Everyone gets “down” or “blue” at one time or another. Life happens — and so do life’s daily stresses. Maybe it’s a break-up, or loss of a beloved pet. Perhaps it’s a financial issue or other frustration keeping you from taking that long-awaited vacation. It could just be a “bad day” when nothing goes right.
But if you’re feeling sad for more than two weeks, it could mean that you’re having a major depressive episode, or MDE.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that an estimated 16.1 million adults (6.7 percent) age 18 or older in the U.S. had at least one MDE in the past year. About 2.7 percent of children age 8 to 15 also experienced MDEs. Depression can happen at any age, most often in adulthood, but it’s also seen in children and teens. No two people suffer depression in the exact same way. Moreover, a person can also have certain risk factors at play: from a personal or family history of depression that already exists; or a major life change, trauma, or stress; to medications with side effects that can include depression; or a physical illness that could make you prone to feeling depressed.
If you (or someone you know) experiences any of the following symptoms for more than two weeks, and can’t “shake them off,” it may be time to talk to a doctor:
- Feel anxious, “empty,” negative, or sad
- Loss of appetite, abrupt weight gain, or weight loss
- Body aches/pains, or digestive problems that don’t get better
- Can’t concentrate, focus, or make decisions
- Fatigue, lack of energy, moving or talking slowly
- Guilty, irritable, helpless, hopeless, or pessimistic
- Trouble sitting still
- Disinterest or displeasure in things you normally enjoy
- Low self-esteem
- Sleep problems (inability to fall or stay asleep)
- Thoughts of death or suicide
You can get screened for depression. If you’re diagnosed with depression, there are effective ways to manage it; in other words, it’s treatable. “Talk therapy” — one-on-one or group support — might help. Your doctor may want you to take medication. Be active and exercise. Get support from those who love you. Take small steps toward your goals. Stay positive! With increased awareness and modes to help, the stigma often attached to mental illness is slowly changing.
By Lisa Miceli Feliciano