Affinity Health Plan

  • Health Awareness Series: May 2016 - Depression

    May 26, 2016

    What is depression?
    Most people have felt sad or depressed at one time or another. Feeling depressed can be a normal reaction to loss, life's struggles, or an injured self-esteem. But when feelings of intense sadness — including feeling helpless, hopeless, and worthless — last for many days or weeks and keep you from functioning normally, your depression may be something more than sadness. It may very well be clinical depression, a treatable medical condition.

    Clinical depression is one of the leading causes of disease or injury worldwide for both men and women. Some of the main signs are sadness that won’t go away and irritability (particularly in children). Depression can cause suffering for the individual and can also have negative effects on his/her family and community.

    Important to know:

    • Depression is common.
    • More than 1 out of 20 Americans 12 years of age and older reported current depression (moderate or severe depressive symptoms in the past 2 weeks) between 2009-2012.
    • Among Americans 12 years of age and over, a greater percentage of females reported depression than males. Almost 10% of adults aged 40-59 reported having depression.

    How can I tell if I am depressed?
    All of us can feel sad or hopeless some of the time. There are simple screening tools your doctor can use during your routine visit to find out if you are just sad, or actually depressed. If you are pregnant, you may also be at risk of becoming depressed; your obstetrician will screen you to see if you are depressed.

    Screening for depression usually consists of two simple questions
    Over the past two weeks, how often have you been bothered by:

    • Little interest or pleasure in doing things?
    • Feeling down, depressed, or hopeless?

    If you have feelings of sadness or hopelessness most or all of the time, your doctor may look for other symptoms:

    • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities that used to be enjoyable
    • Change in weight or appetite (either increase or decrease)
    • Change in activity: psychomotor agitation (being more active than usual) or psychomotor retardation (being less active than usual)
    • Insomnia (difficulty sleeping) or sleeping too much
    • Feeling tired or not having any energy
    • Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
    • Difficulties concentrating and paying attention
    • Thoughts of death or suicide

    What can I do if I am depressed?
    Treatment for depression is available. Your doctor may recommend that you speak to a counselor or therapist to help you learn how to manage the stresses in your life. Your doctor also may recommend medication.

    Why is it a good idea to treat my depression?
    Many people think depression is a sign of a weak character, or something they just need to “get over.” But it’s not, it’s a disease. If not effectively treated, depression is likely to become a chronic (long-term) disease like diabetes or high blood pressure. Just experiencing one episode of depression places an individual at a 50% risk for having another episode, and increases the chances of having more depression episodes in the future.

    In addition, depression is associated with:

    • An increased risk of dying from suicide as well as other causes, such as heart disease.
    • Lower workplace productivity and more missed days from work, which result in lower income and higher unemployment.
    • A higher risk of other conditions such as eating disorders and anxiety disorders, and with more use of cigarettes, alcohol, or drugs.

    A word from Dr. Sharon Deans, Chief Medical Officer at Affinity Health Plan:
    Being sad can be a normal part of life; but, if you are sad all or most of the time, we can help. Talk to your doctor or health care provider and find out what you can do to get better and start enjoying life again.

    To learn more:

    National Institutes of Health
    U.S. Department of Health & Human Services

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