Did you know that according to the National Institute of Mental Health, 15.7 million individuals over the age of 18 in the United States experienced at least one Major Depression episode in 2014? This helps translates to Major Depression being one of the most common mental health disorders in the U.S. Throughout our lifetime, we will all go through periods of ups and downs in our personal lives, relationships, school, work, and physical health that may influence us to experience some form of depression.
Knowing the signs and symptoms of depression can be one of the most significant factors in knowing when to seek help in order to receive the appropriate treatment. So how can you tell if you are experiencing a depressive episode? If you answer yes to the following list of symptom criteria based on the 5th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (2015), you should consider reaching out for help:
1. You experience a sad or depressed mood or a lack of interest in activities for most of the day nearly every day for at least two weeks in which there is not a time during those two weeks in which you feel euphoric, happy, or like yourself.
2. You or others in your support system notice a significant shift in your typical or baseline mood.
3. You notice that your functioning within your relationships, work, or school is impaired.
4. You experience at least 5 of the following 9 symptoms every day over the past two weeks:
a. Irritability or depressed mood
b. Sleep disturbance (either lack of sleep or over sleeping)
c. Decreased interest or pleasure in activities that you previously enjoyed
d. Significant change in weight (either weight loss or weight gain)
e. Difficulty concentrating
f. Strong feelings of shame or guilt
g. Change in activity level (either psychomotor retardation or agitation)
h. Decreased energy or feelings of fatigue
i. Suicidal ideation or thoughts of death
These symptoms can range in level of severity from mild to severe depending on the number of symptoms you are experiencing as well as the level of impairment you experience in your daily functioning. Some examples of impairment in functioning include:
1. Exhibiting withdrawal, isolation, aggressiveness, and/or anger within family and peer relationships
2. Deterioration or failing performance in work or school tasks and projects
3. Minimization or denial of feelings or problems to others
4. Vague or active suicidal ideation
5. Thoughts of or actual self-injurious behavior (cutting, burning, etc.)
It is important to consider whether any of the above symptoms may be related to either a medical condition, substance use/abuse, another psychiatric disorder, or bereavement (grief) in order to determine the appropriate level of treatment as depression can often mimic or co-exist with these other conditions.
The good news about Major Depression is that it is treatable (even the most severe forms!) through a variety of treatment modalities. When seeing clients in psychotherapy who present with symptoms of depression, a referral to their primary care physician is typically made initially in order to rule out any organic or medical conditions that could be the cause of the depressive symptoms. Other treatment options may include psychotropic medication, psychotherapy, lifestyle changes (diet, exercise, stress reduction, social support, and sleep hygiene), and acupuncture.
Depression can leave you feeling stuck or like you have no control over your life however there is help for it. If you or someone you know is experiencing any of the above symptoms, don’t hesitate and take action now to get your life back!