Being screened for depression can connect people with the treatment they need to effectively manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life.
Depression affects millions of American adults and teens throughout the United States. Sadly, many cases of depression go undetected and untreated. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), 35% of adults and 60.1% of teens with depression do not receive treatment.
Seeking treatment for depression can reduce your symptoms and improve your quality of life, which is why it’s important to be screened if you think you have depression.
October 7 is National Depression Screening Day. This day was created by Mental Health America to raise awareness about the importance of recognizing and treating depression.
Keep reading to find out whether you should be screened for depression.
What Is Depression?
It’s normal to feel sad and blue from time to time, such as when you go through a break-up or lose your job. However, depression is a longer period of sadness that doesn’t go away. It can affect your mood and overall well-being. Depression is a chronic mental illness that often requires months or years of treatment and lifestyle changes to improve symptoms.
The NIH defines depression as a period of at least two weeks when a person experiences loss of interest or pleasure in daily activities. Being familiar with symptoms of depression can help you determine whether it’s time to be screened so you can start treatment right away.
Should You Be Screened For Depression?
Anyone who has been experiencing symptoms of depression for two weeks or longer should be screened for depression. Talk to your doctor about depression screening if you've been having one or more of the below signs and symptoms.
Feelings Of Sadness, Hopelessness, Anxiety, Or Emptiness
Depression may cause you to feel persistently sad and hopeless like there is nothing you can do or that can be done to make you happier. You may feel empty and without emotion. You may feel anxious all the time like you should be doing something productive, but don’t know what.
Changes In Sleeping Habits
The anxiety you may feel with depression can make it difficult for you to sleep, and may even cause insomnia. You may wake up super early every day, or sleep for only a few hours a night. It’s also possible for depression to have the opposite effect on you, and cause you to sleep too much. You may sleep in, or sleep at random times throughout the day. Any drastic changes to your sleep patterns are a common sign of depression.
Changes In Weight and Eating Habits
Depression can affect your eating behaviors and cause you to gain weight or lose weight. You may lose the desire and energy to eat, which can lead to weight loss. Or, you may eat as a way to relieve anxiety or boredom or to feel better about yourself. You may gain weight if you eat too much, or if you eat junk foods when you don’t feel like cooking healthy meals. Fluctuations in weight can be a sign that you need depression screening.
Loss Of Interest Or Pleasure In Favorite Activities
Depression can cause you to lose interest and pleasure in activities you normally enjoy. These activities may include hobbies, sports, and sex. For example, if you enjoy exercising and going to the gym, you may stop exercising and stay home to watch TV instead. Take note of whether you lose interest in your favorite activities, as this can indicate depression.
Problems With Memory, Concentration, and Decision Making
Depression can make it difficult for you to focus and concentrate even on the simplest of tasks. You may have problems understanding words you read on a page or forget how to make a cup of coffee. You may also space out at work or when having a conversation with someone.
Angry Outbursts and Extreme Irritability
Depression can make you very irritable and moody and cause you to have angry outbursts over small matters. You may scream and yell when a shoelace comes untied, or when you spill a drink. Your mood may change from one minute to the next, which can make you feel confused and helpless.
Fatigue Or Lack Of Energy
Depression can make you feel tired and weak all the time. Small tasks such as doing a load of laundry or heating food may seem overwhelming and too difficult to carry out. You may feel like sitting around and doing nothing, despite feeling anxious and restless. Fatigue and loss of energy are common signs of depression.
Fixating On Past Failures
If you have depression, you may obsess about past failures and negative experiences. Bombing a job interview or embarrassing yourself in front of strangers are examples of such experiences. You may feel guilty or unworthy, and blame yourself for these past problems.
Unexplained Physical Problems
Depression interacts with the same brain chemicals and hormones that regulate physical pain. Many people with depression will have pain and other health problems that have no obvious cause. Headaches and back pain are common problems that occur with depression. If you’ve been having new or worsened health problems that occur with depression, you may need a professional screening and diagnosis.
Drug and Alcohol Misuse
About 50% of people with a mental illness like depression will also have a drug and alcohol problem at some point in their lives, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. This is because drugs and alcohol can make depression symptoms go away for a little while. However, drugs and alcohol are not good ways to treat depression and can make depression worse. You may need a depression screening if you have been drinking higher amounts of alcohol lately, or have started misusing drugs—including prescription drugs.
Thoughts Of Death Or Suicide
Symptoms of depression can make you feel as though life is not worth living. You may think a lot about death, or about what other people may think if you were to die. You may also consider or attempt suicide. Get help right away if you’ve been having thoughts of death or suicide. Depression is treatable, and treatment can help you start feeling better right away.
What Are Risk Factors For Depression?
Anyone can develop depression. However, certain factors may increase your risk.
Risk factors for depression include:
- Experiencing a traumatic event such as physical assault, losing a loved one, or getting fired from a job.
- Having a family history of depression, addiction, or suicide.
- Having a personal history of other behavioral or mental health disorders.
- Having certain personality traits, such as low self-esteem or pessimism.
- Having a serious or chronic illness, such as heart disease, diabetes, or cancer.
- Using certain medications that interfere with the same brain chemicals involved in depression.
- Being homosexual, bisexual, or transgender and spending time in an unsupportive environment.
- Biological differences in the brain, such as unique brain structure and chemistry.
- Hormonal imbalances, such as that which may occur during pregnancy or menopause.
If you meet one or more of the above risk factors, make regular appointments with your doctor. Your doctor will talk to you about depression and other symptoms you have. It helps to be aware of depression risk factors and symptoms so you can stay safe, healthy, and happy.
What Happens During Depression Screening?
Depression can usually be diagnosed with a combination of screening methods.
First, your doctor will perform a physical exam to rule out underlying physical health problems that may be causing your symptoms. Arthritis, stroke, and cancer are some of the many health problems that can trigger depression. In some instances, your doctor may order blood tests to rule out problems with your thyroid and other hormones.
Next, your doctor may refer you to a psychiatrist who can talk to you in greater detail about your symptoms, thoughts, behaviors, and emotions. You may also be given one or more questionnaires that help your psychiatrist properly evaluate and diagnose your condition.
How Is Depression Treated?
Medications and psychotherapy are the most common and widely used treatments for depression.
Medications can often reduce your symptoms by changing or balancing levels of brain chemicals contributing to your depression. Imbalances in serotonin and norepinephrine can increase the risk of depression. Therefore, you may be given medications that alter levels of these brain chemicals.
Psychotherapy allows you to talk openly about your depression with a mental health professional who can help you understand and effectively manage your symptoms. Psychotherapy can also help you find healthy coping methods for depression, and change harmful behaviors that increase your risk of suicide and worsened health.
Your doctor can also work with you to implement healthy lifestyle behaviors that may reduce your depression symptoms. Exercise, nutrition, and sleep are key focus areas that may help regulate brain chemistry and fend off anxiety, guilt, and low self-esteem associated with depression.
Depression Screening At Lompoc Valley Medical Center
Lompoc Valley Medical Care offers counseling for depression and a wide range of other services that can treat depression and physical health problems that are causing depression. Visit our provider page today to make an appointment and to learn more about our many available healthcare services for you and your family.