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Making the Distinction Between Depression and The ‘Blues’

Jan 19, 2015 08:49AM

by Fatemeh Mobbaseri

The difference between having major depression and merely feeling “down” depends on how severe one’s symptoms are and how long they last. It’s perfectly normal to feel sadness, grief, loneliness and lack of motivation in response to difficult life experiences, such as loss of job, an illness, death of a friend or loved one, relationship troubles or money problems. Everyone experiences the blues from time to time, but this may not necessarily mean one is clinically depressed.

Generally, feeling blue only becomes a problem and falls into the realm of true depression when the depression-like symptoms are extremely severe or don’t subside after two weeks or more. For occasional down days, adopting some simple lifestyle and diet changes can help to naturally boost one’s mood.

Some ways to beat the blues: • Limit caffeine intake. • Don’t overindulge in comfort foods. • Avoid alcohol and other drugs. • Don’t isolate yourself. • Get a reasonable amount of rest. • Eat well. Protein and carbs can boost energy without a “crash”. • Exercise. Physical activity—even a 10-minute walk—will boost mood. A longer workout stimulates a release of endorphins. • Go outside. Sunlight has mood-enhancing benefits.

When Depression is More Than the “Blues”

Known as clinical depression, major depressive disorder, or unipolar depression, major depression is a medical condition that interferes with one’s ability to sleep, work or actively participate in life for an extended period of time. About 14.8 million people live with major depression, according to the National Alliance for Mental Illness. The dark days of winter seem to lead people to feel depressed and can trigger some to experience depression.

Anyone, regardless of age or gender, can have depression. However, women are more likely to experience depression than men. Also at high risk are people aged 45 to 65, those without health insurance, those who are divorced or lost a spouse, the unemployed and those who have had depression before.

Common symptoms of major depression include: • Depressed mood, sadness, or feeling tearful, worthless or empty • Inability to sleep or excessive sleeping • Fatigue or loss of energy • Difficulty thinking or concentrating, or indecisiveness • Significant weight gain or weight loss • Becoming uninterested in things one formerly enjoyed • Irritability and restlessness • Lack of energy • Excessive or inappropriate guilt • Thoughts of death or suicide

If one has five or more of these symptoms for most of the day, nearly every day, for at least two weeks, and the symptoms interfere with daily activities, they may have major depression.

Depression is a treatable illness. If symptoms don’t go away on their own, it’s important to meet with a doctor or healthcare provider for an evaluation and learn about treatment options. By making the distinction between the blues and clinical depression, one can take the steps to improve mood and quality of life.

Fatemeh Mobbaseri, MSN, RN, is nurse manager of the Senior Behavioral Health Unit at Mercy Suburban Hospital, in East Norriton. Connect at 610-270-8300 or January 2015.

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