September is National Suicide Prevention Month and our blogs this month will focus on this topics and related issues. Most people who commit suicide have a depressive or substance use disorder.
What Is Depression?
Depression can manifest in a variety of ways, and individuals may experience different combinations of symptoms. It's important to note that experiencing one or more of these symptoms doesn't necessarily mean a person has depression, but if several symptoms persist for an extended period and significantly impact daily functioning, it might be indicative of depression. A qualified medical professional should make an accurate diagnosis. Here are common signs and symptoms of depression:
- Persistent Sadness or Low Mood: Feeling sad, empty, or down most of the time and for an extended period.
- Loss of Interest or Pleasure: Losing interest in activities, hobbies, or things that previously brought joy.
- Changes in Appetite or Weight: Significant changes in appetite, leading to weight gain or weight loss.
- Sleep Disturbances: Experiencing insomnia (difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep) or hypersomnia (excessive sleepiness).
- Fatigue and Low Energy: Feeling constantly tired, even after getting sufficient rest.
- Difficulty Concentrating: Finding it hard to focus, make decisions, or think clearly.
- Feelings of Worthlessness or Guilt: Experiencing persistent feelings of worthlessness, guilt, or self-blame.
- Suicidal Thoughts: Thoughts of death, dying, or suicidal ideation. If someone is experiencing thoughts of suicide, it's crucial to seek help immediately.
- Physical Symptoms: Unexplained physical symptoms like headaches or digestive issues that don't respond well to treatment.
- Agitation or Slowed Movements: Restlessness, irritability, or a significant slowing down of physical movements and speech.
- Social Withdrawal: Pulling away from friends, family, and social activities.
- Aches and Pains: Experiencing unexplained physical discomfort, such as body aches or pains, without a clear physical cause.
- Lack of Interest in Personal Care: Neglecting personal hygiene and self-care routines.
It's important to remember that everyone's experience with depression can be different. Some individuals might exhibit most of these symptoms, while others might only experience a few. Additionally, symptoms can range from mild to severe. If you or someone you know is struggling with these symptoms and they are affecting daily life, it's recommended to seek help from a mental health professional. Depression is a treatable condition, and early intervention can make a significant difference in recovery.
Screening for Depression
If you or someone you know is struggling with depression, it's important to seek guidance from a qualified medical professional for accurate advice and assessment.
Screening for depression typically involves a series of questions and assessments to help determine whether an individual might be experiencing depressive symptoms. Here are some common methods that healthcare professionals might use:
- Questionnaires: Various standardized questionnaires and self-assessment tools are available to help assess the severity of depressive symptoms. Examples include the PHQ-9 (Patient Health Questionnaire-9) and the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI). These questionnaires ask about the presence and severity of symptoms such as low mood, loss of interest, changes in sleep and appetite, fatigue, and feelings of worthlessness.
- Clinical Interviews: Mental health professionals, such as psychologists, psychiatrists, or licensed therapists, may conduct structured clinical interviews to assess an individual's mental health. They might ask about mood, behaviors, and other factors related to depression.
- Observation and Conversation: Doctors and mental health professionals often engage in open conversations to assess an individual's emotional state, mood, and overall functioning. They may ask about changes in behavior, daily activities, relationships, and physical health.
- Physical Examination: Sometimes, a healthcare professional might conduct a physical exam to rule out any potential underlying medical conditions that could be contributing to depressive symptoms.
- Duration and Persistence: To diagnose depression, symptoms typically need to be present for at least two weeks and significantly impact daily life. A healthcare professional will consider the duration, intensity, and persistence of the symptoms before making a diagnosis.
It's important to remember that only a qualified healthcare provider can accurately diagnose depression and recommend appropriate treatment options. If you suspect that you or someone you know might be experiencing depression, reach out to a medical professional for a proper assessment and guidance. If you or someone you know is in immediate danger or crisis, please seek help from a medical professional or a crisis hotline immediately.
Dial 988 for the Crisis & Lifeline Hotline