Sure, everyone feels sad or down sometimes. But, if you or someone you love is sad most of the time — or alternates between being really up and manic and feeling very down and depressed — and it’s creating problems at school or work, relationships are suffering, or substances or activities are being used to control the problems, it might be depression. The good news? It’s a real medical illness, and it’s treatable.
How can you tell?
If you’ve had five or more of the following symptoms for more than two weeks, or if any of these symptoms cause such a big change that you can’t keep up your usual routine, you should talk with someone and ask for help.
When you’re feeling down and depressed:
- You feel sad or cry a lot, and it doesn’t go away.
- You feel guilty for no reason; you feel like you’re no good; you’ve lost your confidence.
- Life seems meaningless or like nothing good is ever going to happen again. You have a negative attitude a lot of the time, or it seems like you have no feelings at all.
- You don’t feel like doing a lot of the rings you used to like — like music, sports, being with friends or going out — and you want to be left alone most of the time.
- It’s hard to make up your mind. You forget lots of things, and it’s hard to concentrate.
- You get irritated often. Little things make you lose your temper; you overreact.
- Your sleep pattern changes; you start sleeping a lot more, or you have trouble falling asleep at night, or you wake up really early most mornings and can’t go back to sleep.
- Your eating pattern changes; you’ve lost your appetite or you eat a lot more.
- You feel restless and tired most of the time.
- You think about death, feel like you’re dying or have thoughts about committing suicide.
When you’re feeling up and manic:
- You feel high as a kite … like you’re on top of the world.
- You get unreal ideas about the great things you can do .. things that you actually, truly can’t do.
- Thoughts go racing through your head, you jump from one subject to another, and you talk a lot.
- You’re a non-stop party, constantly running around.
- You do too many wild or risking things with driving, with spending money, with sex, etc.
- You’re so “up” that you don’t need much sleep.
- You’re rebellious or irritable and can’t get along at home, or school or work, or with friends.
Talk to someone.
If you’re concerned that you or someone you love is experiencing clinical depression or manic-depressive disorder, talk to someone about it.
There are people who can help you get treatment.
- a trusted family member
- your family doctor
- your clergy
- a counselor or nurse
- a social worker
- responsible adults/friends
- a professional at a mental health center or Mental Health Association
Why do we get depressed?
Sometimes major events in our lives — like divorces in the family, major financial problems, a loved one’s death, disruptive home lives or difficult break-ups — can trigger a depressive episode.
At other times, just as with other illnesses, depression just happens. Sometimes we react by exhibiting inappropriate behaviors as a cry for help or in an attempt to self medicate, and may notice problems abusing alcohol, drugs or sex; poor performance at work or in school; or increased issues with family or friends. If you notice any of these issues, it’s important to find help with depression and seek treatment before it escalates.
Over the years, we’ve brought you several programs that describe both clinical depression (also known as major depressive disorder) and bipolar disorder (also called manic-depressive disorder) and their treatment. We’re providing links to a few below, as well as to the National Alliance on Mental Illness Arkansas, which will provide the most up-to-date information and resources available. As always, if you suspect a problem, please talk to someone and visit a doctor or mental health care provider for help.