National Institute of Mental Health
Are you feeling really sad, tired, and worried most of the time? Are these feelings lasting more than a few days? If yes, you may have depression.
"It was really hard to get out of bed in the morning. I just wanted to hide under the covers and not talk to anyone. I didn’t feel much like eating and I lost a lot of weight. Nothing seemed fun anymore. I was tired all the time, yet I wasn’t sleeping well at night. But I knew that I had to keep going because I’ve got kids and a job. It just felt so impossible, like nothing was going to change or get better.
"I started missing days from work, and a friend noticed that something wasn’t right. She talked to me about the time that she had been really depressed and had gotten help from her doctor.
"I called my doctor and talked about how I was feeling. She had me come in for a checkup and gave me the name of a psychiatrist, who is an expert in treating depression.
"Now, I’m seeing the psychiatrist once a month and taking medicine for depression. I’m also seeing someone else for "talk" therapy, which helps me learn ways to deal with this illness in my everyday life.
"Everything didn’t get better overnight, but I find myself more able to enjoy life and my children."
"Things in my life were going all right. I had just gotten my GED and was starting a new job in a week. My family was really proud of me. But inside, I was feeling terrible.
"At first I was feeling sad all the time, even though I had no reason to be. Then the sadness turned into anger, and I started having fights with my family and friends. I felt really bad about myself, like I wasn’t good enough for anyone. It got so bad that I wished I would go to bed and never wake up.
"My older brother, who I always looked up to, saw that I wasn’t acting like my usual self. He told me straight out that I seemed depressed and that I should talk to a doctor about it. I hate going to the doctor. I thought, "No way am I going in for this."
"But after a few weeks, I started having problems at work too. Sometimes I wouldn’t show up because I wasn’t able to sleep the night before. When I got fired, I knew I had to listen to my brother and get help.
"I saw a doctor at the health clinic. He told me I had a common illness called depression and that treatment could help. So I started to see someone at the clinic each week for "talk" therapy. This treatment helps me learn to control depression in my everyday life. It has taken some time, but I’m finally feeling like myself again."
Many people who have depression know something is wrong but don’t know what to do about it. This booklet can help. It tells you about four steps you can take to understand and get help for depression.
Four steps to understand and get help for depression:
1. Look for signs of depression.
Read the following list.
Put a check mark by each sign that sounds like you:
( ) I am really
sad most of the time.
If you checked several boxes, call your doctor. Take the list to show the doctor. You may need to get a checkup and find out if you have depression.
Depression is a serious medical illness that involves the brain. But, there is hope. Depression can be treated and you can feel better. Depression is not something that you have "made up in your head." It’s more than just feeling "down in the dumps" or "blue" for a few days. It’s feeling "down" and "low" and "hopeless" for weeks at a time.
About 19 million Americans have depression. It can happen to anyone, no matter what age you are or where you come from.
Depression can make it very hard for you to care for yourself, your family, or even hold down a job. But, there is hope. Depression can be treated and you can feel better.
What causes depression?
You may want to know why you feel "depressed." There may be several causes.
Don’t wait. Talk to your doctor about how you are feeling. Get a medical checkup to rule out any other illnesses that might be causing signs of depression. Ask if you need to see someone who can evaluate and treat depression.
If you don’t have a doctor, check your local phone book. Go to the government services pages (they may be blue in color) and look for "health clinics" or "community health centers." Call one near you and ask for help.
There are two common types of treatment for depression: (1) medicine and (2) "talk" therapy. Ask your doctor which type is best for you. Some people need both treatments to feel better.
Medicines for depression are called "antidepressants." Your regular doctor or a psychiatrist (a medical doctor trained in helping people with depression) can prescribe them for you.
Antidepressants may take a few weeks to work. Be sure to tell the doctor how you are feeling. If you are not feeling better, you may need to try different medicines to find out what works best for you.
Medicines sometimes cause unwanted "side effects." You may feel tired, have blurred vision, or feel sick to your stomach. Tell the doctor if you have these or any other side effects.
"Talk" therapy involves talking to someone such as a psychologist, social worker, or counselor. It helps you learn to change how depression makes you think, feel, and act. Ask your doctor or psychiatrist who you should go to for talk therapy.
You can feel better.
For more information:
You can call or write any of these organizations for free information about depression. You can also find more information on their web sites. "Free call" phone numbers can be used free by anyone, anywhere in the United States.
Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI)
& Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA)
for Depressive Illness, Inc. (NAFDI)
Mental Health Association (NMHA)
The names and photos used in this booklet are not real. The stories, however, are based on known experiences of depression.
This publication has been adapted by Melissa Spearing, Office of Communications, National Institute of Mental Health from "Depression," NIH Publication No. 02-3561.
All material in this booklet is in the public domain and may be copied or reproduced without permission from the Institute. Citation of the National Institute of Mental Health as the source is appreciated.
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