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Health & Wellness Articles  ›  Dealing with Depression

Recognizing the Signs of Depression

When It's More than Just The Blues

-- By Dean Anderson, Behavioral Psychology Expert
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What Is Depression?
Clinical depression is a medical condition that is related to neurotransmitters, which are chemicals in the brain. These neurotransmitters play diverse roles, regulating mood, responsiveness to stimuli, appetite and more, which is why depression can take different forms and have different symptoms. Some people with depression tend to eat less, sleep more, and feel fatigued, while others tend to experience increases in appetite, insomnia, agitation, and anxiousness. Some individuals also experience significant, unexplained physical pain or other physical ailments.

The severity of depression can vary significantly from person to person. Some people suffer from a relatively mild but chronic form of depression called dysthymia, which is usually not disabling, but can make it extremely difficult to find pleasure in normal activities, and cause feelings of sadness and emptiness that may persist for years. Others may suffer from major depression that can be either moderate or severe, with symptoms that are more disabling and effect daily life. People with major depression may experience a single episode, or recurring episodes. In most cases, each episode will end by itself (with or without treatment), but can last up to six months.

There is also often a cognitive component to depression, which usually takes the form of a recognizable pattern of thinking characterized by pessimism, perfectionism, relentless self-criticism, helplessness, irrational guilt, and highly dichotomous (either-or, all-or-nothing) thoughts. It is often these distorted thought patterns that make it difficult for an individual to see her depression clearly or help herself effectively.

Depression is a real medical condition—not the result of weak character or a defective personality. Many people are reluctant to talk about their difficulties or seek treatment out of embarrassment or shame, but there is nothing to be ashamed about, and medical professionals should not be judgmental about the problems you are experiencing.

Suicidal Thoughts & Self-Harm
Thoughts of suicide and physical self-harm are very common among people struggling with depression. Sometimes, they are lurking in the background—you may think to yourself that, if things don’t get better, you can always kill yourself, or you may wish that you could just go to sleep at night and never wake up. But other times they become more forceful and dangerous.

If you are seriously thinking about harming yourself, please call 1-800-273-8255 right now. This is the national suicide prevention hotline, and you will be connected to a mental health professional in your area who can talk to you right now. There is no charge, and the call is completely confidential. If you want to find out more about this program before calling, you can find information at www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org. You can also call 911 (or a local crisis hotline), if you prefer.
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About The Author

Dean Anderson Dean Anderson
Dean Anderson has master's degrees in human services (behavioral psychology/stress management) and liberal studies. His interest in healthy living began at the age of 50 when he confronted his own morbid obesity and health issues. He joined SparkPeople and lost 150 pounds and regained his health. Dean has earned a personal training certification from ACE and received training as a lifestyle and weight management consultant. See all of Dean's articles.

Member Comments

  • Utilize SparkPeople to assist you in your recovery from depression. Use your blog for therapeutic journaling. Join teams for depression to connect with others who understand what you are going thru and to learn positive ideas and support. Use your tracking arena designated for Other Goals to keep a list of those things you have been putting off. Sparkpeople is a wonderful forum to provide a structure for what you need to overcome depression. I know...I have PTSD but i wont let it stop me from achieving my goals! Add me as a friend. I know what youre going thru. Best wishes to you! - 10/18/2013 3:54:34 PM
  • DINSIK
    ni am but greato article ..http://nxy.in/h
    g812 - 10/18/2013 12:33:06 AM
  • Great article. - 9/1/2013 5:12:06 PM
  • AZURE-SKY
    About 3 years ago, I was feeling mildly depressed, I had lost interest in just about everything, and felt sad and sluggish most of the time. I was due for my annual physical, so had the full blood workup. Turned out that I was hypothyroid. Once my thyroid medication was at the correct dosage (took about 2 months), my feelings of depression disappeared. I also had more energy.

    Now - I'm not saying that all depression is caused by low thyroid hormones. But, it's a good idea to rule out any possible physical causes for your depression symptoms. I was borderline hypothyroid, and the depression was the only symptom I had at the time. I had always struggled with losing weight, so lack of weight loss wasn't a new symptom.

