Many of us find physical ailments relatively easy to address. Take pain reliever for a headache or see the doctor about a suspicious lump. It's our emotional health that seems to take a back seat.
National Depression Screening Day is October 10. Maybe it's time to get an emotional check-up using the confidential online screening on the Butler Hospital website.
The numbers are significant:
- An estimated 9 percent of Rhode Islanders suffer from depression
- In 2007, 7.5 percent of adults aged 18 or older (16.5 million people) had at least one episode of major depression in the previous year
- Women are twice as likely to have depression as men
- Men, because of differences in body chemistry, are four times as likely to commit suicide than women
Why the gender difference? Men, in general, are less likely to have their depression diagnosed so they never receive the help they need to get better.
"Depression is a serious condition—a brain disease—that can strike anyone, including men. No one is immune to it. Certain circumstances, however, such as a family history of depression, witnessing a traumatic event, undue stress, loss of a loved one, or a serious illnesses can make men more vulnerable to an episode of depression," says James Sullivan, MD, associate medical director of inpatient services at Butler.
The related results
Left untreated, Dr. Sullivan says depression can lead to personal, family, and financial difficulties. In addition, it has been associated with increased risks of:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Substance abuse
- Violent, abusive behavior
- Reckless or risky behavior, such as driving too fast
Recognize the signs
Symptoms of depression may include:
- Persistent sad, anxious, or "empty" mood
- Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities that were once enjoyed, including sex
- Decreased energy, fatigue, being "slowed down"
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions
- Insomnia, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
- Appetite and/or weight loss as well as overeating and/or weight gain
- Thoughts of death or suicide; suicide attempts
- Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders, and chronic pain
A man, however, may express depression in other ways. Instead of saying he feels sad, he may:
- Say he is tired a lot
- Become easily angered, irritable, or frustrated
- Lose interest in hobbies, sex, or work, although some men cope with depression by working too much
Start by taking the confidential online screeningon Butler's website, or by talking to your primary care physician.
"With appropriate diagnosis and treatment," Sullivan says, "most people, men included, recover, and the darkness disappears, while energy, interest and a joy in living return."
Another option is a research study underway at Butler to determine whether adding supplemental care - yoga classes or classes about living a healthy lifestyle - is helpful for people who take an antidepressant medication for depression but are still experiencing some symptoms of depression. Go to butler.org/healthybodyhealthymind or call (401) 455-6487 to learn more about the study.
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