Focus on the Family

Depression

by Dr. Archibald D. Hart

What most people associate with depression is a feeling of gloom or sadness, but there is a much more important set of symptoms to keep in mind: depression is usually accompanied by a “slowing down” of the body. A profound lethargy or fatigue is probably a more important signal that you have succumbed to depression than whether or not you feel profoundly sad. The more pronounced the fatigue, the more serious is your depression.

What are the more common symptoms of a major depression? Usually, it is diagnosed when at least five of the following symptoms are present during the same time period, with at least one of the first two symptoms present. In addition, the symptoms must be present most of the day, nearly daily, for at least two weeks:

Reactive depressions can have some or all of the above, but they are usually not as debilitating. Most people with reactive depression can continue their normal work and home duties. With the more serious endogenous depressions, people can become totally incapable of fulfilling normal life responsibilities.

Primary care physicians need to be alert for the signs of depression. Studies have shown that 6 to 8 percent of all outpatients in primary care settings have major depressive disorder. Often, their physical complaints are a mask for the depression.

Physical complaints that mask depression

If you find yourself experiencing any of the following, you may want to ask whether you are depressed:

Lesser forms of depression may produce some or many of these symptoms or the symptoms may not be as persistent. Discuss this with your doctor to see if you are possibly suffering from a “low grade” form of depression.