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How to Understand Depression

Many people experience depression in their lifetime; do you know what you need to know about depression?

By
Rob Lamberts, MD,
September 28, 2010
Episode #065

Page 1 of 3

Last week I explained how anxiety is a medical problem that needs to be taken seriously.  Today I am going to talk about the other head of the emotional dragon: depression. Unlike anxiety, which I described as a feeling of helplessness, depression is more a pervasive feeling of hopelessness.

I want to re-emphasize an important point from last week: there is a big difference between emotions and clinical problems.  Just feeling depressed doesn’t mean you are clinically depressed.  The two important factors that help distinguish between the emotion and clinical depression are duration and severity.

What Is Clinical Depression?

Clinical depression is defined as having five or more of the following symptoms (at least one of which is either depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure), present most of the day--nearly every day--for a minimum of two consecutive weeks:
    •    Feeling of depression
    •    Losing interest or pleasure in most or all activities
    •    Sleeping too much or not being able to sleep
    •    Having a change in appetite or weight
    •    Being really slow emotionally or agitated
    •    Having low energy
    •    Experiencing poor concentration
    •    Having thoughts of worthlessness or guilt or recurring thoughts 
         about death or suicide

A lot of time people know they are depressed, but not always. Sometimes people don’t actually feel depressed, so figure they must not be.  But these folks are tired, don’t have any interest in the things that they usually enjoy, they can’t concentrate, and they can’t sleep despite being very fatigued.  That is depression, and it can go undiagnosed for years.

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