Facing depression with hope and help

Find answers for this serious - and treatable - medical condition

It’s more than passing sadness. Depression is an illness that can cast a heavy cloud over your entire life. It may make it hard to function day to day — in body and mind.

If you’re struggling, here’s a key thing to know about depression: It’s very treatable. Up to 90 percent of people with depression improve with treatment.*

Read on to learn more about this common condition.

Q. How do I know if I’m depressed?

A. If you think you might be depressed, it’s important to see your doctor. The earlier treatment starts, the more effective it is, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

Talk with your doctor if you have any of the following signs or symptoms — lasting two weeks or longer. Keep in mind that symptoms can vary from mild to severe.

  • Lingering sadness or low mood
  • Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Changes in appetite or weight — unrelated to dieting
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Loss of pleasure in activities once enjoyed
  • Persistent fatigue
  • Trouble concentrating, thinking or making decisions
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
  • Slowed movement or speech — or purposeless physical activity, such as pacing or hand-wringing

Q. What causes depression?

A. There’s no easy answer for this. Scientists continue to study the causes. A number of factors may play a role. Those include:

  • Genetics and family history
  • Biological differences in brain chemistry
  • Psychological tendencies toward low self-esteem, stress or pessimism
  • Environmental exposure to trauma

Certain health conditions and medications may also affect risk.

Q. How is depression treated?

A. There are different types of depression — and different ways to treat it. One size doesn’t fit all.

Some people may be helped with counseling. Others may need medication. Often, both are used together. Your doctor can help determine what’s right for you.

Q. What if I have thoughts of suicide?

A. If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, seek help right away. If someone is in immediate danger, call 911 — or go to the closest emergency room. To talk with a trained counselor, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline any time at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).

What to do next

Make sure you know what resources are available to you. Your employer may have an employee assistance program that can put you in touch with professional help.**

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*Source: American Psychiatric Association

**Check your benefit plan to see what services may be covered. You may be responsible for any deductible, copay or coinsurance that may apply.