When it’s More than the Winter Blues…
Major depression is a medical condition where you may feel sad for more than 2 weeks, with impairment of your day-to-day functioning. Other symptoms include loss of interest in activities, changes in sleep patterns, thoughts of guilt, low energy, loss of concentration, changes in appetite, weight changes, and physical restlessness or slowness. Those who have thoughts of hurting themselves or others need to seek medical help immediately. Depression is fairly common and is a health condition that affects 1 in 5 Americans. If you have these symptoms, please know that you are not alone.
There are a large variety of factors that are related to depression. Changes in the brain and chemical balances, traumatic life events, family history of psychiatric illnesses, and other medical conditions can increase your risk of developing depression.
After you talk to your doctor about your symptoms and concerns, tests will be ordered to see if there is another medical reason for your depression. These tests could include a physical exam, psychiatric symptoms evaluation, and blood tests. Sometimes patients need to be referred to a specialist.
I often tell patients that their treatment for depression is three-fold. The first part is social and family support, the second part is counseling or psychotherapy, and the third part is medication. Prescription medications are only a part of your treatment plan. Regular exercise and participating in relaxing activities are also important. It’s difficult to juggle family life, career, childcare, care for grandchildren, care for elderly parents, handling financial burdens, and other social stresses. It is important for you to make time for yourself. Prescription medications for depression can be very effective, but you should be followed closely by your doctor for examination of possible side effects.
Written by Family Medicine physician Alice Meyer, MD, with Via Christi Clinic Augusta
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