What Is Depression and How Do You Know If You’re Depressed?

By Judi Lirman, MFT

You don’t have to take the world on by yourself. There is help.  That’s a great question. Depression, which affects one of out every five women and one out of every ten men, is a general name for a series of disorders, from anxiety to severe psychological disorders.

According to Scientific American, the annual cost of depression in the U.S. is approximately $210 billion with only 40% ($84 billion) of that spent on depression. The research further shows that for every dollar spent on depression, $4.70 is spent on direct and indirect costs of related illnesses such as anxiety, post-traumatic stress syndrome, backaches, sleep disorders and migraines and another $1.90 is goes toward reducing workplace productivity and costs associated with suicide linked to depression.



When Is Depression Really Depression?

We have all said at one time or another that we are depressed, typically about our job, our money situation or life in general. What we may mean is that we are anxious or sad about what is likely a temporary situation. How can you tell if your feelings are situational or chronic?

As a licensed Marriage, Family Therapist, I have counseled many clients over the years, adults, teens and adolescents, some with changes in moods due to life situations and others with more severe forms of depression. In fact, depression, anxiety and self-esteem issues are just a few of the areas I specialize in.

What Are the Signs of Depression?

Depression can be difficult to diagnose because the symptoms it produces can also be attributed to other disorders such as bipolar disorder, substance abuse, etc. There is no magic ball to know if you have a depressive disorder or not, but my rule of thumb is that everyone is unique, reacts differently to life’s situations, and has a personal story and set of coping skills. If you feel distressed and life is taking its toll on your well-being, it may be beneficial to seek out a therapist.

A Symptoms Checklist

Below is a list of some of the more common symptoms of depression. Having one of these symptoms doesn’t mean you have depression, but having a combination of several may. The best way to determine what type of help may need is to see a licensed therapist or your physician. Talk to them about what is going in your life and when these issues began showing up.

  • Moodiness
  • Angry outbursts
  • Hopelessness
  • Guilt
  • Moodiness
  • Sadness
  • Sleep issues
  • Lack of interest/withdrawing from others
  • Poor concentration
  • Inability to focus
  • Lack of energy
  • Missing work/school
  • Delusions/hallucinations
  • Self-harming thoughts
  • Memory issues
  • Lack of/increase in appetite
  • Sexual matters

Drugs Are Not the Only Answer

In our culture, we often want the quick fix and in the case of depression, anxiety and other conditions that typically means prescription drugs. Medications can often be a great help; however, they are not the only option to consider. Here are a few suggestions from a LiveScience.com article, “9 DIY Ways to Improve Your Mental Health”.

  • Set realistic, achievable goals and don’t take failure personally. Remember, FAIL stands for First Attempt in Learning. We need to fail to succeed.
  • Go outside—It’s a game changer. Did you know that five minutes in green space can improve your self-esteem?
  • Meditation quiets the mind and the body. Studies have found that meditation is helpful for those with anxiety or depression as it helps the mind to shift away from negative thought patterns.
  • Exercise is not an option; it is a necessity. Our bodies were meant to move, and physical activity has been found to decrease the rate of aging in the brain and calming anxiety.
  • Relationships matter. Committed relationships improve mental health.

Now for my two cents. The above stress-reducing suggestions are great options when you are in the doldrums and finding one that works for you may be all you need. However, if after trying one or two suggestions you still feel an emptiness, sadness or inability to function in life, you may want to talk to someone who can help put your life back on a steadier path; someone like a therapist.

I welcome your comments and questions. Remember you were born magnificent!