How to Recognize, Understand, and Deal With Depression

Depression affects nine percent of adults in America. Learn now how to recognize it, understand it, and manage it.


The first thing to know about depression is that it’s real. Depression is a mental illness. It’s caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain and affects moods, thoughts, and actions. Depression is just as real as other common diseases, including diabetes or cancer.

Recognize depression in yourself or others

Terri Flint, Director of Employee Health Services at Intermountain Health, discussed the common signs of depression. They include:

  • Little interest or pleasure in doing things
  • Feeling sad, depressed, or hopeless
  • Trouble falling or staying asleep or sleeping too much
  • Feeling tired or having little energy
  • A poor appetite or overeating
  • Feeling bad about yourself – thinking that you’re a failure or that you’ve let yourself or others down
  • Trouble concentrating on things such as reading the newspaper or watching television
  • Moving or speaking so slowly that other people may notice, or feeling so fidgety or restless that you move around a lot more than usual
  • Thoughts that you would be better off dead or of hurting yourself in some way

The key takeaway from Flint’s article, aside from knowing the symptoms of depression, is that it is treatable and there is hope. Flint addressed available resources to learn more or get help. Read her original blog post here

Related: What Are the Symptoms of Postpartum Depression?

Understanding depression

Dr. Jared Potter, M.D., practices family medicine at Intermountain Health’s Kaysville Creekside Clinic. Potter described depression in two ways. It can be “A subtle feeling that influences all aspects of our lives or a dramatic feeling that prevents us from enjoying any aspect of our lives at all.”

Potter said, “As physicians, when we discuss depression in the office with patients, we usually describe it as being on a spectrum, with the genetic element on one end, and the situational element on the other end. We are all somewhere in the middle.”

Recognizing the signs of depression can be difficult, especially for adolescents. Potter said the safest course with teenagers is to observe whether the behavioral changes follow a pattern lasting longer than two weeks.

Mood swings are normal for teens and come and go, but if a certain mood or behavior persists, the best plan of action is to avoid unnecessary risks. If a teen is feeling depressed or having trouble communicating what he or she feels, Potter recommends seeing a physician for help.

Depression is more common than people realize, both in adolescents and adults. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that nine percent of adults in America suffer from depression, and 3.4 percent meet criteria for major depression.

The important thing to note is that depression is not new, nor is it uncommon. If you suffer from depression, resist any negative self-labels. Millions of others are silently suffering alongside you. Getting help to feel better should be your primary goal.

Taking control and managing depression

When it comes to taking control and managing depression, several things need to happen. It’s about finding a balance. Usually that balance consists of regular exercise, proper sleep patterns, and sometimes—taking medication.

Related: Manage Your Emotions

Potter said, “Many people can’t stand the idea of taking a medication for something they feel they should be able to ‘just snap out of.’ If only it really were that easy! We don’t recommend taking pills for every up and down in your mood, but if it is affecting your functioning and it is lasting for more than two weeks, there are great treatments available.”

Not everybody needs it, but when medication is a part of the answer, it’s essential to allow it to help. If you had a broken arm, you’d take pain killers. If you were diabetic, you’d take insulin. If your doctor prescribes medicine for depression, it’s because he or she thinks it can help you. Medication normally takes several weeks to work effectively and can involve some trial and error to find what works for you.

Along with medicine, speaking with a counselor helps many who suffer from depression. Potter said, “It is a good thing to have a professional, emotionally uninvolved person with whom to discuss what is going on and what may be triggering the depression.”

He continued, “It can be very difficult for people to have these discussions with their spouse or loved ones because the loved ones may feel defensive or thoughtlessly dismiss a depressed person’s experiences.”

Read Dr. Potter’s original blog post here.

Mental well-being is an essential part to our overall happiness as members. If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of depression, don’t wait to get help.

Life is too short to be bogged down by depression. If you are suffering from depression or begin to recognize the signs, schedule an appointment with your doctor. 

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