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Depression 101


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In general, depression is a sadness that continues day after day. There are other factors to look for if you wonder whether you are clinically depressed. They are described in other sections of this document. 

Depression is common for people diagnosed with a serious medical condition. It can occur as a result of the diagnosis, or it may be a side effect of treatment or in some cases a biological result of a condition.

Too often depression is not recognized, or goes untreated. Symptoms such as loss of interest or memory, weight loss, sleep disturbance, and low energy related to depression may be mistaken for the symptoms of other conditions or side effects of treatments and/or drugs.

Depression does not have to be a part of life after a diagnosis. It is very treatable. In fact, it is estimated that 80% of individuals diagnosed with depression respond to current treatments. For people co-diagnosed with another serious illness, studies have shown that treatment of the depression can have a significant impact on quality of life, the ability to follow a medical regimen, and in some cases, even disease progression.

Depression is nothing to be ashamed of.

  • Being clincally depressed and/or seeking treatment for depression does not make you "weak" or "dependent." 
  • The only shame is in letting outdated notions about depression stop you from taking advantage of the treatment and support that is available.
  • No one except you and your doctor needs to know you are getting treatment. 

To help reduce depression, consider the following:

  • Any form of exercise is likely to help. Aerobic exercise such as biking, fast walking or swimming, is probably superior to other types of exercise. For information about exercise with a health condition, click here.
  • There is also the possibility of short term use of anti-depressant medications. 
  • Perhaps not surprisingly, pets can help relieve depression. The pet doesn't have to be a dog or cat.
  • Hug a loved one. According to AARP, scientists have found that hugging releases oxytocin, the feel-good hormone, while also decreasing levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
  • NOTE: It is advisable to avoid self medicating with alcohol or other substances. 
    • Alcohol is a depressant. 
    • St. John's Wort, a supplement that some people use for depression, has interactions with many prescription medications. Speak with your doctor before taking St. John's Wort.

Do not wait for your doctor to bring up your mental health. Let your doctor know about continuing sadness and about any other changes in your mental health. 

If part of your depression relates to financial concerns, address them directly. To learn more, see: How To Cope With A Financial Crunch.

If a depression becomes unbearable, or if  the idea of suicide becomes more than a passing thought, call a crisis hotline such as US National & Crisis Hotline (800 SUICIDE, 800.784.2433), a friend or family member who can help, or go to the nearest emergency room or mental health crisis center. To find a nearby mental health crisis center, call the SAMHSA Treatment Referral Helpline at 877.726.4727 Monday - Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST.

For additional information, see:

NOTE: If you are working, depression can be used as a disabling condition to help you claim disability for purposes of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or a an employer or insurance disability income plan.

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