Press-Banner – Your Health Depression doesn’t need to be a death sentence

by Symptom Advice on May 12, 2012

Depression is a true medical illness, just like having diabetes or high blood pressure. It’s not a weakness, having the blues or something one can just snap out of. Fortunately, like most illnesses, it is treatable through medication and psychotherapy.

Common symptoms of depression include feeling sad, unhappy, irritable or frustrated; a loss of interest in things that usually bring pleasure; feeling worthless; fatigue, excessive sleeping or insomnia; indecisiveness and decreased concentration; and in some cases, thoughts of death, dying or suicide.

Many of us may briefly experience any of the above symptoms, but the person with true depression lives with these symptoms day in and day out.

Some risk factors of depression are having biological relatives who have depression or who have committed suicide and experiencing stressful events, such as the death or loss of a loved one. Women are also at risk, especially after a pregnancy. Other risk factors are serious, chronic illness and abuse of alcohol, drugs or nicotine.

In general, the most effective treatment for depression is a combination of medication and psychotherapy.

There are many types of antidepressant drugs available, and finding the right one may take some trial and error. Antidepressant drugs may take several weeks to take effect.

A patient who experiences undesired side effects should not stop taking the medication without consulting the prescribing doctor. In many cases, one must taper off the drug to avoid withdrawal.

Psychotherapy is provided by a trained and licensed professional, who can help one to understand one’s thoughts and behaviors and guide one in making effective changes. Ideally, this treatment can also provide a regained feeling of hope, happiness and control.

If someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, help is needed immediately. Here’s what needs to be done:

- Contact a family member, friend or clergy member for help.

- call a suicide hotline number. our local number is 877-663-5433.

- Seek professional consultation from a doctor or a mental health provider.

If someone you know is on the verge of, or has attempted, suicide, call 911 immediately for professional and rapid help.

Depression is not a weakness; it is a treatable illness. A doctor can help.

- Terry Hollenbeck, M.D., is an urgent-care physician at Palo Alto Medical Foundation Santa Cruz in Scotts Valley. Readers can view his previous columns on his website,, or email him at . Information in this column is not intended to replace advice from your own health care professional. for any medical concern, consult your own doctor.

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