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What You Need to Know About Depression

By Debra Tullis

What does depression mean to you? Depression is a very serious mood disorder that can affect anyone regardless of age, gender, race, social status or ethnicity. Depression is an illness that affects your body, mind, disposition, sleep and your thoughts. This condition can be caused by many factors. There can also be a genetic component to depression.

Have you been told that you have diagnosis of depression? Do some of the feelings and experiences listed here get in the way of living your life the way you want to? For example, do you feel like your life is hopeless and you are worthless? Do you feel anxious or feel like something bad is going to happen? Do you feel out of touch with the world? Have you lost interest in pleasurable activities? Do you feel that others are against you? Are you experiencing a lot of stress, intense sadness, loss of energy and burn-out? Are you having trouble concentrating and have low energy?

When you are depressed it is very hard to think clearly or make decisions. It may be hard to think of anything to do to help yourself feel better. If you are feeling blue most of the time you may have a type of depression. There are three main types of depression: major depressive disorder, manic-depressive disorder and dysthymic disorder.

  1. Major depression is also referred to as unipolar depression and can interfere with a person's ability to function. A person may have marked difficulty in functioning as this type of depression can disrupt social or occupational functioning.

  2. A second type is manic-depressive disorder and is also known as bi-polar disorder. This type involves episodes of major depression that alternates with episodes of mania. This type can be extremely disruptive and concerning. Everyone has good days and bad days and ups and downs. Therefore, this type must be sufficiently severe that it causes marked impairment in occupational functioning or marked impairment in relationships with others. With this type of depression a person may display different symptoms during different periods of the illness.

  3. The third type is a milder form of depression called dysthymic disorder. This type is diagnosed when a depressed mood is present almost every day for at least two years. This type is referred to as a low-grade depression and can start in the early teenage years and later in life. Dysthymia may be accompanied by social aloofness, lack of assertiveness and even periods of more severe depression. Psychotherapy and anti-depressant medication can be effective.
If depression is not treated it can get worse. The first step to obtaining treatment for depression is to obtain a medical examination by a physician as there are certain medical conditions that have symptoms similar to depression. A person may not be aware that they are depressed and do not understand why they are experiencing various physical symptoms. A skillful doctor can diagnose the true situation. Psychiatrists are trained to differentiate depression from other medical conditions. At your initial visit a history of your present difficulties will be taken. Other symptoms, family history, past medical problems are other basic steps that may be taken so an accurate diagnosis can be made.

If medication is prescribed it is important to learn what you can about the medication and any possible side effects. If you are experiencing side effects it is critical to consult with your physician. It is important to give medication a chance to work and the side effects may be temporary. Do not stop taking an anti-depressant without consulting your doctor. It is important to safely discontinue the medication. Some medications must be stopped gradually.

Finding the right treatment is important. The choice of treatment varies with the kind and severity of the depression. If treatment is needed it is important to find out about the therapist's qualifications. Having a trained therapist listen carefully can be very helpful in relieving depression. A therapist can help you gain insight into and resolve your problems. The benefits of treatment include partial or complete remission of the symptoms of depression and reduction of pain and suffering. Treatment can enhance your general well-being. Other helpful strategies include learning all you can about depression. Educate yourself! It is important to express your feelings and accept them.

It is important to obtain an appropriate diagnosis and treatment if needed. Depression is not a character flaw or a sign of personal weakness. Depression is a treatable illness and be assured that with time and good care you will feel better. Involve your family members and friends. If there are community resources take advantage of them. There may be support groups in your area. Do not go through this alone. The best time to address depression is now as the sooner you receive treatment - the sooner you will feel better. Your life is waiting!

Debra Tullis, MSW, LCSW, BCD is a life coach and a clinical therapist. She has a Masters Degree in Social Work and worked in the social service field for the last 24 years. She is Board Certified in Clinical Social Work and as an ICF credentialed coach is a member of the International Coach Federation, Coachville, and the International Association of Coaches. To learn more about Debra's services email her or visit her website Coaching for the Good Life.

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