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Could You Be Depressed?

do i have depressionIf you have been feeling emotionally down for a while and you are having trouble shaking off the feeling, it may be more than just the normal ups and downs of life that is bothering you.

It could be depression.

Depression is not a sign of mental or emotional weakness. Many things can bring depression on - such as stress, life issues, hormones, and more. No one is immune to it and anyone can develop it.

The National Mental Health Association reports that in the United States alone, 12 million women are diagnosed with depression each year. It also states that one out of every eight women is likely to develop clinical depression in their life. Depression should not be ignored, as it generally does not go away on its own and it can impact every part of your life. The good news is that it is treatable.

Depression Signs and Symptoms

The symptoms of depression are the same in both males and females.

* Fatigue
* Little or no energy
* Trouble concentrating
* Feeling overwhelmed
* Feeling down
* Loss of interest in things that used to be pleasurable
* Feelings of worthlessness, guilt, and/or hopelessness
* Feelings of anger or resentment
* Easily irritated, agitated
* Inability to cope
* Sleeping less or sleeping more
* Sleep disturbances
* Appetite changes
* Weight changes
* Thoughts of suicide

If you have been experiencing five or more of the listed symptoms for more than two weeks, you should talk to your doctor about depression.

Risk Factors for Depression

While depression is no respecter of persons, women who are in lower socio-economic brackets are more inclined to develop depression. One probable reason for this is that women with minimal finances are more likely to have more sources of stress in their lives.

Females with the following factors may also be more susceptible to developing depression:

* History or family history of mood disorders
* Death of a parent at a young age
* Being the victim of physical, emotional or sexual abuse
* History, or current use, of oral contraceptives that have a high progesterone content
* History, or current use, of infertility treatments that use gonadotropin stimulants
* Prolong life stressors such as unemployment or caring for a sick or dying loved one
* Loss of support system or the death of a loved one
* Alcohol and/or drug abuse

If you are feeling depressed and you have recently experienced, or are currently experiencing, any of these factors talk to your doctor about depression.

Depression Treatments

The treatment for depression is the same in both males and females. The main approach is the use of antidepressant medication and talk-therapy.

The most commonly prescribed antidepressants are Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors (SSRIs). These include names such as Prozac, Celexa, Luvox, Paxil, Lexapro, and Zoloft.

Another common group of antidepressants that are commonly prescribed is Serotonin Norepinephrine Re-uptake Inhibitors (SNRIs). These include names such as Effexor, Cymbalta, and Pristiq.

Other medications for depression include tricyclic antidepressants. These are an older class of antidepressants. They are generally not prescribed first as they have more side effects than the newer SSRIs and SNRIs. However, they can successfully treat depression, if/when prescribed. Tricyclic antidepressants include Norpramin, Tofranil, Vivactil, Surmontil, and others.

The medication that your doctor prescribes will be dependent on your symptoms. Special things will also be taken into consideration, such as if you are experiencing severe anxiety or panic with your depression, before a medication is issued.

Your doctor will also need to know if you are having any health problems, or if you are currently being treated for a health problem. As some medications that treat health problems may lead to depression, be sure to disclose any medications you take.

You should start to feel your mood life within a few weeks of beginning antidepressant treatment. Treatment generally lasts from six to nine months. Prolonged treatment is thought to possibly prevent the depression from returning. You should not discontinue your antidepressant treatment without consulting your physician, even if you are feeling better. If you do stop abruptly, you may have adverse side effects. Some medications will have to be tapered off slowly over time.

If you are unresponsive to antidepressant treatment, you may have treatment-resistive depression. In this instance, your doctor may prescribe you a higher dosage of medication, in addition to one or more other medicines.

In regards to talk-therapy, your doctor will advise you as to whether he/she feels you would benefit from this, in addition to medication. Therapy is generally prescribed if your depression is due to current life issues, unresolved past life issues, and other stress factors. Talk-therapy can teach you how to recognize, cope, understand, and process your thoughts, feelings, and actions. 

Depression Prognosis

Some people may have a bout of depression, seek treatment, and the depression never returns. Other may find that depression reoccurs throughout their lives. Individuals who have repeated bouts of depression may be prescribed ongoing treatment for years. Or, they may opt to go without medication until they feel the depression creeping back into their lives.

When to Seek Emergency Help 

You should seek emergency help if you hear voices or believe you are seeing things that are not there. You should call 9-1-1, a suicide hotline, or go to the nearest emergency room if you are having suicidal thoughts. Inside the United States you can call 1-800-SUICIDE if you need someone to talk to about suicidal thoughts.

Recommended Reading

For more information and advice on depression, take a look at the following books:

The Cognitive Behavioral Workbook for Depression: A Step-by-Step Program
The Depression Cure: The 6-Step Program to Beat Depression without Drugs
The Mindful Way Through Depression: Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness

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