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How do you know if you have depression?

By June 8, 2008 - 11:12am
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How do you know if you have depression or are stressed or just sad? I just read an article that says depression has many factors (social, financial, biological, mental, etc.), which sounds like stress, right?

I thought depression meant there was a chemical imbalance that occurs in someone's body, with no clear 'reason' for why they are depressed. If there is a 'reason', then it is sadness or grief or another condition.

Please help me understand the differences between these three (depression, sadness and stress), thanks.

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Great question. Sadness is an emotion that all human beings experience and it usually lasts up to only a few days. Crying is common for people who experience sadness and triggers include loss, separation, disappointment, or relationship tension.

Depression is a more intense type of sadness that spans more than two weeks and can involve feeling: empty or numb, hopeless, guilty, worthless, lonely and irritable. Those with depression may also be unable to concentrate, feel fatigued or restless, think about death or suicide, cry for no reason and have physical pain such as headaches or stomaches.

The there's stress ... which is the American Psychological Association divides into three different categories: acute, episodic acute and chronic stress. To read extensive descriptions of each, visit http://www.apahelpcenter.org/articles/article.php?id=21.

Generally, the APA says acute stress comes "from demands and pressures of the recent past and anticipated demands and pressures of the near future. Acute stress is thrilling and exciting in small doses, but too much is exhausting."

Acute stress can crop up in anyone's life, and it is highly treatable and manageable.

The cardiac prone, "Type A" personality described by cardiologists, Meter Friedman and Ray Rosenman, is similar to an extreme case of "episodic acute stress." Type A's have an "excessive competitive drive, aggressiveness, impatience, and a harrying sense of time urgency." In addition there is a "free-floating, but well-rationalized form of hostility, and almost always a deep-seated insecurity."

Chronic stress is much more menacing and is described by the APA as "the grinding stress that wears people away day after day, year after year. Chronic stress destroys bodies, minds and lives. It wreaks havoc through long-term attrition. It's the stress of poverty, of dysfunctional families, of being trapped in an unhappy marriage or in a despised job or career ... Chronic stress kills through suicide, violence, heart attack, stroke, and, perhaps, even cancer. People wear down to a final, fatal breakdown. Because physical and mental resources are depleted through long-term attrition, the symptoms of chronic stress are difficult to treat and may require extended medical as well as behavioral treatment and stress management."

Do you think you may be experiencing sadness, depression or stress?

The U.S. National Library of Health offers a great tutorial on depression ... Please visit http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/tutorials/depression/htm/index.htm

June 8, 2008 - 3:24pm
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