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Don’t Let Depression Go Undetected

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Military personnel are exposed to elements that may cause depression on a more regular basis. Being away from loved ones for long periods of time, being in combat and the trauma of combat can cause feelings of loneliness, stress, and hopelessness. The constant strain of military life can have a negative effect on the emotional state of a service person.

Depression and the Symptoms of Depression

Before you can take steps to treat and prevent depression, you first have to understand what depression is. Depression is a mental disorder that isn’t biased. It can affect anyone, not just military personnel. It affects your thoughts, behaviors and emotions. Depression is also psychosomatic; it can have an effect on your physical well-being. Symptoms of depression are:

  • The loss interest in activities and hobbies that you normally enjoy
  • Feelings of sadness or gloom, having the “blues”
  • Feelings of exhaustion or a lack of energy
  • Feelings of restlessness
  • Insomnia or oversleeping
  • Loss of appetite or overeating
  • Fluctuations in weight
  • Difficulties with memory, indecisiveness, or concentration
  • Feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness and/ or guilt
  • Thoughts of causing harm to yourself

These symptoms don’t pass with time; they are long lasting. Although you may not experience all of them at one time, it’s common to have a combination of them.

Causes of Depression

Depression affects everyone differently and some may exhibit more or less symptoms than others, the cause of depression also varies from person to person. Not all cases of depression are a result of an outside factor. There are some medical, mental and emotional triggers for it.

  • Drugs are depressants and can cause on to experience all of the symptoms of depression. After long periods of substance abuse, one may be left with those feelings even when they are not using.
  • People who suffer from things like low self-esteem, anxiety and cynicism are highly susceptible to depression.
  • Heredity, fluctuations in hormones, and chemical imbalances in the brain can also cause depression.

Some people fall into depressive states as a result of physical illnesses like cancer and cardiovascular events. Life experiences can play a factor in depression, too. There are many things that can take place over the course of your life that can cause feelings of hopelessness and despair. To name a few:

  • Traumatic experiences during combat
  • The loss of a child or loved one
  • The loss of, start of, or abuse in a relationship
  • Financial struggles
  • Absence of loved one

Even some events that should be cause for celebration, like the birth of a child or moving into a new home, can cause depression.

Diagnosing Depression

The only way to truly diagnose depression is to visit your physician. Explain to them the symptoms you are showing. It’s important to speak honestly about the way you are feeling and thinking in order to be properly diagnosed. Your doctor may then choose to use one of the many tests that are designed to detect and aid in your diagnosis. These tests may include blood tests and various screenings.

Types of Depression

You must also understand that there are various types of depression:

  • Major Depression is also referred to as clinical depression. This form of depression is disabling. It affects how you function on a regular basis. Major depression is determined based on the grouping of indicators. The symptoms of major depressive disorder are not direct side effects of prescription medications, health related conditions or drug use.
  • Atypical Depression is a form of depression that is directly linked to an event that has taken place. This event doesn’t have to necessarily cause your mood to get worse, it can also improve it. Symptoms of this type of depression tend to be: sensitivity to rejection, overeating and sleeping and even lethargy.
  • Dysthymia is also referred to as clinical depression. This form of depression is determined based on the extended presence of a depressed disposition. Extended in this instance refers to a period of two years or more.
  • Bipolar Disorder is also a form of depression. It’s sometimes called “Manic Depression”. This form of depression is the most complicated of them all. There are alternating episodes of major depression and episodes of happiness; referred to as mania.

Treatment of Depression

Treating depression, after diagnosis, is a process. There is no overnight cure and treatment may be ongoing. If the treatment plan that is designed for you isn’t followed, there is the chance of relapse. Treatment of depression may include one or more of the following:

  • Psychotherapy is usually the first step in treating depression. The counseling serves to address the thoughts and feelings that are associated with depression. It also aids in changing the negative thought patterns that generate depression. Supportive therapy is also used to find ways to make changes in your lifestyle to remove the stress factors that are sustaining the depressive state.
  • Prescription medication is also an option for treating depression, except in cases of severe depression and Bipolar Disorder. Treating depression via medication serves to control the symptoms and shouldn’t be considered a cure. This type of treatment is more effective on forms of depression that are not directly linked to life circumstances. In some cases, supportive therapy and medication will be combined for treatment.
  • ECT or Electroconvulsive Therapy is a form of treatment that is used for depression that is a result of chemical imbalance. During this procedure, streams of electricity are passed through the brain. ECT has been proven to immediately relieve severe depression in the event that other treatments are not effective. The most common side effect of this electrical therapy is a state of confusion for a period of minutes and in some cases, loss of memory.
  • Residential Treatment is also an option. If the depressive state is one that is so severe that you are a danger to yourself or others, hospitalization is the best option. You will receive constant supportive therapy and be kept safe while your symptoms are brought under control.

Prevention of Relapse

There are steps that you can take on your own, while following your treatment plan to avoid a relapse. Educate yourself as much as you can on depression: what it is, how it affects your life, and what you can do to improve your state of mind. Learn the warning signs of your particular form of depression. This will allow you to begin to take steps to prevent a relapse immediately. Avoid things that can alter your mood, such as alcohol or illegal drugs.

In conclusion, depression is a very serious illness. It can have an effect on every aspect of your life. For military personnel, it’s imperative that you are at your best, not only physically but psychologically as well. If you are exhibiting any of the symptoms that can be associated with depression, speak to your superior officers and medical staff immediately. Early detection is the number one step in the treatment and prevention of depression.