Depression is an illness that affects a person physically, emotionally, and spiritually. People who are clinically depressed can’t just “snap out of it.” As with any other illness, they need proper diagnosis, treatment, and support.
Each of us feels sad, lonely, or depressed at times. Feeling down or “depressed” in response to loss or stressful life challenges can be a normal reaction. But when these feelings last more than two weeks, become overwhelming or keep you from leading a normal, active life, they may signal a clinical depression.
The good news is that, once diagnosed, depression can be treated.
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS OR SYMPTOMS OF DEPRESSION?
Depression can vary from person to person and may manifest itself slightly differently in adults than it does in children/teens and the elderly. But there are certain symptoms that should raise concerns. If you or someone you care about has experienced several of these symptoms for two weeks or more, mental health professionals urge you to consult your doctor or a licensed mental health professional.
- * difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
- * fatigue and decreased energy
- * feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and/or helplessness
- * feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
- * insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
- * irritability, restlessness
- * loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
- * overeating or appetite loss
- * persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment
- * persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings
- * thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
Contrary to long held beliefs, research has shown that children do experience depression, with symptoms both similar to and different from those typically associated with adult depression. As many as one in every thirty children suffers from depression. Early onset depression places children at risk throughout their lives. Suicide is the second leading cause of death in children. Parents and other adults can learn what warning signs and symptoms to look for. Once diagnosed, childhood depression is treatable.
Symptoms of depression in children
Symptoms of depression differ, depending on the age of the child. Because children do not always have the vocabulary or coping mechanisms to deal with overwhelming feelings, they express these feelings behaviorally. In contrast to adult depression, in which the person enjoys nothing, children are capable of finding activities they enjoy, no matter how bad they feel. Another difference is that depressed children may exhibit irritability rather than the sad mood we commonly associate with adults who are feeling depressed.
Major warning signs of depression in children and adolescents include:
- *Sudden changes in behavior
- *Aggressive, angry or agitated behavior
- *Increased risk-taking
- *Changes in appetite or sleep patterns
- *Lower self-esteem
- *Giving up valued possessions and settling unfinished business
- *Withdrawing from friends, activities, and family
- *Changes in dress or appearance
If any of these continue for a significant period of time, or interfere with your child’s social, home, or academic performance, consult your health care provider.
Studies indicate that one out of every eight adolescents has depression. Unfortunately, symptoms of depression in teens are often overlooked or attributed to “typical teen moodiness.” While they may not have all these signs, indications of possible depression in teens are:
- * complaints of pains, including headaches, stomachaches, low back pain, or fatigue
- * difficulty concentrating
- * difficulty making decisions
- * excessive or inappropriate guilt
- * irresponsible behavior — for example, forgetting obligations, being late for classes, skipping school
- * loss of interest in food or compulsive overeating that results in rapid weight loss or gain
- * memory loss
- * preoccupation with death and dying
- * rebellious behavior
- * sadness, anxiety, or a feeling of hopelessness
- * staying awake at night and sleeping during the day
- * sudden drop in grades
- * loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
- * use of alcohol or other drugs, promiscuous sexual activity
- * withdrawal from friends and family
Older adults don’t always fit the typical picture of depression. Many don’t report feeling sad at all. Instead, they may complain about a lack of energy, intense worry, or physical problems. In fact, physical complaints, such as aches or pains that have gotten worse, are often the principal symptom of depression in the elderly.
Older adults with depression are also more likely to exhibit anxiety, irritability, or agitation. They may constantly wring their hands, pace the floor, or fret obsessively about money, their health, or the general state of the world. Unfortunately, signs of depression in older adults are often overlooked or mistaken for “typical signs of aging.” In older adults, be alert for:
- * sadness
- * fatigue
- * abandoning or losing interest in hobbies or other pleasurable pastimes
- * social withdrawal and isolation (reluctance to be with friends, engage in activities, or leave home)
- * weight loss, loss of appetite
- * sleep disturbances (difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, oversleeping, or daytime sleepiness)
- * helplessness
- * anxiety and worries
- * memory problems
- * loss of self-worth (worries about being a burden, feelings of worthlessness, self-loathing)
- * fixation on death, suicidal thoughts or attempts
- * unexplained or aggravated aches and pains
- * hopelessness
- * slowed movement
- * irritability
- * Lack of interest in personal care (skipping meals, forgetting medications, neglecting personal hygiene)
- * Increased use of alcohol or other drugs
For Depression Screening tools, click here.
Depression carries a high risk of suicide. Anybody who expresses suicidal thoughts or intentions should be taken VERY, VERY seriously. Call a local suicide hot line, contact a mental health professional right away, or go to the nearest emergency room for immediate treatment.
- Grassroots Crisis Intervention 410-531-6677
- Baltimore Crisis Response 410-752-2272
Maryland – Statewide
- Crisis Hotline 800-422-0009
- Maryland Youth Crisis Hotline 800-422-0009
JCS Services Supporting Mental Health
If you are concerned about yourself or a loved one, Jewish Community Services can help. We provide therapy and outpatient mental health services for children, adolescents, and adults. Services are provided by a Maryland Board certified psychiatrist and highly trained, experienced, licensed mental health professionals. The JCS Mental Health Clinic is licensed by the State of Maryland.
For more information, call 410-466-9200 or click here.