By: Bud Ingram-Lile

“I feel depressed” is a common phrase heard by mental health providers. Once used to describe a clinical state, the term has crept into common usage over time. Nowadays, it can mean anything from the “Monday blues” to a life-threatening illness.

A mental health provider looks for a cluster of symptoms over time to assess for clinical depression. Additionally, they look for the degree of impact these symptoms have on daily function. These symptoms include:

• Depressed mood
• Lack of interest in previously enjoyed activities
• Problems with sleep (either too much or too little)
• Problems with appetite (either increased or decreased)
• Problems with concentration
• Lack of energy or feelings of fatigue
• Changes in purposeless physical activity – either increased (like handwringing or pacing)
or decreased (appeared slowed down to others)
• Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
• Thoughts of death or suicide

The diagnosis and treatment of clinical depression can be tricky. There are multiple physical and mental health conditions that present with some or all these symptoms. Depression can appear in:

• Medical conditions such as thyroid issues
• Medications such as those for high blood pressure
• Grief and bereavement from a life loss
• Trauma response
• Bipolar disorder (“manic depression”)
• Dementia
• And many others …

A combination of brain chemistry, genetics, personality structure, and environmental factors play into a person’s vulnerability to depression. During a proper assessment, these factors are explored in detail. Weighing these factors helps the provider create a personalized treatment path, with the goals of improving daily functioning and feeling better.

The good news? Depression responds to treatment! From a psychiatric viewpoint, over two-thirds of clients respond robustly to the first medication choice. And, new advances in medication and non- medication treatment make even treatment-resistant depression a very manageable condition.

Depression is not a sign of a “defect” or “weakness”. It is a very real condition. And a very treatable one.

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