When to Seek Professional Help for Anxiety and Depression - More Than Just the "Blues"

When to seek help

We all have ups and downs. Life’s challenges can knock us down and usually we can get back up with time. We also typically can put life’s knocks into context and know that a particular problem will likely pass. “The blues” may be periods when we feel sad, alone, isolated, and grief-stricken because of particular life events or circumstances. These emotions may be normal reactions to life’s challenges, but they pass in time. You can generally function normally and carry on with your typical day-to-day activities when you simply have “the blue.” However, sometimes we don’t get back up and our mood or mental states starts to interfere with our daily functioning. That’s when “the blues” can become clinical depression.

Clinical depression (also referred to as major depression or major depressive disorder) is a serious health concern and should not be ignored. Women are believed to suffer from depression at twice the rate as men. Depression is alarmingly common, and almost 20 million Americans experience depression each year. Given how common this illness has become, no one should feel embarrassed or concerned about approaching their health care professional regarding depression. Having the illness is not a sign of weakness or personal defect. The problem develops as life’s pressures slowly overwhelm the mind and body’s capacity to cope with these pressures.

The typical symptoms of clinical depression are:

  1. Weight loss - especially weight loss that is not intended through diet and exercise.
  2. Feelings of “emptiness” and sadness - often described as a feeling of purposelessness and lack of drive.
  3. Growing disinterest in hobbies and activities you used to like - this can slowly come on, but try to note if you’ve stopped doing the things you love.
  4. Either sleeping too much or too little - observe if you are having trouble falling or staying asleep. Also, note if you tend to sleep in or sleep through the day.
  5. Loss of energy - check to see if you feel like you’re dragging and feel fatigued through the day.
  6. Increased irritability - observe if you are feeling particularly irritable or even restless.
  7. Lowered self-esteem - do you find yourself feeling worthless, inadequate, or guilty? If so, take watch if these feelings are new or worsening.
  8. Trouble with concentration - if you are having trouble with tasks that before were no problem, this might be a sign of the onset of depression.
  9. Contemplating suicide - if you are thinking of suicide, seek professional help immediately. Suicide is a serious symptom of depression.

Per guidelines, if you have 5 or more of the symptoms listed above for more than 2 weeks nearly every day; then it’s time to consult with your doctor - especially if these symptoms are interfering with your daily life. Your primary care provider is a great place to start. Your health care professionals will screen you for depression and talk to you about the best course of action. Interventions may include medication and therapy.

Depression is a real illness. Don’t ignore it. Letting depression interfere with your life is not something you have to settle for.