What is it?
Depression is state in which a person is plagued by a pervasive and often overwhelming sense of pessimism, sadness, isolation and loneliness. It can be related to an event such as the death of a loved one or loss of a job or home, or in spite of everything seeming to be going well in a person's life, with no clear cause for the negative feelings.
How do I know if I have it?
There are clinical symptoms and signs that suggest depression. Some of these are an inability to focus on tasks, changes in your sleeping patterns, changes in your eating habits, a sense of despair, frequent crying, a decreased desire for social interactions, feeling alone and isolated even when surrounded by family and friends, and sometimes just the general continued sense that something is wrong without a clear idea of what or why.
How can I get tested for it?
There are a general set of questions that can be presented during an office visit that suggest depression. I usually order labs if none have been done recently to rule out an organic cause for the symptoms such as hormone imbalances, thyroid disorders, undiagnosed diabetes, heart failure, or even anemia or dehydration, which can give a chronic sense of fatigue and affect one's emotional state. Chronic pain can also be a cause of depression.
How can I be treated for it?
Once a diagnosis is made, treatment is directed at the cause. Physical conditions are addressed and corrected. Depression itself can be treated with medical management with a variety of options. I focus on the use of low doses of non-addictive medications that allow a person to rise above their sense of despair and restore a sense of well being. Talk therapy with a licensed therapist is often very helpful for people as well and may be used in conjunction with medication to achieve the best outcomes.