Difference between “Feeling Blue” and Depression:  


We all have had times when we feel “down.”  This is a normal part of life.  Someone disappoints you by not showing up for a planned engagement or date.  Or someone else is given a promotion that you worked very hard for.   These feelings usually last a few days at most and then you move ahead.  When emptiness and despair take hold and won’t go away, you may be depressed.  Unlike the temporary “blues”, the lows of depression make it difficult for you to function and enjoy the life you once did.  Hobbies and friends are no longer of an interest to you.  You feel tired and exhausted all the time, and getting through a 24-hour period is overwhelming.  Depression varies from person to person, but there are some common symptoms of depression.  Some of these symptoms are part of life’s normal lows but if you have several of the symptoms; they are stronger than normal; and, last longer than usual, you are probably depressed.

Signs and Symptoms of Depression:

1.     Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness.  You feel like your world is all black.  Nothing will get better and there is nothing you can do to make it better.

2.     Self-loathing.  You have strong feelings of worthlessness and/or guilt.  You are very critical of yourself for perceived mistakes and faults.

3.     Sleep changes.  You have difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep, awakening in the early hours of the morning.  Or all you want to do is sleep.  People with depression complain of feeling their worse upon arising in the morning.  This is the opposite of what most people experience upon awakening—rested and feeling good.

4.     Concentration Problems.  There is difficulty in making decisions, remembering things or paying attention.   You cannot decide if you want cheerios or a piece of toast for breakfast.  If your husband starts talking with you about the changes in his work schedule, you have great difficulty staying focused on what is saying and retaining what he said.  You feel like you are in a fog.

5.     Appetite and/or weight changes.  Depressed people either lose their appetite and have to be strongly encouraged to eat or they eat constantly.  Significant weight loss or gain—a change of more than 5% of their body weight is key indicator.

6.     Loss of interest in daily activities.  There is no interest or capacity to perform previously enjoyed activities—friends, hobbies, social activities, entertainment (TV, music, etc.) or sex.

7.     Loss of energy.  You feel fatigued and physically drained.  Even small tasks are overwhelming due to your exhaustion.

8.     Psychomotor agitation or retardation.  You either feel “all keyed up” and fidgety or sluggish and slowed down physically.

Depression and Suicide:

Depression is major risk factor for suicide.  The deep despondency and hopelessness that goes along with depression can make suicide feel like the only viable way to escape the emotional pain and despair. A suicidal person has mixed feelings about completing the act.  Most people do not want to die but only wants to stop hurting and feeling so bad.  Take any suicidal talk or behavior seriously.  Suicide is a cry for help.  Suicide prevention begins by recognizing the warning signs and taking immediate action.

Causes and Risk Factors for Depression:

There are significant differences between having a medical problem and depression.  Medical problems have straightforward treatments.  If you are a diabetic, you watch your diet and take a specific medication to lower your blood sugar.  If you fracture your arm, surgery is done to repair the break and you wear a cast.  Depression is not simply some chemical imbalance in your brain, and you take your medication and are cured.  Many professionals believe that depression is a combination of biological, psychological, and social factors.  In essence, your lifestyle choices, your relationships and your coping skills are as important or more so as genetics.   Certain risk factors make you more predisposed to depression.

·        Loneliness

·        Lack of support from family and/or friends

·        Recent stressful life experiences

·        Family history of depression

·        Marital or relationship problems

·        Financial burden

·        Early childhood trauma or abuse

·        Alcohol or drug abuse

·        Unemployment or underemployment

·        Health problems or chronic pain

Understanding the underlying cause of your depression may help you overcome the problem.  For example, if you are in a dead end job, the best treatment might be changing your career or attending school to increase your skill level rather than taking an antidepressant medication.  The key to recovery is to start small and ask for help.  Having a strong support system as backup will speed up your recovery.