Haven’t felt like yourself lately — or longer than just lately? When you feel tired all the time, disinterested in the people, places and activities you love and altogether fatigued in body and mind, you might be facing depression. But you don’t have to struggle with it alone, and you can receive help.
Depression isn’t a dirty word. It’s an extremely common mental health condition — almost 17 million Americans have major depressive disorder — and most importantly, you can overcome it. Depression might come and go during your lifetime, but it’s nothing to be ashamed of, and it’s fully treatable.
If you feel like you might have depression, it’s normal to feel nervous talking about it. However, your health care team wants to help you feel like yourself again. Your physician, as well as the whole team of compassionate people at the AdventHealth Neuroscience Institute, are here to talk through your symptoms with you non-judgmentally and help you get the treatment that works.
What Is Depression?
When you think of depression, you’re probably thinking of major depressive disorder, which is the most well-known in a whole group of different depressive disorders.
Depressive disorders (of which there are many) are characterized by a depressed (sad or empty) mood and behavioral and cognitive symptoms that impair your ability to function every day. These disorders last longer than temporary feelings of sadness or a single depressive episode, and they’re recurrent conditions. A depressive disorder can be diagnosed if symptoms have lasted for at least two weeks.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition (DSM-5), which is the recognized diagnostic manual on all mental health conditions, identifies many types of depression, including:
- Major depressive disorder
- Persistent depressive disorder, or dysthymia
- Postpartum depression
- Premenstrual dysphoric disorder
- Substance or medication-induced depressive disorder
- Unspecified depressive disorder
Each of these conditions can be diagnosed by a mental health professional, and you can speak with your doctor about them, too.
When to Talk to Your Doctor About Depression
Identifying the symptoms of depressive disorders is the first step to understanding your condition and discussing it with a doctor.
If you’re experiencing these five hallmark symptoms of a depressive disorder (as defined by the DSM-5) on most days, speak up to your doctor.
You’ve Lost Interest in Most Activities
If you have depression, you’ve likely lost interest in or stopped caring about your favorite activities, like spending time with friends, exercising or beloved hobbies. You might notice this symptom in yourself or a loved one might point it out.
You Feel Sad, Empty or Hopeless Most of the Time
Your emotional life changes significantly when you have depression. Typical symptoms include the inability to anticipate happiness or pleasure, and an overarching feeling of emptiness.
However, irritability or increased anger can also be signs of depression. Your self-esteem might be low, too, with feelings of worthlessness or misplaced guilt creeping into your everyday life.
Your Weight and Appetite Has Gone Up or Down
If you’re not dieting, significant weight loss or gain can be symptomatic of depression. Increases and decreases in appetite on most days are also common with depression. You might find yourself changing what and how you eat, leaning toward comfort foods or letting nutrition fall to the wayside.
You Don’t Sleep Very Well
Depression can disrupt your sleep schedule, making it difficult to get a full night’s rest. Insomnia, including waking up and not falling back asleep, and hypersomnia, or oversleeping, are both common with depression.
You Have Little or No Energy Most of the Time
When you’re struggling psychologically, your body feels it, too. Depression can drain your energy quickly, and you might find yourself feeling fatigued on most days. Moving slowly, forgoing exercise and longing just to lie down are all common with depression.
You might lack the energy to upkeep your household or care for children or pets, and even small tasks like showering can feel like insurmountable chores.
Diagnosing Depression: What Health Care Professionals Look For
To understand your symptoms and get a formal diagnosis, it’s a good idea to talk to both your primary care doctor and a licensed mental health professional. With the perspectives of both of these professionals, you can make informed decisions about your health care.
What Your Physician Looks For
Your primary care physician can evaluate your physical health to help you understand your symptoms. There’s no lab test to diagnose depression, but physical exams and blood tests can help your doctor better understand what’s causing your symptoms.
Your doctor will likely want to do several tests to rules out other causes of depressive feelings, such as:
- Hormonal changes
- Medication side effects
- Thyroid conditions
- Vitamin and mineral deficiencies
To treat your depression, your doctor may prescribe you medications to help or refer you to a licensed mental health professional, like a therapist, for more in-depth evaluation and treatment.
What a Therapist Looks For
An evaluation with a mental health professional can give you more answers about your mental health, including a formal diagnosis.
To understand your symptoms and see whether they’re indicative of depression, a therapist will want to know how long your symptoms have lasted and how severely they impact your daily life. A major depressive episode must have lasted for at least two weeks for a therapist to make a diagnosis of a mental health condition.
To make an accurate and informed diagnosis, your therapist will also want to rule out other causes of your symptoms. They will likely ask you about:
- Grief from a recent loss
- Past or recent trauma, including physical or psychological abuse or injury
- Recent life changes, like pregnancy or divorce
- Substance abuse problems
- Your mental health history
Depression Treatment Designed With Your Needs in Mind
At the AdventHealth Neuroscience Institute, we treat mental health conditions like depression with whole-person care. Our compassionate team of mental health professionals not only treat your symptoms but help you feel whole, physically, mentally and spiritually.
To help you overcome depression, our team can help you choose a treatment that works, like deep brain stimulation, talk therapy, a neuropsychiatric approach or medication management with innovative medications like SPRAVATOTM.