We all feel down sometimes. We can feel sad due to the loss of something or someone important to us. But if that sad feeling runs deeply, is accompanied by other symptoms (see below), or persists for more than a couple of weeks, you could be experiencing Major Depressive Disorder.
Major Depressive Disorder is a serious mood disorder caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain, much like diabetes is caused by a chemical imbalance in the pancreas. This is important for you, your family, and your friends to understand. Because often well-meaning loved ones offer advice that implies that you can and should just stop feeling bad. But depression is not something that can be willed away. (We would never tell someone with diabetes to just "snap out of it" or "Go ahead and eat that sugary food - just don't react to it.")
Depression is a disorder that is characterized by the following symptoms that persist for two weeks or more:
- Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day.
- Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities most of the day, nearly every day.
- Significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain, or decrease or increase in appetite nearly every day.
- A slowing down of thought and a reduction of physical movement (observable by others, not merely subjective feelings of restlessness or being slowed down).
- Fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day.
- Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt nearly every day.
- Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness, nearly every day.
- Recurrent thoughts of death, recurrent suicidal ideation without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt or a specific plan for committing suicide.
If you are not sure about your symptoms, call our office and discuss it with one of our experienced therapists. We'd be happy to consult with you and help you out. It is important to seek help if you suspect you have a Depressive Disorder. Our therapists can determine the nature of the disorder and develop a treatment plan to help. That could include building coping skills, talking through irrational beliefs, and referrals for medication or other cutting-edge therapies.
Sometimes people suffering from depression have thoughts of suicide. If you or a loved one is feeling suicidal, it is urgent that you seek professional help right away. Contact your therapist, your psychiatrist, or your family physician, or have someone take the suicidal person to the nearest emergency room for an evaluation.