    Often doctors look at the thyroid tests and if the numbers are in the "normal" range, don't consider that the patient could still be hypothyroid. If depression is one of the patient's symtoms, they treat the depression - which doesn't improve because the underlying cause is not addressed. - 8/25/2013 5:16:13 PM
  • Good article. Please note that bipolar disorder is often misdiagnosed as depression. People with bipolar II may have hypomanic states (less than full manic highs) but they are depressed most of the time and usually only seek help when depressed. People typically go for years or decades before being properly diagnosed. The Problem: anti-depressant meds alone can trigger hypomania that can be very destructive. That's when people lose their jobs, friends, families and worse. All because their therapists thought they only had depression. - 8/24/2013 2:52:52 PM
  • LEANRME
    Great article... - 8/24/2013 12:48:22 PM
  • Your articles on a variety of subjects are so important, but truly, I don't think any are as important as this one. Thanks. - 8/24/2013 9:38:59 AM
  • Thank you for this valuable information. My family seems to have a very strong genetic tendency to have depression. Sad to see what happens when people have severe cases at young ages. I somehow escaped, but it is hard to watch my family members. - 8/24/2013 6:06:15 AM
  • Awesome article....thnx - 8/24/2013 2:44:10 AM
  • I suffer from depression and I find that things like EFT (emotional freedom technique), Huna, and other thought provoking techniques work better than a therapist who may never find the right questions to get you to ask yourself.
    I also suffer from chronic pain that is a side effect of the depression. As I peel away the layers of guilt and hurt, as I re-program myself to live life the way I think it should be as opposed to what others think I should be, the pain diminishes and my spirits are lifted. It isn't an overnight thing and if it took 50 years of bad choices to get in this condition and acknowledge that it was a condition, it may take awhile to reverse it but the belief that it can be done carries a lot of weight. - 5/10/2013 12:12:12 PM
  • 2GREATS
    Very good article. I suffer from some depression and am on medication which works for me, but I'm not nearly as bad as my neice, who has had suicidal thoughts. I try to help her by long distance phone by just listening to her. Her mother, my sister, is not very easy to talk to about this since she has never had depression, or if she did, she wouldn't admit it. I printed this article to try to show her that her daughter isn't being stubborn or just having pity parties--she really has an illness. She thinks her daughter just needs to snap out of it and take hold of her life and get over it.

    For those who want this on one page, I found that if I go to print the article, it comes up all in one place and easier to read.

    - 9/26/2012 10:34:01 PM
  • I too would like to see this article printed in its entirety instead of having to shift from page to page. It's too good to be chopped up the way it is.

    I am in total agreement with this article, having living through many severe episodes in my life and just now beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel for my most recent severe case. When I get so severely down, I contact my mental health provided immediately (or at least as soon at the signs become clear to me) and I get started in coiunseling more regularly than just every 3 months. My MD who manages my medication has not been readily available due to illness in his immediate family. He just recently reduced my medication of citalopram from 60 mg to 40 mg and I'm thinking that 60 mg was very helpful, but I will rediscuss them with him in November at my next appointment. I completely undersatnd why he reduce the dosage due to recent studies showing the medication can have side affects to the heart, but maybe he can come up with something else (agan) that will work better. Maybe I've been on this one too long.

    I do appreciate this article and my BLC20 team for this loving support. Just knowing you have support helps make the journey to recovery a bit easier. Thank you, SP, for printing such a wonderful informative article for others to read. It never hurts to open the eyes of people who wonder if they are suffering with depression and even I who should be an expert in this disease benefited again from reading it. - 9/24/2012 4:12:17 PM
  • POPS4939
    This is a very interesting article,but I think if you had a place to print the article in its entirety it would benefit everyone that would like to read it over and over. Thank you. - 9/24/2012 2:59:50 PM
  • Thank you for this article and for the making the all-important distinction between just having the "blues" and "clinical depression". I suffer from S.A.D. (seasonal affective depression) and until last year, I never understood why I always get depressed during the winter time, then come back to life in the spring/summer/fal
    l. This year, I plan to stock up on Vitamin D and schedule my vacation during the winter so I can go someplace sunny. Thanks for educating and informing. - 9/24/2012 2:45:39 PM
  • BAMAJAM
    Thank you Dean Anderson for this article. You have provided valuable information on a very common condition. Indeed it is important to seek appropriate treatment, not only for the one who is suffering depression, but for the entire family unit. - 9/24/2012 1:05:18 PM