Early intervention key to treating depression

by Sabriya Dennis
U.S. Army Public Health Command


October is National Depression Education and Awareness Month.

When feelings of sadness, anxiety or depression linger for long periods of time, it’s possible that a person could be clinically depressed. Depression is a very common condition affecting more than 20 million adults in the U.S. each year.

The Army’s suicide rate has increased significantly over the past five years. A diagnosis of depression is a risk factor that can contribute to suicidal thoughts, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Therefore, it is important to be attentive to signs of depression in others as well as oneself.

Depression is defined in the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders” as having five or more specified symptoms occur during the same two-week period of time and representing a change from the previous level of functioning. As part of the criteria, at least one of the symptoms has to be depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure.

The remaining symptoms are:
• Difficulty concentrating, remembering details and making decisions
• Energy levels are decreased or feelings of fatigue
• Persistent aches, pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems
• Running into feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
• Experiencing feelings of guilt, worthlessness and/or helplessness
• Suicidal thoughts or suicide attempts
• Sleeping excessively, early morning wakefulness or insomnia
• Irritability, restlessness
• Overeating or loss of appetite
• No interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex

Issues such as loneliness, financial strain, lack of social support, relationship problems, unemployment, trauma, death of a loved one, alcohol or drug abuse, childhood abuse, family history of depression, health problems or a recent stressful life experience can place a person at risk for depression.

Though everyone may experience one or more of these issues, not everyone will respond to them in the same way. The same is true for depression; not everyone experiences or exhibits depressive symptoms in the same manner.

The following are common symptoms of depression for various groups:
MEN
Fatigue, irritability, sleep problems, violence, reckless behavior and substance abuse

WOMEN
Feelings of guilt, excessive sleeping, overeating and weight gain

Youth
Irritability, hostility, quick temperedness, unexplained aches and pain. If left untreated, these symptoms can lead to problems at home and school, or drug abuse.

Depression is treatable. Treatment for depression should be sought as early as possible so the individual can return to a healthy lifestyle and minimize the risk of greater illness. Treatment for depression includes the use of antidepressant medications, psychotherapy or a combination of both.

If you or someone you know is in a crisis, seek help immediately.
Here are some places that could help:
• Call 911
• Visit the emergency room or speak to a health care provider
• Call 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255); TTY 1-800-799-4TTY (4889) to speak with a trained counselor. This is a 24-hour toll-free hotline provided by the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

If you are not sure if you or your loved one is experiencing depression, private screening tools are available online that provide immediate feedback.



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