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Understanding Depression

Depression is a common mental illness that affects nearly 10 percent of the people in the United States. It is a treatable, medical condition—not a personal weakness. Read the below information to gain a better understanding of depression.

Is depression the same thing as the blues?

Depression differs from the blues, which everybody experiences at one point or another as sadness or a reaction to loss, grief, or an emotionally upsetting incident. Someone might say they are “depressed” when they have the blues, but major depression is a serious medical condition requiring professional diagnosis and treatment. Depression left untreated can lead to other health care and life problems, and if severe enough, even suicide.

What causes depression?

Depression can be caused by one specific incident or a combination of factors. Grief over the loss of a loved one, a major life change, physical or emotional harm by another person, a physical injury, illness, or even side effects of medication could cause depression. Depression can also be caused by changes in the brain, and in many instances is hereditary. Depression often runs in families.

What are the symptoms of depression?

Spotting symptoms of depression and seeking a professional evaluation is your first step toward dealing with depression. If alcohol or drug use is associated with any of the following symptoms, an evaluation for addictive disease is also important. Symptoms of depression may include, but are not limited to, the following:

Myths about depression

There are many myths about depression. These include the beliefs that depression is a sign of weakness and that depressed people are hopeless, crazy, or should be able to “just snap out of it.” It is also a myth that depression causes alcoholism or other drug addictions. Addictive diseases are primary illnesses, which means they are not caused by other medical conditions, such as depression. It is possible to have both diagnoses at the same time, however, and this is called a “dual-diagnosis.”

How is depression treated?

Depression may be treated with or without medication, with individual or group counseling, diet, exercise, or other types of interventions and alternative therapies. Regardless of the approach taken, it is important to have depression evaluated by a medical doctor, preferably a psychiatrist. Thoughts of suicide warrant the immediate need for medical help.

Think you or someone you know may be depressed?

Download and answer this brief questionnaire to find out if you might be depressed. This tool is not a substitute for an assessment from a medical professional. The university’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP) can screen for depression or refer you to another resource that can provide a depression screening. The EAP can also help you find medical help for further evaluation and treatment in accordance with your health insurance plan. If you do not have insurance, the EAP can help you locate other resources. The EAP can also provide follow-up and support. To get on a path toward diagnosing and treating depression, make an appointment with the EAP by calling 512-471-3366.