Everyone experiences bouts of the blues or periods of sadness now and then. However, if these feelings last more than a couple of weeks or interfere with your daily life, you may be suffering from clinical depression. Depression involves a set of symptoms that can last for months and sometimes years. It is not a sign of personal weakness or a condition that can be willed or wished away. People with depression cannot merely "pull themselves together" and get better.
About twice as many women as men suffer from this medical condition, but men often experience and cope with depression differently than women. Symptoms can include headaches, stomach problems, loss of appetite and sexual drive. In severe cases, depression can bring on suicidal thoughts. Statistically, four times as many men as women die by suicide.
The causes of depression are not definitively known. Research shows the tendency to develop depression may be inherited and that an uneven balance of naturally occurring mood-influencing chemicals in the brain can play a role. People who have a poor self-image, who view themselves negatively, or who have a tendency to be overwhelmed by life's challenges may be more likely than others to experience depression. A serious loss, chronic illness, difficult relationship, or unwelcome change can trigger depression.
Hypothyroidism, a common thyroid disorder, can also cause depression. In hypothyroidism, the thyroid doesn't make enough thyroid hormone. Women over the age of 35, postpartum women, people with Down Syndrome and the elderly are at higher risk for the development of hypothyroidism. Two common causes of hypothyroidism are Hashimoto's thyroiditis (a condition in which the body's immune system attacks the thyroid gland) and treatment of a hyperactive thyroid. In addition, some medications can affect thyroid function causing hypothyroidism.
The two major symptoms of depression include a depressed mood and an inability to enjoy life. Depression may also be indicated by:
• Anxiety or panic attacks
• Sleep disturbances (sleeping too much or difficulty sleeping)
• Change in appetite (eating too much or too little, sometimes weight gain or weight loss)
• Poor concentration
• Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
• General irritability
• Thoughts of death or suicide; suicide attempt
• Vague physical aches and pains, such as stomachaches and headaches
• Excessive crying
Treatment for depression can include counseling, medications, or both. Counseling can give you support and strategies for coping and learning new ways to think about situations in your life. If you take medication, you should begin to feel better within 4 to 6 weeks.
• Share your treatment plan with people close to you. Talk to friends and relatives and explain what you are going through.
• Take medications exactly the way they are prescribed. You may be tempted to stop taking your medications too soon. However, it is important to keep taking them until your doctor says to stop, even if you begin feeling better. Keep in mind that it may take 2 to 4 weeks to see a noticeable change.
• Report any unusual medication side effects to your doctor, especially if the side effects interfere with your ability to function.
• Keep all follow-up appointments you have with your doctor or therapist. Do not miss an appointment, even if you are feeling better that day.
• Schedule pleasant activities into your day. People tend to feel better when they are doing activities they enjoy.
Finally, but importantly, use self-care techniques to manage depression. Avoid taking on a great deal of responsibility when not feeling well. Divide your workload, breaking large tasks into small ones, setting priorities, and be realistic in your goals. Do activities that make you feel better, such as exercising moderately, going to a movie, or attending social events.
Remember, COPE is here to help. Contact us if you recognize any of the symptoms above in yourself, or encourage a friend to get help if you believe they would benefit from guidance.
The StayWell Company, LLC ©2018
The time you spend with your children each day doesn't have to be scripted or scheduled. In fact, for some, setting aside only specific times as "family time," can put pressure on both you and your kids. Instead, family time can take place spontaneously in many different ways during ordinary interactions between parents and children, whether it's rocking a baby to sleep or driving a teenager to the mall. One place to start is at the dinner table. "Even if it's for only 10 or 15 minutes, it's the sacrosanct time that everyone agrees is important," says Eve Orlow, Ed.D., a clinical psychologist in the Philadelphia area.
Here are some other ways you can become involved with your children:
• Listen up. Listen not just for what happened, but for what they are telling you about their day through their actions and tone. "Ask questions that create the foundation for relationships---not only 'Did you have a good day at school?' but also 'What was good about school today?'" Dr. Orlow says. "It's also a good time for children to learn that they should ask, "And how was your day?"
• Read together. This teaches kids that books are not only a source of education but also of pleasure and a refuge from stress.
• Play board games together. You'll interact with your children while having fun.
• Limit and monitor TV viewing. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children younger than 2 should not watch TV or videos at all. After age 2, the AAP recommends no more than one to two hours of quality television or videos.
• Focus on their unique interests. For some kids, it might be going to a ball game; for others shopping at the mall or baking cookies.
• Relax more. "With so many things to be done, there's something magical about spending two hours---or all day---on a Monopoly game," Dr. Orlow says. "It says: 'We value hard work, we also value relaxation time and we value being together.'"
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The StayWell Company, LLC ©2018