Depression is one of those heavily used terms in our culture, applied to everything from a fleeting feeling to a serious clinical syndrome. Sometimes folks who have been depressed for a while are so used to it they do not even recognize it as depression! The following checklists are two tools to get you thinking about yourself, your mood, and your physical symptoms.
- A persistent sad, anxious or “down” mood?
- Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed?
- Reduced appetite and weight loss or weight gain?
- Sleeping too little or sleeping too much?
- Restlessness or irritability?
- Persistent physical symptoms that don’t respond to treatment (such as headaches, chronic pain, or constipation and other digestive disorders)?
- Fatigue or loss of energy?
- Difficulty with concentration, decision-making or memory?
- Feeling guilty, hopeless or worthless?
- Thoughts of death or suicide?
Because these symptoms occur with many conditions, many depressed people never get help, because they don’t know that their physical symptoms might be caused by depression. A lot of doctors miss the symptoms, too.
Physical Symptoms Checklist:
- Headaches. These are fairly common in people with depression. If you already had migraine headaches, they may seem worse if you’re depressed.
- Back pain. If you already suffer with back pain, it may be worse if you become depressed.
- Muscle aches and joint pain. Depression can make any kind of chronic pain worse.
- Chest pain. Obviously, it’s very important to get chest pain checked out by an expert right away. It can be a sign of serious heart problems. But depression can contribute to the discomfort associated with chest pain.
- Digestive problems. You might feel queasy or nauseous. You might have diarrhea or become chronically constipated.
- Exhaustion and fatigue. No matter how much you sleep, you may still feel tired or worn out. Getting out of the bed in the morning may seem very hard, even impossible.
- Sleeping problems. Many people with depression can’t sleep well anymore. They wake up too early or can’t fall asleep when they go to bed. Others sleep much more than normal.
- Change in appetite or weight. Some people with depression lose their appetite and lose weight. Others find they crave certain foods — like carbohydrates — and weigh more.
- Dizziness or lightheadedness.
These physical symptoms aren’t “all in your head.” Depression can cause real changes in your body. For instance, it can slow down your digestion, which can result in stomach problems. Depression seems to be related to an imbalance of certain chemicals in your brain. Some of these same chemicals play an important role in how you feel pain. So many experts think that depression can make you feel pain differently than other people.
But make sure to tell your health care provider about any physical symptoms. Don’t assume they’ll go away on their own. They may need additional treatment. For instance, your doctor may suggest an anti-anxiety medicine if you have insomnia. Those drugs help you relax and may allow you to sleep better.
Exploring your depression treatment options:
Antidepressants aren’t a cure. Medication may treat some symptoms of depression, but can’t change underlying contributions to depression in your life. Antidepressants won’t solve your problems if you’re depressed because of a dead-end job, a pessimistic outlook, or an unhealthy relationship. That’s where therapy and other lifestyle changes come in.
Studies show that therapy works just as well as antidepressants in treating depression, and it’s better at preventing relapse once treatment ends. While depression medication only helps as long as you’re taking it, the emotional insights and coping skills acquired during therapy can have a more lasting effect on depression. However, if your depression is so severe that you don’t have the energy to pursue treatment, a brief trial of antidepressants may boost your mood to a level where you can focus on therapy.
In addition to therapy, other effective treatments for depression include exercise, meditation, relaxation techniques, stress management, support groups, and self-help steps. While these treatments require more time and effort initially, their advantage over depression medication is that they boost mood without any adverse effects.
If you would like Dr. Kay Trotter to come talk to your group or find out more about her counseling practice, you can contact her at: 214-499-0396 or email Kay@KayTrotter.com