Recently, Ruth has found herself struggling with her normal routine. She has been more irritable towards her children, and anything her husband says to her seems to make her cry. Despite sleeping well, she feels run down and stays tired. At the encouragement of a friend, she talked to her physician, who believes she is suffering from depression.
Depression is a common medical condition diagnosed in the primary care setting. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, an estimated 16 million Americans, about seven percent of the population, experienced a depressive episode in the last year. Depression does not discriminate, as it affects all ages, races, ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds, but it is more common in women and young adults.
Many people diagnosed with depression ask, “Why me?” Depression and other mental health issues tend to run in families, but depression also can be caused by stress, brain structure, hormonal influences and life events.
Marital difficulties, financial troubles and medical problems, such as chronic pain and attention deficit disorder, can all spark a depressive episode.
Depression can be diagnosed by your physician. Your physician will ask about your symptoms and how long you have felt them. Depression may be diagnosed if you have experienced several of the following symptoms for at least two weeks:
▪ Feeling down/hopeless;
▪ Increased agitation/irritability;
▪ Overwhelming fatigue, struggling to complete daily routines;
▪ Loss of desire to do things you previously enjoyed;
▪ Difficulty concentrating and staying on task/decision-making difficulties;
▪ Appetite changes, eating too much/too little;
▪ Sleep changes, either too much/too little;
▪ Thoughts of suicide/that the world would be better off without you.
Discuss these symptoms with your physician, as they may be due to depression, but could also be related to other mental health conditions. Symptoms also may be due to other medical causes or be a side effect of medication.
Depression usually responds to treatment with medication, therapy or both. Medication along with therapy has shown to give the best results. Medicines take time to work, and you need to work closely with your physician to find the right one for you. Research has shown that exercise helps with depression. You may need to be treated for 6 to 12 months for your depression, though many people with depression suffer from more than one episode and may require further treatments.
For more information about depression, discuss it with your physician or visit Nami.org.
Dr. Tabitha Culver is a family medicine physician with Baptist Health Medical Group Family Medicine in Lexington.