How do you know if you are actually depressed or just going through a rough patch in your life? Everyone has their ups and downs. However, if you are particularly low in motivation and no longer enjoying many of your activities for a period of over 2 weeks, you may be clinically depressed.
Signs and symptoms of Depression
Here are some of the signs that you may be clinically depressed. The more signs you have, the more likely you are clinically depressed:
- Feeling sad, down, or hopeless about your life or situation
- not enjoying activities that you used to enjoy
- sleeping less than you used to, or sleeping too much
- eating much more than you used to, or losing interest in eating
- not enjoying being with people you used to enjoy hanging out with (for example, friends or family)
- having low energy
- having low motivation
- trouble concentrating (for example, at work, when reading, or when watching a movie)
- loss of interest in sex
- wishing there was some way to escape your situation
- thinking maybe you’d be better off dead
- low self-esteem
- feeling not good enough, or that you do not deserve better
- family and friends express concerns that you may be depressed
What causes depression?
Depression can be caused by:
- a genetic predisposition (if one of your parents had depression, you are more likely to have it)
- situational factors, such as a break-up, being unhappy at your job, not being able to do much anymore due to chronic pain, or your children leaving the house
- most likely, it is a combination of genetic and situational factors that triggers a depression episode
What to do about depression
If your depression has only been going on a few weeks, I would first try a few things on your own. First, try forcing yourself to do activities you once enjoyed, even if you don’t feel like it. Second, as long as you are physically able, try building exercise into your week. To learn about how exercise works as a natural antidepressant, read my blog post here.
If you have already tried the above suggestions and you are still depressed, it is time to consider either therapy or antidepressant medication. Studies have shown that medication and therapy work equally well at treating depression, so the choice is personal preference. If you are interested in medication, talk to your primary care doctor first, as many primary care doctors will prescribe them. Be sure to ask about possible side effects of whatever medication you are prescribed. The first-line treatment most doctors will prescribe is an SSRI medication (e.g. Celexa, Sertraline, Prozac) and the most common side effect is sexual dysfunction. Because I am a psychologist (PhD not MD), I do not prescribe medications.
Healthy Mind Sacramento depression therapy
The type of therapy I practice to treat depression is based on the principals of cognitive behavioral therapy. The goal is to learn new behaviors and new ways of thinking. The idea is that unhealthy behaviors and thought patterns are keeping you stuck in a cycle of negativity that fuels your depression. One benefit of therapy is that it teaches you coping tools, so that if you have another period of depression later, you already have the tools and can apply them yourself. This is important, as once a person has experienced a depression episode their chance of having another depression episode increases. If you are interested in trying cognitive behavioral therapy, please reach out!