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What is Depression?

Depression-DA

Let's face it. At one time or another, we've all felt depressed. Whether it's a life loss, a situational stressor, a really lousy week or a case of "the blues," we've experienced feelings and thoughts that qualify as being depressed. This kind of depression is what I like to call "part of life." It's not something that requires medication or therapy or hospitalization. It's life.

Then, there is clinical depression. In order to be considered for diagnosis, symptoms must be present for a duration of time and must meet certain criteria. Clinical depression might require some form of professional intervention. Perhaps not.

Before you read further or diagnosis yourself, let me remind you: just because you meet some or many of the criteria related to a diagnosis of depression, it does not mean you are clinically depressed. It may mean that you are having a really rough run right now, that you could use a friend or that your thyroid is out of whack. Leave official diagnoses to the professionals!

Symptoms of depressions might include: Feelings of sadness, hopelessness, helplessness, worthlessness; Irritability, frustration; Sleep disturbance; lack of energy; feeling overwhelmed; loss of interest in usually enjoyed activities; tearfulness; poor concentration; change in appetite; increased physical pain; or suicidal thoughts, plan and attempt. Although people might think persons with depression would sleep all the time, it's often more the case that the person can't fall asleep and can't stay asleep. Changes in appetite can lead to increased eating or significantly decreased appetite. Women might feel more anxious while men feel angrier. Those who are clinically depressed might experience much difficulty making even simple decisions.

What should you do if you are experiencing symptoms of depression, especially if symptoms continue or worsen? Seek professional health. If you have a medical doctor, that's usually a great place to start. While you're determining the best course of action, reassure yourself—there is help, there is support and there is hope. Please don't let the stigma of mental illness stop you from getting assistance. You are not weak if you ask for help; in fact, it takes strength to help yourself. A few sessions with a professional might be just what the doctor ordered. Therapy doesn't have to be long term. For others, medication is prescribed.

If you experience thoughts of suicide, please take action immediately. Seek help. Call a trusted friend, a suicide hotline, your doctor, clergy or even the police department. Go to the emergency room. Tell someone!

Clinical depression is treatable. The sooner you take action, the sooner you'll feel better.

I'm not a doctor. Although I am quite delightful and have been in the mental health field for decades, I do not have a medical degree nor am I here to diagnose anyone. It's true I am a master's level board-certified registered art therapist and a licensed clinical professional counselor, but I'm not YOUR counselor. These blogs entries do not reflect or represent the views or policies of the author's employer, Stepping Stones of Rockford, Inc. Think of this as a place to start your educational journey about mental health, for purpose of increasing general knowledge. Heck, there are a bazillion internet sites with information on mental illness. Take what you'd like and leave the rest. I make no endorsements. Please talk directly to your medical advisor for medical advice. If this is a medical emergency, please call 911.

--by Donna Addison, MS/ATR-BC/LCPC

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