There is no discrimination when it comes to the dark world of depression. Imagine putting your life at risk to serve your country for months or even years at a time, and returning from duty in a very different, and dark headspace. Depression affects about 20 out of every 100 Veterans according to the American Psychological Association. After learning and living with those statistics, there is no doubt that war has invisible wounds. When my husband deployed directly to our war on terrorism, we saw the effects first hand amongst his fellow service men when they returned home. This illness hasn’t been seen with just our Veteran community, but even closer to home with friends and family members of mine.
As a child I witnessed someone I held close to my heart spiral into this dark world and ultimately make an attempt to take her own life. Something no child should ever have to face. This doesn’t just affect the person going through it, but those who are closest to that person. Depression isn’t to be dismissed as a time when a person’s going through a rough patch, it’s so much more than that. According to the National Alliance on Mental illness (NAMI), “It’s a serious mental condition that requires understanding and medical care.”
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People who have depression do not always have an outwardly obvious reason to feel sad. Although negative life circumstances certainly may play a role in depression, researchers have identified a number of other risk factors, including brain chemistry, environment (regular exposure to violence, poverty or abuse), genetics (something for parents to be aware of if they suffer from depression), personality and drug or alcohol abuse.
- You’re Not Alone
Depression is common; it affects about 1 in 15 adults each year and 1 out of every 6 people experience depression at some point in their life. Women tend to have higher rates of depression than men; as many as 1 out of every 3 women experience depression in their lifetime.
- Depression is a brain disorder, not a personal failing. I have someone I deeply cared about continuously think they were failing because of how they were feeling. Quite the contrary, depression is indeed something you can’t shake off. Of course getting fresh air and exercise naturally helps the mood, but depression is bigger than that and needs to be understood and treated.
- There are treatment options available. There are steps you can take to help manage your depression. Do Not Be Afraid to GET HELP! Primary care physicians have become the front line for treatment. By openly talking about depression as it is – a medical condition – we can help dispel stigmatization around the disease. An important point to consider when encouraging someone to seek help is that if they want to function optimally in their daily life, it will require treatment if they are suffering from depression.
Red flags/symptoms to look for if you are concerned about yourself or a loved one:
- Symptoms can range from mild to severe and may include feelings of sadness, loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed, changes in sleep patterns (too much or too little), unintended weight gain or loss, fatigue or difficulty concentrating, increased feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness or entertaining thoughts that life is not worth living. An important distinguishing point in having the blues vs. experiencing depression is that the feeling of hopelessness is not part of feeling “the blues.”
- Not everyone who suffers from depression will have the same experience.
- Those with PTSD have higher rates of anxiety, are more irritable and have more difficulty sleeping. PTSD often travels together with depression. And PTSD is not just amongst service men; it can occur after any event a civilian experiences that is traumatizing.
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Life is precious and we all deserve that chance to soak it all in – take in the views, celebrate the milestones, experience happiness with laughter, and even tears. If you think you or someone you know is suffering from depression, it is so important to talk to a doctor. S/he can evaluate symptoms, and together with the patient, come up with a treatment plan. Honest communication is key. Remember that doctors are there to help, and finding a mental health provider doesn’t have to be difficult. This page is a great resource for locating local psychiatrists in most communities.
Please Note: The links within my post are being provided as a convenience and for informational purposes only; they are not intended and should not be construed as legal or medical advice nor are they endorsements of any healthcare provider or practice. Med-IQ bears no responsibility for the accuracy, legality or content of the external site or for that of subsequent links. Contact the external site for answers to questions regarding its content.