Depression -- There is a Way Out
Ziggy is lucky. He may walk through the cartoon pages with a black cloud hanging over his head, but he can escape from the cloud with the simple stroke of a cartoonist's pen. Others aren't as fortunate. The great Russian writer Dostoevski struggled with the cloud. So did Abraham Lincoln. Even astronaut Buzz Aldrin descended into a deep funk after his historic space flight.
Now the black cloud has a name -- depression.
Depression ranges from mild to incapacitating, from temporary feelings of disappointment to a pessimism so painful and impenetrable that suicide seems the only escape. If you are feeling "down," you are suffering from depression that is usually short-lived and readily treatable (called dysthymia). If, however, you sink into a mood so deep that it is difficult to function, then you could be suffering from major, or clinical depression.
Depression can be caused by a disease produced from within the body or by a reaction to external events. People who have budget worries, for example, or who worry about being laid off, suffer a reactive type of depression as they are trapped in unhappy circumstances from which they see no immediate way out.
If you have five or more of the following symptoms, you may be diagnosed as having depression: change in appetite, strong feelings of guilt and inadequacy, impaired thinking, heart palpitations, queasy stomach, suicidal thoughts, disturbed sleep, and a significant change in physical or mental activity.
The good news about depression is that it is treatable, generally through psychotherapy or drug therapy. If you think you are suffering from depression, take these steps to decide the most appropriate course to follow:
• Determine if depression is a side effect of medications you may be taking.
• Consider one of several types of therapy.
• Consider antidepressant drugs if the depression appears to have a biochemical base.
• Try light therapy (exposure to bright, full-spectrum light for several hours a day) if depression is related to seasonal changes.
Unless the depression has a serious biochemical base, you can keep the black cloud from ever descending by doing the following:
• Socialize; don't become isolated.
• Build up your network of friends and relatives, especially if you anticipate a loss.
• Keep active; regular exercise that is somewhat demanding can help ward off feelings of depression.
• Report any unusual medication reactions to your doctor.
Research into the causes and treatment of depression continues. Researchers are studying the connection between pain and depression and are continuing research into the effect of chemicals such as norepinephrine, and the function of the pineal gland in preventing depression. There's even a body of research studying whether depression can be linked to a malfunction in the body's "mood thermostat."
Regardless of the outcome, victims of depression already have far more hope that sufferers of a past century who felt the black cloud was a harbinger of madness.
Tags: Dysthymia , Moods , Health , Psychotherapy , Treat Depression , Depression
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