Take advantage of depression screening

Published 10:47 am Wednesday, October 1, 2003

By Staff
Depression is no longer a medical condition that nice people don't get. Maybe the change has come about because Tipper Gore was so forthcoming about her own battle with the darkness, or because so many new drugs are available to beat it back, treat it, end it.
For whatever reason, depression has become recognized as a treatable condition, like diabetes or attention deficit disorder.
Depression strikes some 20 million Americans each year, up to 25 percent of women and 12 percent of men will have to live with it in their life times.
And now there is a national screening day for the
disease, Oct. 9 this year.
The screenings will be held at D.W. McMillan Hospital in Brewton. They are free.
And like screenings for high blood pressure or diabetes, the first step in finding a solution for the problem is recognizing it.
There are several symptoms of depression that make it different from the blues, or simple sadness and they indicate a deeper situation that requires attention.
Those symptoms include:
* Loss of energy and interest.
* Diminished ability to enjoy oneself.
* Decreased – or increased – sleeping or appetite.
* Difficulty in concentrating; indecisiveness; slowed or fuzzy thinking.
* Exaggerated feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or anxiety.
* Feelings of worthlessness.
* Recurring thoughts about death and suicide.
If most of these symptoms last for two weeks or more, it may be caused by depression. Most people who feel this way blame themselves and see it as a sign of weakness.
There are several causes of depression, and research now strongly suggests that a chemical imbalance in the brain is at the root of many cases. It may well run in families. It may also be brought on by a physical condition, stress, death of a loved one or divorce. Research is on going to understand what is genetic and what is environmental in depression.
But although the causes are not fully understood, and the number of people that may be affected are staggering, there is good news. More than 80 percent of those who suffer from depression may be successfully treated for it with medication.
Some people will have to remain on medication for the rest of their lives, as is the case with other conditions, like diabetes. But if that is what it takes to live well, so what? Some people will get treatment and be able to live free of depression after a course of medication and therapy.
But the first step is to get screened, get help and start getting better. Take advantage of the free screenings. If someone you know and love is not their usual self, take them for a screening. Don't overlook teen-agers or the elderly. No one is immune from this epidemic and there is help available. Make the effort. It is as important as intervention for someone with a substance abuse problem. And it is just as likely to save a life.

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