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The signs of depression and when to seek help

Feelings of sadness, grief, anger and denial are all normal emotions most people will experience at some point in their lives. But when these feelings last a long time or get in the way of daily activities, it may be time to seek medical attention.

Stages of depression

There are typically four stages of depression:

1) Sadness

2) Mild depression

3) Clinical depression

4) Suicidal ideation

Sadness and mild depression are normal responses to challenging life circumstances – a death of a loved one, a divorce or the loss of a job, for example. However, clinical depression and suicidal ideation are signs that intervention is needed. The sooner depression is diagnosed, the sooner the coping process may begin.

“If you are feeling sad or upset, it’s important to reach out for help,” says Angela Buttimer, LPC, a facilitator at Thomas F. Chapman Family Cancer Wellness at Piedmont. “There are so many resources available today that people don’t have to turn to medication as their only source of hope.”

Signs of clinical depression

Buttimer shares some of the warning signs that may indicate normal sadness and mild depression have turned into clinical depression:

  • More bad days than good days for several consecutive weeks
  • Can’t seem to shake the sadness
  • Loss of interest in loved ones, friends, hobbies, etc.
  • Loss of appetite
  • Irrational thinking
  • Lack of concentration

She has also seen a tendency for people who do not have a strong support system to fall prey to depression more easily.

Overcoming clinical depression

People suffering from any stage of depression can be empowered by many different support programs, including:

  • Enrichment programs
  • Exercise
  • Stress management
  • Relaxation techniques (yoga, Tai Chi, meditation) 
  • Journal writing

Signs of suicidal ideation

There are some people who dive into a deeper state of depression where they are overcome with hopelessness. They lose all hope in the possibility of getting well. They may even have suicidal thoughts and at this point, therapy is the primary intervention.

“A person suffering from suicidal thoughts is placed in therapy – usually family, individual and group therapy,” Buttimer says. “All three of these platforms can help with the healing process.”

Medication may also be used to treat depression.

Seeking professional help

There is no shame in seeking professional help, even if you aren’t sure you have depression. Talk to your primary care physician about your symptoms – he or she can refer you to the appropriate specialist. 

Need to make an appointment with a Piedmont physician? Save time, book online.

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