In a three-month period, patients with depression miss an average of 4.8 workdays and suffer 11.5 days of reduced productivity according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Depression is estimated to cause 200 million lost workdays each year at a cost to employers of $17 billion to $44 billion. All of us will feel sad at some point in life, but if you continue to feel sad every day for at least two weeks your sadness could be turning into depression. Depression is also characterized by tearfulness, loss of interest, and a reluctance to complete normal activities to the point that it takes you a lot to get out of bed or make a simple decision. You may also notice a change in your appetite, that you have a very negative outlook on life, or be having thoughts of self-harm. Men are more likely to express anger, frustration or lash out at others when they experience depression, which is one reason why it is often overlooked.
The most important thing to know is that you are not alone and you don’t have to be ashamed of how you feel. Millions of people all over the world deal with depression every day. Sometimes depression is situational, brought on by a traumatic event such as the loss of a loved one or loss of a job that shakes up your routine but may resolve after a period of time. Clinical depression occurs if the feelings linger or if they slowly build over time without a specific cause. If you notice symptoms in yourself or a loved one, start talking about it. Having someone you can confide in and that supports you is the first step to feeling better and to removing the stigma from depression. Having a friend or doctor that helps you to find a positive mindset is the key to feeling better.
When you notice that you’ve been persistently sad, make an appointment with your primary care physician. He or she can help you understand what you are feeling and what next steps you can take. There are medications available that, when taken on a regular basis, really do help you get on the right track, whether you’ve experienced a life-changing event or have been feeling down for a long time. It may take time for the medication to take effect, which is why it’s important to trust your counselor and give treatment a chance to work. Many patients get to a point where they feel like they don’t need medication anymore but it’s better to continue with treatment to maintain the progress you’ve made. Finding a therapist to work with through difficult times of life is also very beneficial.
Wes Swan is a counselor with Cone Health Outpatient Behavioral Health at Greensboro. He received his Bachelor of Arts in history from Asbury University and his Master of Science in counseling from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Wes is a licensed professional counselor associate.