Am I Depressed or Just Going Through a Tough Time?

2016-03-04We all have times when we feel sad or encounter obstacles that pull us down. In fact, sad emotions are a normal reaction to the loss of a job, illness in the family, and other life hurdles. However, if the sadness persists or feels overwhelming, you may be wondering if it’s actual depression or just a tough time that will pass on its own.

“People who are depressed may experience symptoms in different ways, but for most people, depression changes how you function on a day-to-day basis over a period of time,” says Dr. David Gutterman of LeBauer Behavioral Medicine in Greensboro, NC. “Sleep patterns, appetite, and energy levels are typically affected by depression, and these areas impact your ability to function at work and home.”

Key Symptoms of Depression

There are a number of symptoms to look for in identifying depression. While some of these symptoms may also accompany a normal response to tough times, the symptoms will typically dissipate fairly soon in coping with a limited bout of sadness.

“If a patient has several of these key symptoms persisting over a number of weeks, it’s a red flag that there may be depression present,” says Dr. Gutterman.

  • Changes in Sleep Patterns – People with depression may either sleep much more than they used to, or they may have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep.
  • Appetite Changes – Some with depression will not feel like eating and lose weight, while others will use food as a coping mechanism and put on more pounds.
  • Lack of Interest – Activities you once enjoyed — sports, hobbies, or going out with friends — are suddenly unappealing. You may withdraw and spend more time alone.  
  • Loss of Energy – Persistent fatigue and slow thinking may make it hard to perform daily tasks.
  • Hopelessness & Low Self Esteem – Thoughts and feelings that focus on loss, failure, guilt, or hopelessness may take over during depression. Many people with depression may vocalize these thoughts as, “It’s all my fault,” or “The world is a terrible place.”
  • Physical Aches and Pains – Depression may manifest itself with physical symptoms such as headaches or stomach aches. Some people will talk about these physical problems rather than expressing emotions and sadness.

When to Seek Help

If you have been experiencing some of these key symptoms for more than two weeks, you may be suffering from depression. Seeking help from a licensed counselor who is able to work with your doctor to develop a treatment plan is an important step in overcoming depression.

The psychologists and social workers on the LeBauer Behavioral Medicine team will work with your primary care physician to offer the best combination of counseling and medication for depression. These professionals offer a range of services in four locations across the Triad area. To schedule an appointment for an initial assessment, call us at 336-547-1574 or email jennifer.young@conehealth.com.

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