Am I depressed?
Depression is more than feeling sad. It’s more than being “down.” It’s more than even feeling really sad and down for a whole day, or having a “bad week.” While this page is no substitute for a diagnosis by a trained professional like myself, here are some things to look out for. Since I specialize in counseling for depression here in the Tri-Cities, I will try to answer some questions you might have about it on this page.
The main symptom of depression is feeling sad, empty or hopeless most of the day, nearly every day for at least a couple of weeks. If you don’t necessarily feel this, but friends or relatives come up to you saying you look this way, take note! Most folks don’t know that children or adolescents who are depressed sometimes don’t feel sad or down–irritability can also indicate depression.
A significant loss of interest or enjoyment in most activities that we used to enjoy is another hallmark of depression. Again, this is not just a “down day” but tends to be present most of the day, most days of the week.
Appetite and sleep are typically affected. If you’ve lost significant weight without dieting, or don’t have much of an appetite, this is a symptom. Some folks have an increase in appetite, but instead of eating a normal diet they begin mostly eating sugary or salty foods. Not sleeping well for at least a couple of weeks, either because you don’t get much sleep or because you start sleeping 12 or more hours a day is often a sign of depression.
Here are some other signs of depression:
- Feeling tired all the time
- Not having energy or motivation
- Isolating yourself from others
- Feeling worthless or having excessive guilt
- Low self-esteem
- Negative/pessimistic thinking
- Diminished ability to think, concentrate or make decisions
- Decreased sex drive
- Recurring thoughts of death or suicide
What do I do if I suspect I am depressed?
First go and see your doctor! Many depressive symptoms can be caused by physical conditions, and can be remedied by addressing them. Symptoms of depression can be mimicked by thyroid problems, sleep apnea, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Lyme Disease, or simply having the flu. Your physician can determine if any of these or other conditions are present. Always rule out physical causes first!
If your doctor can’t find a physical cause, he or she may diagnose you with depression. You may also want to seek out a mental health professional who specializes in depression for a diagnosis and treatment options. This is a service I offer and am happy to do! Having suffered from depression myself I know how debilitating it can be, and have successfully treated others for years.
How do I know if I’m depressed enough for counseling?
This is a question a lot of folks have. Here’s how to tell: the main question to ask yourself is, “do my symptoms significantly interfere with the quality of my life?” If they don’t, you may not need to enter counseling. If, however, your symptoms cause you a lot of stress, if they impair your ability to do your work or your relationships with other people, or if they flat out make you miserable and you don’t know how to get better, then it may be time to consider counseling.
What does depression treatment look like?
The first thing to know is depression is very treatable! Depression has been around for a long time, and there are about as many ways to treat it as you can shake a stick at. This is a good thing, because no two people are alike and there is no “one size fits all” for treatment. We are lucky to live in a time when a whole world full of professionals can collaborate to find the treatments that are likely to help the most people. My goal is to learn what works for you and tailor a program that will help you the most, in the shortest amount of time.
I will tailor a specific treatment plan for you based on your symptoms, your current circumstances, and your history of depression or treatment. I will help you understand what is contributing to your depression, and what to do about it! Sometimes you can identify exactly what started your depression, other times it seems to come out of the blue and you don’t know why.
I’ll help you learn to take control of your life again. This includes recognizing and taking control of your thoughts, your feelings and your actions, and learning how these are all related. This includes improving communication with others, reducing the symptoms of depression, and how to get the kind of social support you need.
Sometimes depressive symptoms are the result of traumatic, or very stressful, events. In these cases treating the underlying trauma will help resolve the symptoms of depression. I have some free questionnaires on my Forms page that will help you gauge the severity of your depressive symptoms and detect the presence of trauma affecting your life. Some depressive symptoms only seem to come around during the winter months. I’ve written a blog post specifically for seasonal affective disorder that may be helpful.
Length of treatment for depression varies, but typically is not less than six sessions. Everyone wants help quickly, and as your therapist I can offer you things that will help from the very first session.
What about antidepressants?
As a clinical social worker I don’t prescribe medications. Antidepressants can be very helpful for alleviating some symptoms of depression, and can be used with counseling. I highly recommend them for those with severe depression (if you are having suicidal thoughts or just can’t seem to get out of bed).
Whether you have mild, moderate or severe depression, however, you should consider counseling. Research has shown that a combination of medication and counseling, especially for severe depression, is more effective than either alone. I tell my clients that one of the main benefits of antidepressants is that they help you function at a level that will let you get the most out of therapy.
Antidepressants have pros and cons. Some folks are wary about taking them, and some want to avoid them altogether. We can discuss all your options and find out what will work best for you. The good news is that only a very small percentage of folks need to be on antidepressants for a lengthy amount of time, they are meant to be a temporary help.
If I want counseling, what’s my next step?
Hopefully you have gotten the message to see your primary doctor for a differential diagnosis, but counseling and/or medications can be very helpful. I offer counseling services for depression here in the Tri-Cities area. Please write me or give me a call. Click here to be taken to a form to contact me via email, or call my office directly at 509-531-6698. It’s tempting to put things off when you’re depressed. Do something today to help yourself take your life back, you deserve it!