Sad, gloomy, dejected, downcast. These are some terms used to define depression in the dictionary. We all experience these feelings from time to time, but does it mean that we are or have had clinical depression? Not necessarily.
Healthcare providers must recognize a number of specific symptoms before diagnosing clinical depression. They will also consider how long the symptoms have been present.
If a person has five or more of the following eleven symptoms for two weeks or longer, a diagnosis of depression may be made.
These symptoms include:
* A persistent sad, anxious, or "empty" mood
* Feelings of hopelessness and pessimism
* Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and helplessness
* Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities that were once enjoyed, including sex
* Decreased energy, fatigue, and being "slowed down"
* Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
* Insomnia, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
* Changes in appetite or eating: either much less or much more, or a significant weight loss or gain
* Restlessness and irritability
* Thoughts of death or suicide; suicide attempts
* Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders, and chronic pain.
Keep in mind that having some signs of depression does not necessarily mean you are clinically depressed. For example, it is not unusual to feel restless or irritable when living with the stress of a potential layoff, heavy workload, or financial or family problems. Up to a point, such feelings are simply a part of human experience. Only when these symptoms continue for an unusually long time or increase in intensity is there reason to suspect that what seemed like a temporary mood has become depression.
If you are experiencing any of the signs of depression, you should talk with your healthcare provider. He or she can provide you with options and help decide what makes the most sense for your particular situation.
REMEMBER: Depression is not something you can will away.
You can't just "pull yourself together" and get better. Depression is a serious illness. And, left untreated, it can last for weeks or months, or sometimes even years.