Are you unhappy, depressed or just sad?

Most depression is episodic but can be prolonged. Learn the difference and determine if your physician is the right one to turn to for help. Photo: Are you depressed?

WASHINGTON-March 20, 2013-“The word ‘happiness’ may lose its meaning if were not balanced by sadness”.-Carl Gustav Jung-psychotherapist and psychiatrist.

According to industry data compiled by the American Psychological Association (APA), one in five Americans are taking psychotopic medications. These medications are designed to influence or exert an effect on a person’s mental state, yet 50 percent of folks using these medications are taking the wrong one or taking medications they don’t need at all.

A shared concern of the APA and the American Psychiatric Association is most medications for depression and anxiety are prescribed by primary care physicians who have not received adequate training in the field of mental health.  As the World Health Organization predicts, by the year 2020 the leading cause of disability in the world will be from depression and this current prescribing practice will serve to exacerbate the problem.

A primary care physician’s (PCP) first reaction by instinct and vocation is to treat their patient with medicine but in many cases, may not be beneficial.  The sensible avenue for relief of mental health issues is to visit a mental health care professional (MHCP). However, there can be some obstacles.

Visits to a MHCP cause financial hardship if health insurance will not cover the expense and many health care programs are reluctant to provide coverage knowing proper treatment requires multiple, and in some cases, long term visits.

Worse, many policy’s will only cover a few visits and in order to provide recompense to MHCP, demand a diagnosis thus disallowing the time it takes to develop a relationship with a client to foster and develop the necessary trust and client truthfulness to make an appropriate diagnosis. This unfortunate circumstance has been known to lead to premature diagnosis.

Fortunately, most experiences with depression are transient and may resolve with lifestyle changes such as proper rest, well balanced diet and exercise. Other means may be to face personal issues head on and resolve them instead of letting them fester and linger. Engaging in new activities also helps to alleviate transient stress and depression. What if depression seems pervasive and long term? This could be what is known as clinical depression.

There is a vast difference between feeling ‘blue’ sad or temporarily overwhelmed by the vicissitudes of life as opposed to clinical depression, also known as unipolar depression, major depression or Major Depressive Disorder.

The APA reports 80 percent of depression is situational from financial issues, personal relationship or familial problems that may self-resolve in a short period of time. The same applies to sadness which is often confused with depression.

The Mayo Clinic tells us symptoms of clinical depression which are not transient and can affect every aspect of one’s life, are:

  • Depressed mood for most of everyday.
  • Trouble with concentration and being indecisive.
  • Oversleeping or trouble sleeping.
  • Unexplained weight issues.
  • Loss of interest in pleasurable activities.
  • Lingering fatigue.
  • Feelings of inappropriate guilt and worthlessness.
  • Physical symptoms of slow movement.
  • Slow thought process.
  • Recurring thoughts of suicide or death.

To meet the criteria for Major Depressive Disorder, one must meet at least five of the symptoms for two weeks or longer and while statistics show depression as affecting far more females than males, this is due to reported cases and historically, males are slow to seek mental health care. It is thought there may be as many males as females suffering from depression.

The good news is all forms of depression respond well to treatment but medication alone is not considered optimal effective therapy.

If a depressive episode lasts two weeks or longer and you suspect it may continue, it may be best get a referral from your PCP to see a mental health specialist. If depression seems to be lifting in a two week period or so, mental health professionals suggest declining a regimen of psychtopic medicine. You may do more harm than good.


Paul Mountjoy is a Virginia based writer and is a member of the American Psychological Association and the Association for Psychological Science.






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