You can get help and feel better. Many people feel sad, worried, or lonely at some time in their lives. This can happen after difficult life events, such as the loss of loved ones, an illness or injury, or unhappy situations or relationships. But when sad feelings occur nearly every day, are severe, and last for two weeks or more, it may help to discuss it with your doctor.
What is depression?
Feeling sad once in a while is different from having depression. People who are seriously depressed feel little joy in life or from things they used to enjoy, and this unhappy mood may be there nearly every day and lasts for two weeks or more.
Depression may cause additional symptoms such as:
• lack of interest in social activities
• feeling tired or unmotivated
• sleeping too much or too little
• changes in appetite or weight
• feeling worthless, empty, or hopeless
• thoughts of death or suicide
• feeling guilty or a burden
• unexplained aches or pains
• reduction in sex drive
• feeling restless, nervous, or irritable
• trouble concentrating, remembering,
or making decisions
If you think you might have depression, talk to your doctor. Like other health conditions, depression can cause physical and emotional symptoms.
Talk to your doctor if you answer “yes” to either of these two questions:
• During the past month, have I been bothered by feeling down, depressed, or hopeless?
• During the past month, have I been bothered by little interest or pleasure in doing things?
Many people do not talk to their doctors or loved ones about depression, or may not realize they are suffering from a treatable condition. As a result, they may not get help. But treatment is available and often works.
Depression is not a normal part of getting older, and helpful non-drug and drug treatments are available. Treatment takes time, so be patient. Follow your doctor’s instructions, stay committed to your goals, and talk about how you feel.
How is depression treated?
The most common treatments include counseling, also called talk therapy or psychotherapy, and antidepressant medications.
Counseling helps people understand their feelings, deal with troubling relationships or problems, and make healthy choices. Counseling works as well as medications for some people, especially those with mild depression, and is generally a good option. Cognitive behavioral therapy helps people re-frame their problems in a different way, so they can get on with their lives more successfully. These approaches can also be used along with antidepressant medication.
Many antidepressant medications are available, and are similarly effective. Antidepressants start
to work in 4-6 weeks, so it is important to follow your doctor’s instructions and take your medicine as directed, even if you do not feel better right away. They are most useful in moderate or severe depression, rather than mild depression.
Side effects are common and are different for different medications. Common side effects with SSRIs can include upset stomach, restlessness, trouble sleeping, headache, and sexual dysfunction. Other drugs will have different side effects. Many side effects become less severe or go away with continued use. Some people find that starting on these drugs may initially make them feel worse, and may even cause them to think about hurting themselves. This may be a medication side effect. Call your doctor immediately to talk about these feelings or any other side effects you may be having.
It is important to continue taking your medicine after you start feeling better, usually for at least 6 months. Stopping your medicine too quickly can make you feel sick and cause dizziness, upset stomach, fatigue, aches, chills, anxiety, and irritability. Your doctor will work with you to decide which medicine is best for you, how long to take it, and how and when to stop taking it.
If you need help
Many resources are available for you. Call or go online for more information.
National Institute of Mental Health
National Mental Health Association
American Geriatrics Society
Geriatric Mental Health Foundation
If you are in crisis and need help right away, call this 24-hour help line:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline