Dealing with Depression

Depression is viewed as a whole-body diagnosis, involving mood, mind, physical health, and interpersonal function. It affects the way a person thinks, feels, behaves, and functions on a daily basis for a period of time (typically two weeks or longer).

There are several widely held misconceptions surrounding depression including that it isn't a common illness, and in order to be depressed a person must feel sad. On the contrary, an estimated 17 million Americans suffer from a depressive illness. In other words, depression affects approximately three to five 5 percent of the population at any one time. There is a 20 percent chance of women having an episode of clinical depression at some point in their lives; with a 10 percent chance among men. Closer to home, there are three times as many clients of CHW Counseling with chronic forms of depression than was the case ten years ago.

People don't have to feel sad or blue to be depressed. Depression can be masked or disguised in symptoms such as a stomach ache, back pain, or fatigue. Many people suffering from depression can end up going to their health care professional's office feeling sick and being told there is nothing wrong physically. On the positive side, 80 to 90 percent of all depressed people respond positively to treatment within one year. Many will begin to return to normal functioning within six to eight weeks. Early intervention greatly increases the likelihood of positive therapeutic outcomes. Short-term therapies, typically entailing 10 to 20 sessions over a period of several months, have proven to be very successful in treating the areas of concern that either trigger or maintain depressive disorders. Symptom specific medications and current psychological therapies are more advanced and effective than ever before. Unfortunately, less than half of people suffering from depression seek treatment and remain unaware that they have a treatable disorder.

What causes depression?

There is no one cause or source of depressive moods. Various factors play a role including:

  • Biological predisposition (family genetics)
  • Medical illness or chronic pain
  • Previous episodes of depression
  • Periods of heightened stress and demands
  • Social isolation and withdrawal
  • The loss of a loved one or the separation from loved ones
  • Traumatic events or natural disasters
  • Challenging transitions or major life changes (financial, relationship, family, work, etc.)
  • Lowered self-esteem or insecurity
  • Rigidly negative views regarding oneself, others, and/or the world

Symptoms of Depression

  • Persistent sad or "empty" mood
  • Anxiety
  • Guilt
  • Anger
  • Mood swings
  • Helplessness
  • Pessimism
  • Thoughts of death or suicide; suicide attempts
  • Increase in self-critical thoughts

  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Overeating or loss of appetite
  • Constipation
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Irregular menstrual cycle
  • Gradual loss of sexual desire
  • Chronic fatigue and lack of energy; feeling fatigued, even after 12 hours of sleep
  • Unexplained headaches, backaches and related complaints; persistent symptoms which do not respond to treatment
  • Digestive problems, including stomach pain, nausea, indigestion, and/or change in bowel habits

  • Crying for no apparent reason
  • Withdrawal from other people and new situations
  • Getting angry easily
  • Being unmotivated to set or meet goals; missing deadlines or diminished performance
  • Loss of interest in one's physical appearance and/or in hobbies and activities that were once enjoyed
  • Impaired memory, inability to concentrate, indecisiveness, confusion
  • Reduced ability to cope on a daily basis
  • Increased alcohol and/or drug use