Steamboat Springs How many times have you said or heard someone say "I'm depressed"? This phrase has become a part of our everyday language. It is used by adults and kids to describe a wide range of feelings. This spectrum may encompass loss, sadness, boredom, anger, disappointment, stress or a general sense of malaise.
These feelings may be fleeting or they may last for quite a while. Most people experience negative moods, and about one in three experiences clinical depression.
However, there is a difference between mood fluctuations and clinical depression. Clinical depression can be a debilitating illness with severe emotional and physical symptoms, including loss of appetite, insomnia or hypersomnia, headaches and upset stomachs, causing a loss of energy in every sense.
Symptoms may include deep feelings of misery, despair, worthlessness, loss of interest in the activities of life and guilt. Life has lost its meaning, and moments of pleasure are few and far between. Suicidal thoughts are not uncommon.
People suffering from this kind of depression have trouble making decisions. Often they are irritable and find it difficult to concentrate on even the simplest task. They may withdraw from daily activities and social contact. This kind of depression may last for a number of weeks or much longer.
So what causes clinical depression? The Harvard Medical School Mental Health Review on depression says "our moods depend not only on heredity and neurochemistry, but also on social circumstances, rearing, personality, health or illness, the company we keep, the events that change our lives, and the situations in which we find ourselves or place ourselves." Some call it the dark night of the soul.
Fewer than half of depressed people seek help. They may have a hard time admitting something is wrong and keep waiting to feel better. However, research has shown treatment for depression using a combination of antidepressant medication and psychotherapy can be highly effective.
Psychotherapy helps identify thinking and behavior patterns that contribute to the feelings of depression and ways to change those patterns.
If you or someone you care about is suffering from depression, help is available. There are many competent mental health providers in our community. Look in the yellow pages under psychotherapists, counselors, psychologists or physicians. Call and ask if they are experienced in working with depression and make an appointment as soon as possible.
Nancy Young, M.S., LPC, is a psychotherapist in private practice in Steamboat Springs.