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 an imbalance in the brain as a result of a variety of genetic and environmental disorders.
It is important to realize that there is a chemical imbalance in the brain when you are suffering with depression, much like the chemical imbalance in the pancreas that leads to diabetes. Often well-meaning friends and family offer advice that implies that we 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.
Your therapist will talk with you about your depressive symptoms, review your family and medical history, and help you develop a plan to overcome and manage your symptoms. Sometimes, your therapist may request you have a medical evaluation to determine if there is another cause for your symptoms (such as hypothyroidism or hormone imbalance) or if medication is necessary to relieve symptoms.
Sometimes people suffering with 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 family physician, or have someone take the suicidal person to the nearest emergency room for an evaluation. Click here for more information.