Tuesday, September 1, 2009

What depression looks like

Welcome back! This week we are taking a break from Treatment Tuesdays to focus on a specific illness.

Did you know?
  • 38% of students, according to The American College Health Association, felt so depressed that it was difficult to function.
  • Depression is common. It is considered one of the leading causes of disability by the World Health Organization.

Despite these startling statistics, too many people suffer alone. Help break the silence!


Depression is a mood disorder in which feelings of sadness, loss, anger, or frustration interfere with everyday life for an extended period of time.

There are degrees of depression: mild, moderate, and severe. Each degree is treated differently by a trained professional.


These become an issue when they cause significant distress and/or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning. A good number of these symptoms should be present nearly every day for at least two weeks.

  • MOOD – sad or very irritable; lots of crying, cannot be cheered up; loss of interest and pleasure in daily activities
  • BODY – insomnia or sleeping too much, loss of appetite or eating too much, feeling slowed down or too agitated to sit still, extreme fatigue or lack of energy, decreased sexual drive.

  • BEHAVIOR – decreased motivation and task performance, withdrawal and isolation, loss of gratification in effort, lack of attention to appearance and hygiene, no desire to talk/interact/socialize

  • THINKING – accusatory, self-blaming thoughts, dwelling on guilt and personal failures, low self-esteem, inability to think/concentrate/remember, marked indecisiveness, recurrent thoughts of death or suicide.
  • SENSES - heightened sensitivity of the central nervous system, hypersensitive to noise, light, stress, persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders, and chronic pain.


Norepinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine are three neurotransmitters (chemical messengers that transmit electrical signals between brain cells) thought to be involved with major depression. Scientists believe that if there is a chemical imbalance in these neurotransmitters, then clinical states of depression result. Antidepressant medications work by increasing the availability of neurotransmitters or by changing the sensitivity of the receptors for these chemical messengers.

Mental illness is
a real and pressing issue and needs our attention. Next week, we'll share treatments for depression (there are many!) and what you can do to help a friend or loved one.
Photo courtesy of flickr user "gotplaid?"

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