjunction with other illnesses. These include:
- Anxiety disorders. Posttraumatic stress disorder, obsessive disorder, social phobia, panic disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder can affect depression.
- Alcohol or drug abuse. “Substance abuse is a very common problem in people with depression,” says Brendel, who often works with patients with drug and alcohol problems as associate medical director for the Pavilion at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Mass. “Abstinence or sobriety is critical for successful treatment.”
- Medical conditions. Thyroid disease and other medical issues can cause symptoms of depression. Plus, people who have a serious illness such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, or Parkinson’s disease often have more severe symptoms of depression than others. Studies show that treating depression can help improve recovery from medical illness.
Talk with your doctor or mental health care provider to determine whether you have other health problems that should be addressed along with depression.
Getting Support From Family and Friends
Depression often causes people to isolate themselves. You may not feel up to social interaction or ashamed to be struggling with a mental disorder. But as with any other illness, you’ll need help to overcome it. “Support is essential for people with depression,” Allen says. “It can be impossible to recover on your own.”
Start by telling trusted friends and loved ones that you are suffering from depression. It’s important to have people there for encouragement and to help you see small improvements in your mood or energy level that you may not notice. And if depression-related fatigue makes it difficult to keep up with tasks such as grocery shopping or cleaning, they can step in to help.
Should You Tell Your Employer About Depression?
Consider whether you want to talk to your employer or any co-workers. If you need to take time off or adjust your job responsibilities to lessen the pressure, then it may make sense to explain why. You may want to bring in educational materials about depression or a note from your doctor for your manager to read.
However, not everyone understands the seriousness of the condition and how it can affect a person’s ability to work. If you’re unsure about whether to mention it at work, it may help talk it over with a trusted friend or your therapist.
No matter what you decide, it’s important to understand your rights as an employee. The Americans With Disabilities Act protects people from discrimination because of a disability. You can find information on it at the U.S. Department of Justice web site www.ada.gov or by calling 800-514-0301.
If you find that you need more time off than is covered by your vacation and sick leave, see if your employer offers short or long-term disability insurance. This will allow you to take time off while receiving a percentage of your pay. If this is not available, the Family and Medical Leave Act allows employees with a serious illness to take off up to 12 weeks unpaid without losing their job. You can find more information online at www.dol.gov/whd/fmla/index.htm or by calling 866-4USWAGE (866-487-9243).