Depression is a medical illness, just like diabetes or high blood pressure. It is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain that affects how people feel, think and act. It is not a weakness or character flaw.
There's a lot of variety in how people experience depression, and the cases can be both mild and severe. You might experience a true feeling of depression only once in your lifetime, have several episodes over the lifespan, or deal with ongoing depression. Your symptoms may also differ from others who suffer from the illness.
Despite its various patterns, you should always take depression seriously. Untreated, depression can make it hard to be a good spouse, friend or parent. It can hurt you at work and prevent you from taking care of yourself. It can prompt you to pull back from the world - and may even lead to suicide.
The good news? Depression can be treated, and people can recover and lead full, productive lives.
Symptoms of Depression
You may experience irritability, a change in appetite, trouble sleeping, find little pleasure in things you previously enjoyed or have difficulty at work. You may feel hopeless, helpless or apathetic.
We know depression is caused by changes in brain chemistry. We don't, however, know what triggers these changes. Several factors that seem to make a person more likely to develop depression include: a family history of depression; an unhappy event such as death or divorce; certain personality traits or patterns of thinking; and long-term use of some medications, alcohol or drugs.
The good news is that there are several options for treatment. Based on your condition and preferences, your medical provider will work with you to create a treatment plan that fits your needs. It may include counseling, medication, care management or a combination of the three.
There are also some basic steps you can take to manage your condition and help you to feel better. These include regular exercise, a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, maintaining supportive relationships and stress management.
Self-management is also an important part of your treatment. Self-management includes creating a goal-centered action plan for yourself that is manageable and matches your personality. Work on only one goal at a time, and reward yourself for progress made.
For more information on addressing mental health, see https://intermountainhealthcare.org/services/behavioral-health/conditions/depression.
If you have questions about managing your mental health, caregivers will be discussing the topic on Tuesday, March 13th on the KUTV and Intermountain Healthcare's Ask the Expert program. Tips and suggestions will be offered throughout the day on Channel 2, with clinicians, social workers, therapists and other experts providing interviews during news and other broadcasts.
If you have questions, our panel of experts will be answering phone calls from noon to 5:30 p.m. at 1-877-908-0680. You can also submit questions via Facebook and Twitter using #kutvasktheexpert.
For more information, visit intermountainhealthcare.org/asktheexpert.