Depression in the Recession

As many of us continually struggle to manage the personal and professional difficulties brought on by the economy, it is only natural to experience emotions such as fear, anger, frustration and sadness. When these emotions persist and combine with pervasive hopelessness, loss of joy and lack of energy, a condition called clinical depression may develop.

October is National Depression Awareness month. There are several resources available for self-screening if you suspect depression. The Mayo Clinic is one resource that provides an online self-assessment (see below) which gives immediate results and outlines steps to take after the assessment is completed. Why screen for depression? Because clinical depression is a serious medical illness and it needs to be addressed. When ignored, it may lead to significant complications, such as self-injury and substance abuse.

Depression does not discriminate among gender, age, socio-economic status or lifestyle. It may run in families or it may simply occur after a traumatic event. For many generations, it was misunderstood and sufferers were labeled as lazy or worse. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, depression is a disorder of the brain. The areas of the brain responsible for regulating mood, thinking, sleeping, behavior and appetite function abnormally, creating chemicals that are out of balance. These chemicals, called neurotransmitters, are used to help the brain cells communicate to one another.

Clinical depression in adults is more common among women than men, although researchers have not yet determined why. The symptoms for both Am I Depressed or Lazy genders are persistent sadness, unusual sleeping patterns, sudden loss of weight or excessive weight gain, difficulty concentrating or making decisions, fatigue, thoughts of suicide, restlessness, irritability and loss of pleasure in people or activities.

Children can also become clinically depressed, showing different signs than adults. They may pretend to be sick, refuse typical childhood activities such as school or sports, cling strongly to a parent, talk frequently about death, exhibit poor personal hygiene and often refer to themselves as unimportant or not good enough. Psychologists and medical professionals are learning to take childhood depression more seriously. Studies have shown that untreated childhood depression does not resolve itself, as previously thought. It will continue into adulthood and can progress into more severe conditions.

What is the first step if you think you or your child may have depression? Talk to your medical professional in order to rule out conditions that may cause depression, such as a virus or thyroid disorder. Voice your concerns to your child’s pediatrician so that he/she can help sort out typical developmental behavior from depressive symptoms. When the doctor rules out a medical cause or developmental stage, he/she may conduct a psychological evaluation or refer you or your child to a mental health professional.

Treatment options vary, depending on the severity of the depression. The good news is that clinical depression responds well to treatment, especially when caught early. The most common methods are psychotherapy and medication. Those with mild to moderate depression usually start with counseling and often bypass the need for antidepressants. Talk to your medical or mental health professional to help make this decision. Reaching out for help is the biggest step; you do not have to handle this condition alone.

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