Have you ever felt so sick that you knew you should see a doctor but felt too crummy to get out of bed and go? Well, it’s not just physical ailments that can make you feel this way. Depression can be like that too.
Depression is becoming more and more common these days – and along with that trend is a new wave of understanding and acceptance of the condition. It’s no longer the taboo subject that it once was. But that doesn’t mean that those that do suffer from depression see it that way.
Sometimes depression comes on so slowly that people don’t even know that they have it. Oh sure, they may realize that they’re feeling a little down, but may not see it for what it is – depression. And then other people may actually recognize that they are suffering from depression but, in spite of our changing worldviews, they’re embarrassed. Ashamed. Getting help would mean admitting that there’s a problem. And that in itself, becomes the problem.
So what really is depression?
The National Alliance of Mental Health (NAMI) says depression is a state of mind that goes far beyond any temporary sadness. It’s more than feeling blue. It’s way more than just having a bad day. Although it affects your mental state, depression is a legitimate and serious medical condition. It could be relatively short-term or a lifelong struggle.
Just how common is it? According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), almost one in ten Americans will be diagnosed with some form or level of depression. And more than 50 percent of those will have at least one more bout with the disease over the course of their lifetime.
And depression isn’t a one-size-fits-all disease. For some, the progression is gradual. Life just doesn’t feel the way it used to. Nothing is as fun as it used to be. But for other people, depression is all consuming. It can feel like you’ve been touched by one of the dementors from a Harry Potter book — as if you’ve lost every good feeling and happy memory along with peace, hope and happiness.
This extreme form is known as clinical depression or major depression. It isn’t just temporary sadness – in fact, this diagnosis requires that you have five or more of these common symptoms over a two-week time frame.
- General sadness
- Loss of appetite
- Trouble sleeping
- Fatigue or lack of energy
- Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
- No interest in friends or hobbies
- Inability to concentrate
- A sense of hopelessness
- Weight loss or gain (without trying)
- Thoughts of suicide
But even a couple symptoms could indicate some level of depression, so if you even suspect that you might be suffering from depression see your doctor – sooner rather than later. He or she will ask you questions and check you over to rule out – or diagnose – physical conditions or possible prescription side effects that may be causing your symptoms.
And the good news? If you are diagnosed with depression, your doctor can prescribe an antidepressant to help you feel like your old self again. And if the first one doesn’t work (and the truth is, it often doesn’t) take heart — there are others to try. The trick is to find what works best for you.
Clinical depression is a condition that often runs in families. That doesn’t mean that everyone who has a relative who has suffered from depression will get it as well. But it does put you at a higher risk – and means that you should be aware of your feelings – especially if you’ve noticed any significant changes.
Unfortunately, that’s one of the most unsettling things about major or clinical depression. It’s unpredictable. You can get it at any time – even when things seem to be going great. If you’ve got a great job, good friends and a wonderful family and still feel sad or lost or depressed, consider that a warning sign. And if nothing has happened to trigger these thoughts or feelings, and they’ve gone on for a couple weeks, don’t delay — see your doctor.
So are you depressed – or just a little sad?
Well, that’s the 64,000 question. Because, of course, it isn’t always all or nothing. You can feel depressed without having depression. Even if you have a family history of the disease. And the truth is, sadness happens. A lot. And many of the things we experience in our daily life can cause sadness and grief – illness, divorce, loss of a job, and of course the death of a loved one. It’s normal to feel a little sad and even overwhelmed. It isn’t cause for immediate alarm, but if the symptoms persist, check it out. It could be situational depression – brought on by a life event. And just like clinical depression, it can be treated.
Seniors at risk
Due to the stage of life they’re in, older adults often face depression more than some of their younger counterparts. Confronted with unexpected — and often unwanted – transitions, they may feel a sense of loss.
Pain, retirement, moving, or taking on the role of caregiver are some of the things that can bring about a feeling of unhappiness or even grief. Often the feeling will get better over time with the help and support of family and friends – and as you learn to adjust to the change.
But if it doesn’t get better, or if it gets worse, know that you aren’t alone. Depression is not your fault. It is not a cause for shame or embarrassment. It can be treated and you can feel normal – or even good — again. Just don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.
Discovery Village Senior Living Community is proud to have a professional health and wellness team to help you deal with life changes and recognize when your depression may be more than just sadness. They also provide a warm and caring environment with supportive friends and neighbors to help you through the tough times.
Discovery Village At Tampa Palms offers a variety of senior living programs to keep seniors healthy and active. Learn about our senior living options and amenities today when you contact us at 813.605.2400