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Feature Article Recognize the Subtle Signs of Depression

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You’re probably familiar with depression symptoms that include feeling down and a loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy. But depression is more than just laying in bed feeling sad, and having depression without getting treatment could keep you from getting better.

“Depression doesn’t always look the same way for everyone and there are many different events that can trigger an episode,” said Alan Silver, PsyD, a primary care psychologist at Samaritan Medical Clinics in North Albany.

According to Silver, depression can often be brought on by a life change such as a new baby, divorce, a job change or retirement. Seasonal changes can also trigger an episode (think Seasonal Affective Disorder, though Silver notes seasonal depression isn’t limited just to the winter). A depressive episode may even come out of nowhere, with no clear cause.

Although depression can affect anyone, Silver reports that some people are at a higher risk for depression. Those with a chronic condition that requires a lot of management are at a greater risk because they may no longer be able to do the things they used to. And those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender are at an increased risk because of the social stigma and discrimination they experience.

“We often see the first signs of depression in the late teens or early 20s and it occurs more often in women, but some people might not have an episode until their 60s,” said Silver. “Identifying it and getting help early can make managing depression easier and keep the condition from getting worse.”

Symptoms of Depression Can Include:

  1. Feeling irritable or agitated.
  2. Feeling anxious or worried.
  3. Inability to fall asleep or stay asleep.
  4. Inability to concentrate or forgetting things.
  5. Physical pain with no clear cause that doesn’t go away.

If you are experiencing depressive symptoms for more than two weeks and aren’t feeling better, it may be time to talk to your primary care provider. He or she can test for physiological issues like low iron or hypothyroidism that can cause similar symptoms. 

If you do have depression, your primary care provider can help you find the support you need. Silver reports that the earlier treatment begins, the more effective it is. Treatment options may include counseling, medication or some combination of the two.

“One of the biggest things people can do at home to reduce depression is to do things,” said Silver. “The more time you spend sitting in depression, the worse it can get.”

Silver recommends rediscovering the activities that give you a sense of pleasure, achievement or accomplishment. 

“People stop doing things that they love or enjoy but starting them again can help you feel better,” said Silver.

Silver also emphasizes the importance getting enough sleep and making time for exercise. Sometimes just getting enough quality sleep and taking time to walk each day can provide a refreshed perspective and a potent preventative.

Learn more about depression and treatment options from our health library.  Find support groups or join one of our seminars.