Almost everyone knows what it’s like to feel sad. Losing a pet, a friend, or a loved one is devastating. Being fired or getting a divorce can send you into a tailspin. An accident or a serious disease affects not only the physical body but also the psyche. For a while there is little pleasure to be had in life. It can be as if darkness has settled into your bones and sucked the joy right out of the marrow.
Most of us eventually recover from the boulders that are dropped on us. But some people never manage to dig themselves out of a hole. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, major depression affects about 15 million people each year. One in five of us will experience some form of depression sometime during our lifetime.
When the fog descends, people may forget what it’s like to feel happy. Sleep becomes next to impossibleâ€”or all you want to do. Food loses its appeal and its flavor. Those with major depression often have a low energy level; they find it hard to mobilize themselves to finish projects or visit friends or family. They feel gloomy and down in the dumps for weeks or even months. They doubt their abilities and feel pessimistic much of the time. Just remembering simple things becomes an overwhelming challenge. They may experience thoughts of suicideâ€”a hallmark of major depression.
Such a mood disorder requires professional help immediately. Let us repeat that. If any of the symptoms above apply to you or someone you care about, seek highly qualified assistance right now! Digging out from a depression should never be a do-it-yourself project. You cannot pull yourself up by the bootstraps or tough it out on your own. Chronic depression increases the risk for heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and other serious conditions and must not be ignored.
If there is one lesson you should learn from this website it is that everyone responds differently to various treatments. That is as true for relieving depression as for lowering cholesterol or controlling diabetes. Some people find that Prozac is an absolute miracle, lifting them from the despair of lifelong depression. Others find it makes them irritable, jittery, and incredibly uncomfortable. There is no good way to predict how any individual will react, so the best advice we can give is to stay vigilant.
If you start to feel better on an antidepressant, that’s great. If you experience no improvement or get worse, contact your health-care professional immediately and seek alternatives. In some cases, combining several approaches such as vigorous exercise, fish oil, and light therapy may be as effective as prescription medicine.
- Depression can take the wind out of your sails. Do not expect that you will be able to pull yourself together on your own. Seek help from friends, family, and qualified professionals.
- Antidepressants can be very helpful for some people. There is no clear evidence that one is superior to another. Trial and error may be the only way to tell which one will produce the best results for you.
- Suicidal thoughts are now recognized as a potential complication of virtually all antidepressant therapy. Family and friends should be especially vigilant during the first few weeks of treatment and whenever your dosage is changed.
- Stopping some antidepressants suddenly can be difficult. Switching to a longer-acting medication like fluoxetine and then gradually tapering the dose may overcome the withdrawal symptoms. This should be carefully supervised by a knowledgeable physician.
- Alternative therapies such as exercise, light therapy, fish oil, and St. John’s wort may be helpful.
- Emsam (selegiline) is a new antidepressant skin patch that may offer an alternative to the usual SSRI-type medications.