Do you have symptoms of clinical depression? Sure, most of us feel sad, lonely, or depressed at times. And feeling depressed is a normal reaction to loss, life's struggles, or an injured self-esteem. But when these feelings become overwhelming, involve physical symptoms, and last for long periods of time, they can keep you from leading a normal, active life. That's when it's time to seek medical help. Your primary care doctor is a good place to start. This doctor can screen you for depression and help manage your symptoms.
If left untreated, symptoms of clinical or major depression may worsen and last for months or sometimes even years. They can cause untold suffering and possibly lead to suicide. Recognizing the symptoms of depression is often the biggest hurdle to the diagnosis and treatment of clinical or major depression. Unfortunately, approximately half the people who experience symptoms never do get diagnosed or treated for their illness.
What Are Symptoms of Depression?
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
- Fatigue and decreased energy
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and/or helplessness
- Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
- Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
- Irritability, restlessness
- Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
- Overeating or appetite loss
- Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment
- Persistent sad, anxious, or "empty" feelings
- Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
Are There Warning Signs of Suicide With Depression?
Depression carries a high risk of suicide. Anybody who expresses suicidal thoughts or intentions should be taken very, very seriously. Do not hesitate to call your local suicide hotline immediately. Call 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433) or 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) -- or the deaf hotline at 1-800-799-4TTY (1-800-799-4889).
Warning signs of suicide with depression include:
- A sudden switch from being very sad to being very calm or appearing to be happy
- Always talking or thinking about death
- Clinical depression (deep sadness, loss of interest, trouble sleeping and eating) that gets worse
- Having a "death wish," tempting fate by taking risks that could lead to death, such as driving through red lights
- Losing interest in things one used to care about
- Making comments about being hopeless, helpless, or worthless
- Putting affairs in order, tying up loose ends, changing a will
- Saying things like "It would be better if I wasn't here" or "I want out"
- Talking about suicide (killing one's self)
- Visiting or calling people one cares about
Remember, if you or someone you know is demonstrating any of the above warning signs of suicide with depression, either call your local suicide hot line, contact a mental health professional right away, or go to the emergency room of your local hospital for immediate evaluation and treatment.
What Are the Symptoms of Depression in Teens?
It is common for teens to occasionally feel unhappy. However, when the unhappiness lasts for more than two weeks, and the teen experiences other symptoms of clinical depression, then he or she may be suffering from adolescent depression.
It is estimated that depression affects as many as one in every 33 children and one in eight adolescents. If you believe your teenager is suffering from depression, you should seek help from a qualified health care professional.
For in-depth information, see WebMD's Depression Symptoms in Teens.
How Is Depression Diagnosed?
The diagnosis of depression often begins with a thorough history and physical exam by a doctor, such as your primary care doctor. Because certain kinds of infections, medicines, and illnesses can also cause symptoms of depression, your doctor will want to know when your symptoms started, how long they have lasted, and how severe they are. He or she will ask whether you have had similar symptoms of depression before and about past treatments you may have received.
Your family history of depression and other mental illnesses is very important, as is any history of drug or alcohol use. Although there is no "depression test" that a mental health expert can use to diagnose symptoms of depression, there are certain features, which he or she will look for in order to make the proper diagnosis of depression.
How Are Symptoms of Depression Treated?
If a physical cause for the symptoms of depression is ruled out, your primary care doctor may begin an initial treatment, or refer you to a psychologist, psychiatrist, or other mental health professional for further evaluation and treatment. This mental health specialist will determine the best course of treatment. That treatment may include medicines (such as antidepressants), psychotherapy, or a combination of both.
Is Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) Used to Treat Symptoms of Depression?
Electroconvulsive therapy or ECT is a viable treatment option for patients with symptoms of depression who do not improve with medicines for depression or who suffer from extremely severe forms of depression. ECT is specially viable when symptoms involving suicidal behavior or psychosis are severe and require urgent treatment.
When Should I Seek Help for Symptoms of Depression?
If symptoms of depression are negatively affecting your life -- such as causing difficulties with relationships or work issues or causing family disputes -- and there isn't a clear solution to these problems, then you should seek help. Talking with a mental health counselor or health care professional can help prevent things from getting worse, especially if these symptoms of depression persist for any length of time.
If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts or feelings, you must seek help immediately.
In addition, it's important to understand that feeling depressed does not mean you have a depressive illness. Depression as a medical illness involves not only changes in mood, such as persistent sadness or feeling down or blue, but also changes in sleep, energy, appetite, concentration, and motivation. If you have physical symptoms such as these and find yourself feeling depressed much of the time for days or weeks on end, seek medical help.