Knowing when a ‘sad mood’ is something more

Ever have a downright terrible day? You’re concerned about financial problems at home, and your boss is pushing you to get that project done earlier than expected, then your car breaks down and you’ve got no way to take your kid to her basketball game. Sounds like a day that might make you feel pretty frustrated or helpless.

But what if you felt frustrated, or helpless or anxious every day? It could be a sign of depression.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention properly notes depression is “more than just feeling down or having a bad day.”

Instead, the CDC website identifies depression as when that “sad mood lasts for a long time and interferes with normal, everyday functioning.”

This time of year, with mostly gray skies and the cold weather of winter, Seasonal Affective Disorder — or SAD — becomes more widespread.

SAD has many of the same symptoms as the more commonly diagnosed type of depression, but the feelings tend to coincide with the onset of fall and winter, and dissipate as spring arrives.

The CDC lists a few symptoms of depression, some of which might make self-diagnosing the condition a little difficult. For example, you might either be sleeping too much, or you may not be able to sleep at all. Another is you could be overeating, or also feeling a lack of appetite altogether. Those identifiers could go either way on the spectrum, and naturally depend on each individual. But there could also be other things that factor in, such as a common cold, puberty or caffeine consumption, that cause those symptoms to occur.

However, other symptoms provide a clearer picture of what depression looks like, including: feeling sad or anxious often or all the time; lack of desire for activities that used to be fun; feeling irritable, easily frustrated or restless; having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep; experiencing aches, pains, headaches or stomach problems that don’t improve with treatment; having trouble concentrating, remembering details or making decisions; and feeling guilty, worthless or helpless.

Then there’s the obvious telltale sign of depression: if you’re thinking about suicide or hurting yourself. In that circumstance, don’t read any more of this editorial. Go pick up a phone and call someone you can talk to. It’s incredibly important that anyone feeling like they may inflict pain on themselves or others should contact a doctor or a mental health professional as soon as possible.

Aside from the more immediate concerns, depression late in life may be a risk factor for the development of Alzheimer’s disease, and researchers are also looking into whether depression may actually cause your brain to age more quickly, causing memory and thinking skills to degrade earlier in life.

If that’s not reason enough to keep your mental health in check, guess what else? Depression might be more common than thought.

The CDC says about 1 in 6 adults will have depression at least some point in their life, and the condition affects around 16 million Americans every year.

The figures are staggering, and letting mental health slip is no joke. Take the time to assess yourself and seek help from a professional if needed.

For those who may need it, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255.

Dial Help, which answers for the lifeline in the Upper Peninsula, can be reached by phone at 906-482-4357 or 800-562-7622, and by text at 906-356-3337.

— Marquette Mining Journal