When to Seek Help for Depression

We all have phases when our spirits are low or we’re sad over a loss, life event, or personal struggle. It’s important to acknowledge our emotions, process our feelings and know that these may be a natural reaction to life events. But if the sadness is intense and continues for an extended period of time into weeks or months, then the condition could be more than sadness. It could be clinical depression which is treatable much like other health conditions.

Signs of Clinical Depression

Clinical depression extends beyond intense sadness to feeling hopeless and worthless, and it interferes with daily productivity. Activities which were once a source of joy or pleasure may no longer be interesting.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, a person could be clinically depressed when they exhibit at least five of the following symptoms for 2 weeks or more:

  • Daily depressed mood
  • Impaired cognitive ability
  • Daily fatigue or energy loss
  • Excessive sleep or lack of sleep
  • Sense of worthlessness or guilt
  • Disinterest in daily activities
  • Dramatic weight loss or gain
  • Thoughts of suicide

An individual who is clinically depressed typically experiences symptoms that last throughout the day on a daily or near daily basis. While symptoms range in severity and duration, they usually prevent an individual from being productive.

Also, the chemical changes that occur in the body from depression often trigger physical symptoms which could include back or joint pain, gastrointestinal issues,and appetite changes. Speech and physical movements can also slow down or speed up. These physical disorders often lead patients to seek medical treatment. However, if the primary cause – clinical depression – is not addressed, these secondary physical symptoms often persist. The solution to recovery and relief from physical distress often requires talk therapy and possibly medication from a clinical expert.

Seek Guidance From a Specialist

Consulting a specialist is recommended when emotional and physical symptoms persist for more than two weeks. Some people may choose to initiate a conversation with their primary physician, and this is a good first step. However, for recurring treatment, an assessment by a mental health professional may provide a better long-term solution. A recommendation from the primary doctor or other doctor are often the best referral sources.

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